Pro Publica Source Article | Comments Courtesy of Matt Zavadsky
Very interesting article – tip of the hat to EMS legend and healthcare guru Donald Jones for making us aware of this article.
A little long, but an interesting read…
This Doctors Group Is Owned by a Private Equity Firm and Repeatedly Sued the Poor Until We Called Them
After the Blackstone Group acquired one of the nation’s largest physician staffing firms in 2017, low-income patients faced far more aggressive debt collection lawsuits. They only stopped after ProPublica and MLK50 asked about it.
By Wendi C. Thomas, MLK50, with Maya Miller, Beena Raghavendran and Doris Burke, ProPublica
Nov. 27, 2019
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — After nine visits to the emergency room at Baptist Memorial Hospital in 2016 and 2017, Jennifer Brooks began receiving bills from an entity she’d never heard of, Southeastern Emergency Physicians.
Unsure what the bills were for, Brooks, a stay-at-home mother, said she ignored them until they were sent to collections. She made payment arrangements, but when she was late, she said the collection agency demanded $500, which she didn’t have.
In December, Southeastern sued her for more than $8,500 in unpaid bills — a third of what her husband makes per year as a cook.
The case against Brooks is one of more than 4,800 lawsuits Southeastern has filed against patients in Shelby County General Sessions Court since 2017. In the first six months of this year, Southeastern filed more lawsuits than local hospitals Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, Baptist and Regional One combined.
Lawsuits against poor patients over unpaid medical debts have received widespread media attention over the past few years. In almost all cases, the plaintiff has been a hospital system, often a nonprofit.
What sets the practices of Southeastern, and its parent, TeamHealth, apart is that it is a physician staffing firm that contracts with the doctors who treat patients in four of Baptist’s emergency rooms around the region. Physicians historically have avoided suing patients en masse, instead choosing to send unpaid bills to collections or writing them off as bad debt.
TeamHealth is owned by the Blackstone Group, a private equity firm. In 2017, Blackstone acquired TeamHealth and its subsidiary Southeastern in a $6.1 billion deal. It was just one in a growing number of large private equity investments in health care in the last decade.