The University of Virginia Medical Center is reviewing its policy of suing and garnishing wages of patients with outstanding medical bills, after a scathing report from Kaiser Health News revealed the breadth of the policy and its consequences.
In the six years leading up to June 2018, the UVA health system and its doctors sued former patients more than 36,000 times for over $106 million, the report found. The health system sued patients for as little as $13.91, seized wages and bank accounts, placed liens on property, and forced families into bankruptcy.
University President Jim Ryan released a statement on social media on Monday saying that he learned about the aggressive billing and collection practices a month ago and directed CEO of the medical center, Pamela Sutton-Wallace, to change the aggressive practices, which she agreed to do.
The UVA Medical Center is a nonprofit, taxpayer supported and state-funded hospital, meaning it pays no federal, state or local taxes on the assumption it provides community benefits that equal or surpass those tax breaks.
Ryan said that the matter was a complicated one, because as a state agency, the medical center is legally obligated to collect debts. “But we have discretion within those legal constraints to make our system more generous and more humane, and that is what we will do,” Ryan wrote.
A hospital spokesman confirmed with the Daily Progress that the review was prompted by the Kaiser Health News report.
The university also announced Tuesday that Sutton-Wallace would leave her role in November for a position at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, a departure which Ryan wrote in a statement was unrelated to the Kaiser Health News investigation.
The medical center is expected to announce new billing and collections policy by the end of this week.