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Is medical debt sending you to the poorhouse?

It's tough dealing with chronic illnesses requiring frequent emergency room visits and/or prolonged hospital stays. But it's even tougher when the hospital and the debt collection agency it employs use heavy-handed tactics to shake sick patients down for money while they are trying to get healthy.

Yet that is exactly what on Midwestern hospital that is part of the Fairview Health Services corporation did. A few years ago, the university-affiliated hospital and the debt collection agency allegedly began harassing sick patients while they were still admitted to the medical facility and in the emergency room before they ever saw a doctor.

The nonprofit hospital chain and its collection agency landed in some hot water when bedridden patients began to complain about the shakedowns they endured while seeking treatment for injuries and illnesses. One suspected heart attack victim reported that hospital staff attempted to collect the sum of $672 from the patient before she was able to see a doctor.

Such practices drew the scrutiny of both the Medicaid and Medicare programs, which can both impose sanctions for these actions.

Patients were allegedly harassed and abused by these attempts to collect funds from them while they were waiting for treatment in emergency room bays, hospital wards and on labor and delivery departments.

Accruing mountains of medical debt can be quite stressful and frightening under the best circumstances. Even if your hospital or physician isn't aggressive in their collection efforts, knowing that you owe vast sums because of an accident or illness is depressing.

Sometimes the best thing to do is to start over debt-free with a clean slate. Filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection from the New Jersey courts can offer you the fresh start you need to succeed.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Hospital Debt Collection Harsh Tactics Broke Laws, Report Says," Jeffrey Young, accessed Oct. 20, 2017

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