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Cornelius News

NC hospitals sued 7,500+ patients, families over medical debt

Aug. 25. North Carolina hospitals sued 7,517 patients and their family members to collect medical debt from January 2017 through June 2022, according to a new study authored by Duke Law School faculty and the Office of State Treasurer (OST).

Judgments total $57 million in medical debt owed by patients.

Nonprofit hospitals were responsible for 90.6 percent of the 5,922 lawsuits against patients, according to the study.


“This is tantamount to elder abuse,” said NC State Treasurer Dale Folwell, a frequent critic of the hospital business. “Hospitals are supposed to care for patients — not overcharge them, sue them and take their homes.”

Folwell is running for governor in 2024.


Adults with medical debt may face eviction and food insecurity.

Between 2017 and 2022, North Carolina hospitals brought nearly 6,000 cases against patients for outstanding medical debt.

According to the study, Atrium Health, Caromont Health, Sampson Regional Medical Center, Community Health Systems and Mission Health were behind 96 percent of those cases.

NCHA comment

The NC Healthcare Association said hospitals work with patients to address their financial constraints.

“When they seek to collect payments on debts owed, North Carolina hospitals follow federal IRS guidelines and their own financial assistance policies to guide the staff as they work with patients and families to ensure all are treated with dignity and respect throughout the patient financial experience process,” the NCHA stated.

Struggle to pay debt

North Carolinians are struggling to pay off medical debt. A new study from HelpAdvisor.com, analyzed 2022 data from the Urban Institute to determine which states and counties have the highest rates of medical debt in collections.

In North Carolina, 20.3 percent of residents have medical debt in collections, which is the fourth highest in the U.S.