A Christian hospital that was exposed for suing its poor patients and employees has stopped its insane debt collection practices… for now.
Just one week ago, Wendi C. Thomas at ProPublica published an in-depth investigation about Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare in Memphis, Tennessee, which pays virtually no taxes but aggressively goes after anyone who owes them money, including the poor as well as their own workers.
Following the report, the healthcare system, affiliated with the United Methodist Church, has apparently suspended its litigation practices.
“We recognize that we serve a diverse community and we are always thinking about how we can do more and serve our community better,” Methodist said in a statement. “Over the next 30 days we will be reviewing our policies and procedures to ensure we are doing everything possible to provide the communities we serve with the care and assistance they need. Also, we will immediately suspend any further court collection activities during this period.
“As a learning organization that is committed to continuous quality improvement, we want to be absolutely sure that our practices continue to support our mission and vision of improving every life we touch regardless of ability to pay.”
That’s a great statement, but it would have meant a whole lot more if it was made before a journalist exposed their practices. Keep in mind that other non-profit hospital systems (including religious ones) often forgive all patient debts that can’t eventually be paid.
Still, the system has dropped more than 24 cases that were set for initial hearings in the local court.
“Currently, Methodist is in the process of reviewing its collection processes,” R. Alan Pritchard, one of Methodist’s attorneys, told General Sessions Court Judge Deborah M. Henderson.
“You are free to leave,” Henderson told one defendant, who looked puzzled, a purse on her shoulder and a folder full of papers in her hand.
Henderson called the names of other defendants whose cases were on the docket.
Again and again, Pritchard said: “Dropped, please, your honor.”
So ProPublica had to force their hand… but at least it’s a win for the patients, many of whom faced lengthy legal battles or expensive bills. But 24 cases is still a drop in the bucket when you realize Methodist “filed more than 600 new lawsuits this year.”
(Image via Shutterstock)