UVA Health will quash lawsuits

UVA had pursued patients for decades, many of whom had unpaid bills in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, KHN (Kaiser Health News) reported in 2019. Once the healthcare system wins court cases, it could seize the wages and value of patient homes when they were sold. UVA limited its lawsuits after KHN’s investigation.

“This is very important and a very necessary and overdue step,” said Erin Fuse Brown, a Georgia State University law professor who studies hospital billing. “I don’t know if I’ve heard of it [lien abolition] happening anywhere else. “

But most families who have already ceded money to UVA as a result of lawsuits or liens will not get their money back.

UVA will release all liens and judgments filed against all households that are less than 400% of the federal poverty line, or about $ 106,000 for a family of four – an action that should represent most of the liens and judgments filed, Douglas said Lischke, the financial director of the system.

“It’s a proud moment for us,” he said in an interview. “We want our financial care to be as good as our clinical care.”

Doris Hutchinson said she was surprised two years ago to find a UVA lien – tied to a parent’s bill – on her mother’s house in Charlottesville. The medical system demanded $ 39,000 from the family before the house could be sold, she said. The money has been placed in receivership.

Three weeks ago, she learned that the judgment would be overturned and the money would be released.

“I’ll be delighted with that,” said Hutchinson, who said she needed the money to help pay for her grandchildren’s college education and replace the income of her husband, who died two years ago. . “I’m also happy for everyone” who gets relief from the UVA bill, she said.

UVA will also stop blocking registrations of college students with outstanding balances in the health care system, university spokesman Brian Coy said on Monday. Preventing students from completing their studies because they owed hospital bills was another practice revealed by KHN.

KHN reported in 2019 that UVA Health sued patients 36,000 times in six years for more than $ 100 million, often for amounts far in excess of what an insurer would have paid for their care. In response to the articles, the system suspended patient lawsuits and wage garnishments, increased discounts for uninsured people, and expanded financial assistance, including for cases dating back to 2017.

The system appointed an advisory board made up of UVA leaders and community leaders to consider permanent changes. The council made recommendations in October.

Like most hospitals, UVA did not use property privileges to foreclose on patients’ homes. But he was foreclosing money owed – plus 6% interest – on the equity in the property when home sales went to settlement.

In response to KHN’s survey, UVA said in 2019 that it would improve financial assistance but continue to use the courts to recover monies owed to families representing more than 400% of the poverty line.

While unusual, the AVU’s decision to drastically curtail prosecutions and waive privileges comes to an end before moves recently manufactured by VCU Health, its sister system based at Virginia Commonwealth University. VCU has pledged to stop prosecuting all patients and, in a process that takes over a year in Virginia courthouses, is abolishing all old judgments and privileges, regardless of family income.

“It seems like a lot of steps in the right direction” for UVA, said Jenifer Bosco, a lawyer at the National Consumer Law Center specializing in health care. “There is always more to do. But providing assistance to families whose income can reach 400% of the poverty line is a big step forward. “

The number of pending UVA Health judgments is unknown. For its part, VCU ultimately found around 80,000 people statewide. In Virginia, privileges expire after 20 years, but UVA bothered to renew claims from the 1990s, KHN found.

Their cancellation is expected to take more than a year, Lischke said. UVA’s billing and collections changes, including financial aid enhancements announced at the end of 2019, will cost the system around $ 12 million per year, he said.

UVA’s decision is far more beneficial to its patients and region than other so-called community benefits that many nonprofit hospitals offer to justify their tax-exempt status, said Ge Bai, associate professor at Johns. Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Instead of testing out medical services or training which are often disguised hospital marketing campaigns, “this action is a real effort to ease the financial burden on the community,” she said. “It also improves mental health. It relieves stress.

KHN is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism on health issues. Along with policy analysis and surveys, KHN is one of the three main operational programs of KFF (Kaiser Family Foundation). KFF is a non-profit organization with information on health issues across the nation.


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Robert Valdivia

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