When patients think of lawsuits and hospitals and doctors, patients tend to think of medical malpractice lawsuits that can result in ruin for doctors and hospital alike.  However, this article addresses a different type of lawsuit related to medicine and patients.  In recent years, many hospitals have been criticized publicly in the media for suing patients over unpaid hospital or medical bills.  Is this an unreasonable practice?

For most people, paying bills is just something is accepted as that individual’s responsibility.  Responsible societal members do not expect someone else to bail out or forgive a debt.  In fact, many people are forced to take out loans or limit spending to pay for these bills.  However, thousands and thousands of hospital bills go unpaid each year.  It is probably not possible to give an accurate estimate of the number of unpaid bills, but thousands of lawsuits are filed on behalf of hospitals each year to recover on the bills that go unpaid by patients.  Most of these hospitals are the not-for-profit hospitals. This trend is occurring in states all over the country and is not limited to a particular area or type of hospital.    Doctors and surgeons in addition to hospitals try to collect unpaid monies on surgeries, as the societal problem of unpaid debts, chargebacks, and fraud continue to increase and go largely unchecked by governmental measures or law enforcement.

Many of these hospitals defend this practice of suing for unpaid bills as just being fiscally responsible and articulate that suing a patient is a last resort after being unable to secure a payment plan or response from the patient.  Should the patients who have not paid their bills be allowed to avoid paying their debts? Should patients who have committed fraud be forgiven or overlooked?  Should there be personal accountability?  Certainly, there may be extenuating circumstances in a few of these cases, but the sheer numbers suggest a real epidemic of shirking financial responsibility.

It is certainly legal for hospitals to sue patients for unpaid bills in a variety of circumstances, so why is the practice looked upon so negatively among the media and others.

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