Health

Wisconsin Hospitals Sued More Patients And Receive More Wages In Recent Years

SSM Health’s Saint Agnes Hospital in Font du Lac has filed the most claims from any hospital in Wisconsin, with 2,632 claims filed between 2014 and 2018. income.

The hospital joined SSM in 2018, so most of the claims were filed against its previous ownership, SSM spokesman Patrick Kampert wrote in an email.

Second on the list was Mile Bluff Medical Center, an independent hospital in Mauston that has filed nearly 1,800 lawsuits. Mile Bluff handled 27% of the state’s hospitalizations during this time frame and generated 1% of the patient’s net income statewide. Mile Bluff CEO Dara Bartels said in a statement that the system has restructured the billing process in recent years to quickly identify payment problems and help patients receive financial assistance.

Several Advocate Aurora Health hospitals were on the list, including the fourth-ranked Aurora St. Luke Medical Center in Milwaukee, which filed nearly 1,600 lawsuits. The Aurora Advocate Hospitals in Oshkosh, West Ellis, Kenosha, Green Bay, Milwaukee, Marinette, Grafton, Sheboygan, Elkhorn, Burlington and Hartford ranked among the top 50 hospitals. Lawyer Aurora’s headquarters are in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Downers Grove, Illinois. The nonprofit healthcare system generated more than $ 13 billion in 2020 revenue, although its operating margin was only 1.6%.

Attorney Aurora dropped her unpaid bills litigation in February 2020, spokeswoman LeAnn Betz said in an email. According to her, all active cases at that time were terminated, and since then no new cases have been initiated.

“Even before that, any lawsuit involving an individual bill was a last resort after months of numerous attempts to contact the patient and offer payment options, including interest-free payment plans,” Betz said.

Another common name on the list of study participants was Ascension Health. The St. Elizabeth Health Campus in Appleton ranked sixth, with about 1,500 claims filed between 2014 and 2018, accounting for 3.7% of the state’s total. Ascension Hospitals at Stevens Point, Weston, Merril, Chilton, Stanley, Milwaukee, Racine, Eagle River, Mekwon, Franklin, Tomahawk, and Oshkosh.

Ascension, based in St. Louis, has over 140 hospitals and $ 25 billion in annual revenue, although the company reported a 2.5% loss margin in fiscal 2020. Ascension did not respond to a request for comment.

Aspirus Health recently acquired seven Ascension hospitals in Wisconsin, including Eagle River, Merrill, Stanley, Tomahawk and Stephens Point. Several Aspirus hospitals made the list of the study, including its Divine Savior Hospital in Portage, which filed nearly 1,600 lawsuits between 2014 and 2018. Aspirus had no comments at the time of publication.

Gundersen Health, whose hospital in La Crosse was ranked seventh on the study’s list, said in a statement that it is only filing a lawsuit after all efforts to provide financial aid have been exhausted. The system reported that most cases are resolved before the start of the trial.

The fact that large systems account for a significant proportion of lawsuits makes the problem more solvable, said Neil Mahoney, another study author and professor of economics at Stanford University.

“In a way, it’s easier to solve the problem if you can actually reach the top management in these organizations,” he said.

The study found that hospitals with critical access are more likely to sue patients than hospitals of any other type, and non-profit hospitals are more likely to sue than commercial hospitals. Hospitals with a higher proportion of Medicare statements and a lower proportion of commercial statements were also more likely to sue patients.

Cooper said two things are probably happening there. First, commercial organizations are likely to prevent patients who cannot pay from getting in the door. Second, hospitals in more financial distress use lawsuits as further leverage to recover payments.

Despite receiving government subsidies, hospitals with critical accessibility face shrinking local populations, high regional unemployment, and difficulty finding sufficient staff. More than 110 rural hospitals were closed from 2013 to 2020.

But Cooper said the lawsuits could also be aimed at sending a signal to poor residents who are not paying their bills. “Look how we treat your neighbors. We will sue you. “

On a per capita basis, the study found that blacks and poor patients in rural areas were more likely to be prosecuted during the study period. A separate study found that Wisconsin has one of the highest income gaps in the country between blacks and whites.

“Like so much else in society, it disproportionately affects minority communities,” Mahoney said. “I’ve seen enough evidence, which is not surprising, but at the same time I think it’s deeply troubling.”


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