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January 23, 2015

Grassley Questions Mo. Hospital on Pursuing Debts From Poor Patients

Senator Charles Grassley has warned a nonprofit Missouri medical center that it could be violating the law by taking aggressive legal action to secure payments from low-income patients who may have qualified for financial assistance, ProPublica and NPR report. Mr. Grassley sent a letter last week to Mosaic Life Care questioning the St. Joseph, Mo., hospital's collection tactics and treatment of poor patients.

The Iowa Republican, a frequent critic of nonprofit hospitals' financial and charity-care practices, cited a previous ProPublica and NPR article on the former Heartland Regional Medical Center, which has seized the wages of thousands of patients who were unable to pay their bills. The hospital has said it will review its debt-collection practices.

Mr. Grassley questioned whether Mosaic made reasonable efforts to determine whether patients qualify for financial aid before going to court to seek payment, as required by a provision of the Affordable Care Act that he helped write. The Missouri facility's practices "appear to be extremely punitive and unfair to both low-income patients and taxpayers who subsidize charitable hospitals' tax breaks," he wrote in his letter.