Court documents are among the best sources for journalists covering the aggressive tactics tht hospitals and health systems use when seeking payment from patients who owe them money.
This advice comes from two Kaiser Health News journalists — senior correspondent Jay Hancock and data editor Elizabeth Lucas — who were Pulitzer Prize finalists this year for their reporting on predatory billing practices. Continue reading
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.”
The Houston Chronicle’s Jenny Deam delved into emergency room billing – hospital facility fees as well as “upcoding,” which means categorizing relatively minor conditions as serious or even life-threatening ailments and charging a lot for them.
It raises costs to both the patient and the insurer. Continue reading
Over the past year, Sarah Kliff (@sarahkliff) at Vox has been collecting emergency department bills from around the country and has reported a number of stories based on them.
Her stories included a patient who went to an in-network ER and was still billed nearly $8,000 and a major ER that – at the time – didn’t participate in the networks of any private health insurers, resulting in unexpected bills.
In April, Anna Wolfe, who covers health care for the Mississippi Clarion Ledger, started reporting on what appeared to be staggeringly high bills for using the emergency room at the Batson Children’s Hospital, in Jackson. The hospital is part of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, the only academic medical center in the state.
Parents who brought their children to the ER were being charged thousands of dollars in unreasonable emergency room facility fees that do not match the level of care received, Wolfe reports. Since that article was published April 15, Wolfe has continued to cover the complex ways the hospital calculates its charges. In the bills Wolfe reviewed, the hospital adds facility fees for ER visits, fees that are based on the level of care administered. Continue reading