Arkansas’ public university hospital has sued thousands of patients over medical bills during the pandemic, including hundreds of its own nurses and employees

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As Covid cases spread in 2020, visitors to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences were greeted by a colorful sign put up by grateful neighbors outside the university’s medical center: “Heroes Work Here.”

The university adopted the message in glossy promotional videos it posted online, introducing viewers to individual nurses, doctors, and health workers who described their jobs. “Sometimes it’s easy for people who pass through here to see our frontline caregivers as the heroes, or our educators as the heroes – it’s really everybody,” Cam Patterson, the university chancellor, declared in one video. 

But at least a dozen of the “heroes” that UAMS featured in online advertisements and other videos weren’t just employed by the university – they’ve also been sued by it. 

UAMS, Arkansas’ flagship public health sciences university, has been aggressively suing thousands of former patients over medical debt in recent years, including hundreds of its own employees, a CNN investigation found. 

Since 2019, UAMS has sued more than 8,000 patients to collect on unpaid medical bills, according to court records. It filed more debt collection lawsuits in recent years than any other plaintiff in the Arkansas court system other than the state tax office.

The university’s use of the courts ballooned during the coronavirus pandemic. It filed 35 lawsuits in 2016 but more than 3,000 in 2021 – an average of nearly nine a day.

CNN reviewed court documents from thousands of UAMS lawsuits and identified more than 500 defendants who were listed as working for the university itself. The employees ranged from nurses and patient services associates to clinical technicians and lab workers to housekeepers and cooks.

Twenty people sued by UAMS, including more than a dozen current or former employees, spoke to CNN about their cases. Keri Whimper, a former UAMS medical assistant, said the university’s lawsuit against her – demanding a total of about $700 for a bill she thought had been covered by insurance – felt like a betrayal after she contracted Covid while working at the medical center.

“I worked for them through Covid, and they’re still doing this to me,” she said. “This really shows they don’t care about their employees at all.”

UAMS, which is part of the state government and is Arkansas’ largest public employer, operates a major teaching hospital in the state capital of Little Rock and runs clinics around the state. Its legal practices, which have not been previously reported, are an example of how aggressive medical debt collection efforts aren’t limited to corporate, for-profit hospitals.

Most of the lawsuits UAMS filed in recent years involved unpaid medical bills of about $1,000 or less, with some cases over as little as $100. In its complaints, the university tacked on hundreds of dollars of court filing fees, attorney fees, service fees, and interest charges, sometimes doubling or tripling the original amount owed. It moved to garnish defendants’ wages

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Arkansas Man Charged in $100 Million COVID-19 Health Care Fraud Scheme | OPA

A federal grand jury in the Western District of Arkansas returned an indictment yesterday charging an Arkansas gentleman who owned or managed several diagnostic testing laboratories with health and fitness care fraud in connection with around $100 million dollars in wrong billings for urine drug testing, COVID-19 tests, and other medical laboratory products and services.

According to court documents, Billy Joe Taylor, 42, of Lavaca, engaged in a plan involving February 2017 and May perhaps 2021 in relationship with diagnostic laboratory screening, which includes urine drug tests and checks for respiratory illnesses for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, that were medically avoidable, not purchased by medical companies, and/or not provided as represented. According to the indictment, Taylor controlled and directed several diagnostic laboratories, and applied individuals labs to post much more than $100 million in phony and fraudulent statements to Medicare. The indictment alleges that Taylor acquired healthcare information and facts and personal personalized facts for Medicare beneficiaries, and then misused that confidential information and facts to continuously submit claims to Medicare for diagnostic tests that ended up not purchased by professional medical companies and were being not truly executed by the laboratories. Taylor allegedly then utilised the proceeds of the fraud to dwell a lavish way of life, such as acquiring several luxury automobiles, which include a Rolls Royce Wraith, as very well as genuine estate, jewellery, guitars, and other luxurious apparel and things.

Taylor is charged with 16 counts of wellbeing care fraud, and 1 rely of engaging in a financial transaction in criminally-derived property. Taylor was formerly billed by prison criticism in Could 2021. The defendant is scheduled for his arraignment on Nov. 23 prior to U.S. Justice of the peace Decide Mark E. Ford of the U.S. District Court docket for the Western District of Arkansas. Each individual of the counts is punishable by a utmost penalty of 10 yrs in jail. A federal district courtroom judge will decide any sentence following looking at the U.S. Sentencing Pointers and other statutory aspects.

Assistant Lawyer Standard Kenneth A. Well mannered Jr. of the Justice Department’s Felony Division Performing U.S. Lawyer David Clay Fowlkes for the Western District of Arkansas Unique Agent in Demand James A. Dawson, of the FBI’s Small Rock division Exclusive Agent in Charge Miranda Bennett of the Division of Wellbeing and Human Providers-Place of work of Inspector Common (HHS-OIG), Dallas Regional Business and Specific Agent in Cost Christopher Altemus of the IRS-Criminal Investigation, Dallas Field Office environment, manufactured the announcement.

The FBI, HHS-OIG, and IRS-Criminal Investigation are investigating the situation.

Senior Litigation Counsel Jim Hayes and Trial Lawyer D. Keith Clouser of the Legal Division’s Fraud Section’s Nationwide Quick Response Strike Force and Assistant U.S. Legal professional Kenneth Elser of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Arkansas are prosecuting the circumstance.

An indictment is just an allegation, and all defendants are presumed harmless until eventually confirmed responsible outside of a realistic question in a court of regulation.

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