ProPublica wants to give you tips on hospital billing practices

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

Health journalists across the country have been reading ProPublica’s accounts of the lengths to which hospitals pursue low-income patients for payment.

Earlier this year, ProPublica revealed that Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare in Memphis, Tenn., had filed thousands of lawsuits against patients, including its own employees.

In the latest dispatch about medical debt, ProPublica reports that “thousands of people are jailed each year for failing to appear in court for unpaid bills,” citing a court in Coffeyville, Kan., “where the judge has no law degree, debt collectors get a cut of the bail, and Americans are watching their lives — and liberty — disappear in the pursuit of medical debt collection.”

Memphis and Coffeyville are not isolated examples.

In fact, ProPublica has received tips from at least 25 states about aggressive hospital collection practices in other communities and wants to share those tips with other reporters.

The nonprofit investigative newsroom is not only hoping other reporters will take on the topic, its reporters will offer you some reporting guidance, including a breakdown on how they tallied medical debt in Memphis, as well as datasets on doctors’ profits, surgeons’ quality and ER violations that might be helpful.

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