We the Patients

Mapping How New York’s Hospitals Sue Vulnerable Patients

The Community Service Society of New York, with help from BetaNYC, released a map highlighting the medical debt crisis in New York. The results are shocking.

What’s the problem?

According to CSSNY’s research, New York hospitals sued patients more than 40,000 times between 2015 and 2019. This means that, on average, New York’s hospitals filed more than 25 suits every single day between 2015 and 2019. Those lawsuits weren’t evenly distributed across all hospitals, however. Five hospital systems filed 79% of lawsuits, and one hospital system alone filed just over 50% of all lawsuits. Patients of color were also much more likely to be sued and to end up in collections for medical debt than white patients. In one county, patients of color had collection actions taken against them almost three times as frequently as their white counterparts.

Any lawsuit by a hospital against a patient is almost guaranteed to be horrific. This is especially true in New York: All hospitals in New York are, by law, nonprofits. However, this clearly doesn’t mean they act like charities. Some of the cases found during their research were especially devastating. One man who was uninsured when his partner survived a rape was forced by the hospital to take an HIV test and was later sued for the cost of the test. He settled for $1,000–despite the fact that he could’ve received the same test at a health clinic run by New York City for free. Another patient was sued for $1,375 after miscarrying– after her insurance paid the hospital $5,000.

What can we do?

Read the full report, in part because it offers visual representations courtesy of BetaNYC of just how predatory “nonprofit” hospitals in New York can be, but also because it details measures that New York could take to stop these abuses. One key way that we as everyday people can do is: Take action on CSSNY’s End Medical Debt campaign. The protections that are outlined will help end medical debt. Especially as New Yorkers are hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, these protections will become even more important.

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