The University of Kentucky should have to go to court to collect medical debts, not use the state tax agency as a collection agency, says a federal lawsuit filed against UK and state officials June 5.
“The suit argues that UK HealthCare and the state Department of Revenue are violating the 14th Amendment and the due process rights of former patients struggling to pay off hospital debts by demanding payments and garnishing their wages without going to court first,” Rick Childress reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader.
UK spokesman Jay Blanton said “Our policies mandate that a patient be contacted several times before a bill is forwarded to the state, a practice established by law. Moreover, in addition to multiple attempts to reach a patient, we provide counseling, and mediation with a third party if an agreement about a debt cannot be reached.”
Ben Carter of Lexington, one of the attorneys who filed the suit, told Childress that debt collectors usually have to sue before collecting, giving debtors a chance to defend themselves, but “That never happens in any of these cases,” he said. “There’s no incentive for UK HealthCare to get these bills right, to negotiate in good faith with our clients and their customers. They get to refer it to a debt collection agency — that’s like debt collection on steroids.”
Blanton said collecting all debts helps “spread the cost of care an ensure affordable access to more people who need such care the most.”