Wisconsin Hospital Sues Debtors Despite Pandemic Promises

An explosive report from Wisconsin Watch and WPR revealed that Froedtert South hospital in Kenosha filed more debt collection lawsuits in 2020 than in 2019 despite pledging that it would rarely do so during the pandemic. 

According to the report: 

This year’s lawsuits collectively seek to recoup $1.1 million in alleged debt, according to a WPR/Wisconsin Watch analysis.

 

A previous Wisconsin Watch/WPR investigation found that hospitals statewide sued dozens of patients early in the pandemic. Froedtert Memorial Lutheran in Milwaukee and Green Bay-based Bellin Health Systems dismissed some of those lawsuits following the April 1 report. They were among several hospitals — including Froedtert South — that pledged to limit aggressive debt collection during the public health crisis.

 

“As a general matter, Froedtert South has suspended filing small claim suits during the COVID-19 pandemic,” J. Thomas Duncan III, the hospital’s vice president and chief operating officer, wrote in an April 1 email.

So what happened? Why did the hospital choose to file so many debt collection lawsuits after saying it was not going to do so? The hospital isn’t commenting, but as attorneys with a lot of experience in the debt collection/bankruptcy world, we have a pretty good guess. We suspect the debts were sold off to a debt collection firm in an attempt to raise money for the hospital. 

Many businesses and large institutions do not handle their own debt collection work. Instead, they sell the debt off to firms that specialize in debt collection. Organizations like hospitals do this so they can save money by freeing up staff time that would otherwise be spent on collections, and raise some quick cash. Debt collectors typically pay debt holders upfront and hope to recoup the money in collections, which is where the quick cash part comes in. 

Healthcare providers are in a cash crunch because of the pandemic. Many people have been delaying medical procedures, which reduces the amount of money coming in. Even facilities overwhelmed with COVID patients may be having cash flow issues because their regular patients are not coming in. 

How We Can Help with Medical Debts

At Hanson & Payne, we have been helping both patients and providers here in Wisconsin figure out what to do with their medical debts. 

We help providers determine when and how to get paid during this difficult period of time. We also assist patients who are weighed down by debt. Oftentimes negotiating a debt settlement is a good solution for both parties. 

Providers who are strapped for cash are willing to forgive debts in exchange for a lump-sum payment now, even if that payment amounts to pennies on the dollar. We can facilitate this negotiation and help both sides walk away in a better position than they were. 

The Hanson & Payne team is committed to being there for Milwaukee area families and businesses during this challenging time. Our experience representing both creditors and debtors gives us an edge at the negotiation table, and in the courtroom. If you are looking for legal counsel in this challenging time, we would be honored to take your call. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.