The lawsuit filed by SSM Health’s St Agnes Hospital in Fond du Lac is the most litigation of any hospital in Wisconsin, with 2,632 lawsuits filed between 2014 and 2018. The hospital’s admissions during this period accounted for nearly 7.8% of the state and 0.4% of its net patient revenue.
SSM spokesperson Patrick Kampert wrote in an email that the hospital joined SSM in 2018, so most of the lawsuits were filed under its previous ownership.
In second place is Mile Bluff Medical Center, an independent hospital in Moreston, which filed nearly 1,800 lawsuits. During this period, Mile Bluff handled 27% of the state’s hospital admissions and attracted 1% of the state’s net patient income. Dara Bartels, CEO of Mile Bluff, said in a statement that the system has reorganized its billing process in recent years to more quickly identify payment issues and link patients to financial assistance.
Several Advocate Aurora Health hospitals are on the list, of which Aurora St. Luke Medical Center in Milwaukee ranks fourth and has filed approximately 1,600 lawsuits. Advocate Aurora’s hospital names in Oshkosh, West Ellis, Kenosha, Green Bay, Milwaukee, Marinette, Grafton, Sheboygan, Elkhorn, Burlington and Hartford Ranked in the top 50. Advocate Aurora is headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Downers Grove, Illinois. In 2020, the revenue of the non-profit medical system exceeds 13 billion U.S. dollars, but its operating profit margin is only 1.6%.
Spokesperson LeeAnn Betz wrote in an email that Aurora lawyers ceased to file a lawsuit over unpaid bills in February 2020. She said that as of that date, all current cases have been dropped, and no new cases have been filed since.
“Even before that, any litigation related to personal bills is a last resort, after months of multiple attempts to contact patients and offer payment options including interest-free payment plans,” Bates said.
Ascension Health is another common name on the list of litigants for this research. The Health System’s St. Elizabeth campus in Appleton ranks sixth, with approximately 1,500 lawsuits filed between 2014 and 2018, accounting for 3.7% of the state’s admissions. Ascension has hospitals in Stevens Point, Weston, Merrill, Chilton, Stanley, Milwaukee, Racine, Eagle River, Mequon, Franklin, Tomahawk and Oshkosh.
Ascension, headquartered in St. Louis, has more than 140 hospitals and an annual revenue of 25 billion U.S. dollars, even though it Announced a loss rate of 2.5% In its 2020 fiscal year. Ascension did not respond to a request for comment.
Asiris Health Recently acquired Ascension’s 7 Wisconsin hospitals, including hospitals in Eagle River, Merrill, Stanley, Tomahawk and Stevens Point. Several Aspirus hospitals were included in the study’s list, including Divine Savior Hospital in Portage, which filed nearly 1,600 lawsuits between 2014 and 2018. As of press time, Aspirus did not comment.
Gundersen Health’s La Crosse Hospital, which ranked seventh on the study’s list, said in a statement that it will only file a lawsuit after all its efforts to provide financial assistance have been exhausted. The system says that most cases will be resolved before any court proceedings.
Neil Mahoney, another research author and economics professor at Stanford University, said that the fact that large systems account for a large proportion of litigation makes this problem easier to resolve.
“In a sense, if you can really get in touch with the top management of these organizations, the problem will be easier to solve,” he said.
The study found that key access hospitals are more likely to sue patients than any other type of hospital, and non-profit hospitals are more likely to sue patients than for-profit hospitals. Hospitals with higher medical insurance discharge rates and lower commercial discharge rates are also more likely to sue patients.
Cooper said two things might have happened there. One: For-profit institutions may prevent patients who cannot pay from entering the door. Two: Hospitals with financial difficulties are using litigation as another lever to recover payments.
Despite receiving government subsidies, key access hospitals still face the challenges of a declining local population, high regional unemployment, and finding sufficient staff.more than 110 rural hospitals Closed from 2013 to 2020.
But Cooper said that these lawsuits may also be aimed at sending messages to impoverished residents who do not pay their bills. “Look at the way we treat your neighbor. We will sue you.”
On a per capita basis, the study found that black residents and poor patients in rural areas were more likely to be prosecuted during the study period. Another study found that Wisconsin is one of the regions with the largest household income gap between black and white Americans.
“Like many things in society, this has a disproportionate impact on minority communities,” Mahoney said. “I have seen enough evidence, which is not surprising, but at the same time I am still deeply worried.”