Lifestyle

Virginia Governor And UVA Vow To Revamp Practice Of Suing Patients As CEO Exits

Gov. Ralph Northam and the president of the University of Virginia dedicated to altering UVA Health System’s collections practices a day after Kaiser Health News detailed its aggressive and widespread pursuit of former sufferers for unpaid medical payments.

At the identical time, the well being system introduced the departure of CEO Pamela Sutton-Wallace, who will depart in November to affix New York-Presbyterian Hospital as a senior vp.

Her exit “is in no way related” to the billing and collections issues, James Ryan, UVA’s president, stated in a message to staff Tuesday.

UVA sued former sufferers for unpaid payments greater than 36,000 occasions over six years, in search of compensation of over $106 million and sometimes pushing households into onerous fee plans or chapter, in accordance with KHN’s investigation, printed with The Washington Post.

Both Ryan and Northam expressed ignorance about UVA practices that have been an open secret in Charlottesville, with a whole bunch of medical lawsuits filed every week.

Northam “was only just made aware of these practices,” stated spokeswoman Alena Yarmosky, including that he “is not involved” in day-to-day college operations.

Northam, a pediatric neurologist who oversees UVA’s board and sometimes speaks in regards to the want for reasonably priced well being care, stated he’s “absolutely concerned” about what the well being system has been doing.

“I am glad to hear that UVA Health System is in the process of changing their policies and practices,” Northam stated Tuesday in a ready assertion. He declined to supply treatments or comply with an interview.

Ryan stated in a tweet late Monday that he had requested Sutton-Wallace final month to look into assortment and litigation practices. KHN knowledgeable UVA of its findings Aug. 1.

Fixing the issue “is complicated,” partly as a result of “we are legally obligated as a state agency to collect debts,” he stated. “But we have discretion within those legal constraints to make our system more generous and more humane.”

Ryan and Sutton-Wallace additionally declined interview requests via spokesmen.

The well being system is making a “comprehensive review” of its indigent care and monetary help insurance policies and can announce adjustments by the top of the week, stated spokesman Eric Swensen.

“I learned about our aggressive billing and collection practices within the medical center a little over a month ago,” Ryan stated in his tweet. “Part of striving to be both a great and good university is honestly facing problems you encounter and doing what you can to address them.”

The departure of Sutton-Wallace, named CEO 5 years in the past, leaves the distinguished medical system with two high vacancies. Richard Shannon, govt vp for well being affairs, left in May.

UVA Health System, which is taxpayer-supported and state-funded, is the most recent medical middle to face withering scrutiny over affected person collections as insurance coverage protection continues to go away customers financially susceptible — regardless of passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

High-deductible well being plans, unaffordable premiums, short-term insurance coverage that doesn’t cowl preexisting sickness and slim supplier networks all expose sufferers to sudden payments of 1000’s or a whole bunch of 1000’s of dollars.

In current months, journalists and lecturers have uncovered collections practices in Baltimore, Memphis and New Mexico and at another Virginia hospital. A high federal well being care regulator made a pointed reference to the protection in a speech to hospital executives Tuesday.

“We are learning the lengths to which certain not-for-profit hospitals go to collect the full list price from uninsured patients,” Medicare administrator Seema Verma stated in a speech earlier than members of the American Hospital Association. “These hospitals are referring patients to debt collectors, garnishing wages, placing liens on property and even suing patients into bankruptcy.”

Phil Galewitz and Emmarie Huetteman contributed to this report.

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