Saint-Dominique cancer patient sued by collection agency: donor pays debt
A Mississippi woman repaid her medical debt following a project released by the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting and Featured in the Clarion ledger.
Linda Burks owed over $ 4,000 for her breast cancer treatment to Saint DominicJackson, a faith-based nonprofit hospital that hired a debt collector to sue her. Burks is a full-time receptionist with health insurance who has started working extra shifts to pay her bills.
St. Dominic Hospital has not changed its policies in response to the report.
However, a woman who read the series was moved to the action. Recently, she hooked up with Burks and paid off her medical debt.
âWe’re supposed to help each other, aren’t we? Wrote the reader, who wished to remain anonymous. “People helped me when I needed it.”
Painful health care prices:St. Dominic knew that patients could not afford care. He continued anyway.
Burks’ story was presented in an investigation of the Aggressive debt collection policies of Saint-Dominique and its debt collectors. The investigation revealed that they:
- Sued thousands of patients, many of whom work in low-wage industries like fast food and retail, garnished wages and seized money from patients’ bank accounts.
- Sued over 100 of its own employees for medical debt.
- Patient bills inflated by a third or more with attorney fees, court costs and interest rates of 8%.
- Billed thousands of Mississippians when these patients should have qualified for free or reduced medical care.
- Continued to sue patients and garnish their wages throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as the federal government provided the hospital with millions of dollars in pandemic relief funds.
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‘What do I do?’
Burks was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016 and received treatment at St. Dominic. She faithfully paid her bill for over a year when Burks said she noticed Saint-Dominique was no longer automatically withdrawing from her account.
Burks said she proactively contacted St. Dominic, but was told it was too late – her invoice was sent to the collections. Smith, Rouchon & Associates, a Jackson-based collection agency, started calling him, demanding more money from Burks. The debt collector sued her, adding more than $ 1,500 to her bill for legal fees.
Patients go to Saint-Dominique:Private debt collectors sue them.
St. Dominic has annual operating expenses of around half a billion dollars and pays virtually no taxes as it is a non-profit organization. Experts say suing patients for medical debts is only a tiny fraction of a hospital’s income, but the effects can be devastating for patients. For Burks, this meant she was reluctant to return to St. Dominic for treatment because she feared she would be sued again.
âI’m a cashless receptionist, living from paycheck to paycheck,â Burks wrote to a judge in 2018. ââ¦ I want to live, and these tests play a big part in my ability to tell if I am. stay cancer free … what do i do?
When reached this month, a spokesperson for the Franciscan Missionaries of Notre Dame, the Louisiana-based health system that owns St. Dominic, reiterated that the hospital is no longer directly prosecuting patients – a policy that took place in July.
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âWe always want to be compassionate and improve the experience for our patients,â spokesperson Ryan Cross said in an email.
But St. Dominic rarely sued patients directly, relying instead on two local collection agencies to handle the vast majority of medical debt collection lawsuits. The hospital still allows its debt collectors to sue patients, garnish their wages, damage their credit and bankrupt them.
The owner of Saint Dominic is affiliated with a religious order founded by Saint Francis of Assisi, a man born into a wealthy family who gave up his wealth and begged with the poor.
“Let us therefore have charity and humility and give alms because they wash souls from the stain of sins” FranÃ§ois wrote in the 13th century. âFor men lose all that they leave in this world; however, they carry with them the reward of charity and alms which they have given, for which they will receive a reward and a remuneration worthy of the Lord.
This story was produced by the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting. E-mail [email protected].