Health care expenses are a massive burden for many Americans, and for some, they can be financially devastating.
A new report from Kaiser Health News revealed some shocking examples of just how bad things can get for some people.
'UVA Has Ruined Us': Health System Sues Thousands Of Patients, Seizing Paychecks And Claiming Homes covers the cases of individuals who are dealing with serious financial hardship due to the University of Virginia Health System's aggressive collection practices.
The article begins with the story of Heather Waldron, who required emergency surgery in 2017. She believed she had insurance at the time – it wasn't until after her hospitalization that she learned a computer error involving the HealthCare.gov website caused a lapse in her coverage.
The UVA health system slapped Waldron with a lawsuit and a lien on her home to recoup the $164,000 in charges, leading to serious financial hardship for her family:
She is now on food stamps and talking to bankruptcy lawyers. A bank began foreclosure proceedings in August on the Blacksburg house she shared with her family. The home will be sold to pay off the mortgage.
She expects UVA to take whatever is left.
The $164,000 billed to Heather Waldron for intestinal surgery was more than twice what a commercial insurer would have paid for her care, according to benefits firm WellRithms, which analyzed bills for Kaiser Health News using cost reports UVA files with the government. Charges on her bill included $2,000 for a $20 feeding tube. (source)
Waldron is not alone. There are many stories similar to hers – and some are much worse.
The UVA Health System aggressively pursued patients for medical bills for years.
The Kaiser Health News (KHN) analysis found that during a six-year period ending in June 2018, "the UVA health system and its doctors filed 36,000 lawsuits against patients seeking a total of more than $106 million, seizing wages and bank accounts, putting liens on property and homes and forcing families into bankruptcy."