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  • Matt Kiefer

Fighting Back Against Unintended Consequences



Just about every movie and episode of a television show deals with some unintended consequence. A character decides or is told to do something, does it, things go badly, and then the rest of the show deals with either cleaning up the mess or learning from the mistake. Bringing dinosaurs back to life? Not a good idea. Trying to make it across the Atlantic faster than any other ship had done it? Not a good idea. Not making sure all of your kids are in the van before leaving for France over Christmas vacation? You get the picture.

Unintended consequences happen in real life, too. Take, for example, the trend of hospitals being called out and spotlighted for being too aggressive with their collection efforts because they file collection lawsuits against individuals who do not pay their bills. Providers in Virginia, Tennessee, Kansas, Maryland, New York, Colorado, Texas, Wisconsin, and Oklahoma have all been the subject of media reports for such tactics. In many cases, the hospitals have announced they are rescinding the current lawsuits that have been filed and that they will not file any new suits moving forward. This is an altruistic move on the part of those facilities, to be sure, but it begs the question — how will they cover those unpaid bills moving forward?

The healthcare industry is in need of overhaul, but taking away a tool that hospitals can use to recover unpaid debts without giving them a replacement is like telling a homeowner he or she can not use a shovel when a blizzard is on the way. Nobody likes to have to file a lawsuit to try and collect on a debt, but it can be an effective tool to help healthcare providers recover much-needed revenue, at a time when they are running critically low on money. Hospitals nationwide were losing $20 billion a month last year while dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Forty-seven hospitals were forced to close or file for bankruptcy protection last year. Now may not be the best time to cut off a revenue stream for hospitals that are in dire need of revenue.

Nobody will argue with the statement that the healthcare industry needs new ideas and a new way of doing business. But taking lawsuits away from hospitals without replacing it with a new revenue source is doomed to cause more problems than it solved.

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