Tax-exempt non-profit hospital sues its OWN employees for unpaid medical bills

A non-profit hospital with tax-exempt status has repeatedly sued its own employees for unpaid medical business, it has been revealed.

Since 2014, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare based in Memphis, Tennessee, has filed more than 8,300 lawsuits against patients, including its own workers, according to a joint report from MLK50 and ProPublica. 

After winning judgments, the healthcare system has sought to garnish the wages of more than 160 workers and has actually done so in more than 70 instances over that time, according to the analysis of Shelby County General Sessions Court records, online docket reports and case files. 

The cases include a hospital housekeeper making $16,000 who was sued in 2017 for more than $23,000.  

Since 2014, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare headquartered (above) in Memphis, Tennessee has filed more than 8,300 lawsuits against patients, including its own workers, a report finds

Methodist is one of the largest employers in the region, with more than 11,000 workers.

About 18 percent of the workers make less than $15 an hour, some as little as $10 an hour, according to MLK50.

Though workers do get health insurance, the insurance stipulates that they must receive care from Methodist, even though other providers offer more generous financial assistance policies, according to the report.

Methodist’s policy offers no assistance for patients with any form of health insurance, no matter their out-of-pocket costs. 

Under Methodist’s insurance plan, employees are responsible for a $750 individual deductible and then 20 percent of inpatient and outpatient costs, up to a maximum out-of-pocket cost of $4,100 per year. 

The healthcare system is supported by the Memphis, Mississippi and Arkansas conferences of The United Methodist Church.

As a tax-exempt hospital system, Methodist is exempt from local, state and federal taxes, and in return is supposed to provide significant community benefits.  

Methodist does provide some charity care, and estimates its community benefits as worth more than $226 million annually.

A spokesperson for Methodist did not immediately respond to on Saturday evening, but the organization did provide a lengthy statement to MLK50. 

“Outstanding patient debts are only sent to collections and then to court as a very last resort, and only after continued efforts to work with the patients have been exhausted,” the statement said.

“We strongly believe in providing exceptional care to all members of the community — regardless of ability to pay.”

Methodist said it gives an automatic 70 percent discount to uninsured patients and free care to uninsured patients at or below 125 percent of the federal poverty guidelines. 

The healthcare system’s board includes three Methodist bishops: Bishop Gary Mueller, Bishop Bill McAilly, and Bishop James E. Swanson.

None offered comment when contacted by ProPublica.