RALEIGH, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Three healthcare systems with local facilities are involved in a report showing North Carolina hospitals suing thousands of patients.
The Duke University School of Law and N.C. Treasurer’s Office will present a report on the lawsuits over medical debt Wednesday. It shows that nonprofit hospitals were the most aggressive actors responsible for placing liens on patients’ homes, targeting not just patients but also spouses and family members. Many actions named were attempts to collect surprise bills.
A spokesperson for the Treasurer’s office said Charlotte’s Atrium Health, Gastonia-based CaroMont Health, and Community Health Systems, which operates Davis and Lake Norman Medical Centers in Iredell County, are named in the reports.
The researchers found that hospitals allegedly used the court system to win default judgments against patients and charge significant interest on medical debt. The treasurer’s office also documented instances where hospitals placed liens on patients’ homes.
On Wednesday, Treasurer Dale Folwell will discuss a new report that compiled interviews with patients targeted by hospital lawsuits. Some of these patients described being afraid to seek future medical care, while cancer patients said the financial stress hurt their physical recovery.
These reports find that litigious nonprofit hospitals contribute to an intergenerational cycle of poverty. In N.C., a judgment can automatically create a lien against a patient’s home. According to court documents and patient interviews, the Treasurer’s office said patients were sued after alleged failures in charity care or surprise bills in which insured patients unwittingly sought care from a provider outside their insurance network.
The press conference will take place at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Treasurer’s office in Raleigh. It will be live-streamed on the department’s Facebook page.