Their money problems began when the University of Virginia Health System pursued the couple with a lawsuit and a lien on their home to recoup $164,000 in charges for Waldron’s emergency surgery in 2017.
The family has lots of company: Over six years ending in June 2018, the health system and its doctors sued former patients more than 36,000 times for more than $106 million, seizing wages and bank accounts, putting liens on property and homes, and forcing families into bankruptcy, a Kaiser Health News analysis has found.
…By leaving family assets vulnerable and not fully discounting sticker-price charges, the new UVA guidelines remain “very tough on the poor and near-poor who have managed to amass anything of value that will help them with the daily costs of life.”
…Unpaid medical bills are a leading cause of personal debt and bankruptcy, with hospitals from Memphis to Baltimore criticized for their role in pushing families over the financial edge.
But UVA Health System stood out for the scope of its collection efforts and how persistently it goes after payment, pursuing poor as well as middle-class patients for almost all they’re worth, according to court records, hospital documents, and interviews with hospital officials and dozens of patients.
…Every year, the health system sued about 100 of its own employees who also happened to be patients. It garnisheed thousands of paychecks, largely from workers at lower-pay employers such as Walmart.
…It also seized $22 million in state tax refunds to patients with outstanding medical bills in the last six fiscal years — most of it without court judgments.
…It filed thousands of property liens from Albemarle County all the way to Georgia.
…Patients also have trouble because like many U.S. hospitals, UVA bills people lacking coverage at rates far higher than what insurance companies pay on behalf of their members. Such bills often have little connection to the cost of care, experts say.