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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CNN
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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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New Orleans mayor, overall health department sued about COVID-19 vaccine mandates

Extra than 100 plaintiffs who stay and do the job in the New Orleans place are suing Mayor LaToya Cantrell and the city’s health and fitness division more than its COVID-19 vaccine and mask mandates.

The town past thirty day period announced that by Feb. 1, all people ages 5 and older would have to display proof of at the very least two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine or a detrimental PCR or antigen exam to enter specific organizations, though a vaccine mandate went into impact for adults on Jan. 3. In addition, all people today 2 many years previous and more mature must use masks indoors.

“The folks of New Orleans and our children have endured approximately two decades of unprecedented regulate from our so-known as metropolis leaders,” legal professional Laura Cannizzaro Rodrigue, a companion at the New Orleans-dependent company Rodriguez & Arcuri, told Fox Information Digital of the complaint. “What started out as a short term means to protect the neighborhood from mysterious challenges of a virus has turned into a circus of mandates that no for a longer time make sense to any rational man or woman. Ample is adequate. People today all around our good Condition who reside, work, and worship in New Orleans are united in this hard work to consider back again command of their life and households.”

The grievance filed by Rodrigue & Arcuri and legal professional Jimmy Faircloth of Faircloth, Melton, Sobel & Bash LLC, on behalf of much more than 100 plaintiffs — and counting — accuses the mayor and the well being office, which includes New Orleans Wellbeing Director Jennifer Avengno, of resulting in “social, economic and cultural harm” by way of ‘authoritarian steps below the pretext of an emergency with no conclude.” 

OMICRON VARIANT Boosts Worries ABOUT Extensive COVID

The lawsuit accuses defendants of violating plaintiffs’ privacy legal rights and denying plaintiffs’ equal defense less than New Orleans law.

The complaint submitted in an Orleans Parish Civil District Courtroom involves information exhibiting how the omicron variant of COVID-19 has established its means to evade immunity made available by vaccines. While the vaccine helps prevent severe reactions to the virus — specifically in the elderly and those with fundamental conditions — U.S. cases have spiked to record highs in the latest months as the virus infects both vaccinated and unvaccinated men and women.

Residents gather at a bar during a power outage after Hurricane Ida in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S., on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021. (Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg)

Citizens acquire at a bar through a power outage right after Hurricane Ida in New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S., on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021. (Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg)

“Simply just set, the hazard posed by Omicron to most people—especially children—is de minimis, considerably underneath the pitfalls posed by several other health conditions and functions of every day lifestyle,” the lawsuit states. “For case in point, the chance to a New Orleans resident or visitor of personal injury in an vehicle or of currently being the target of violent crime…is higher than the danger of significant health issues from the Omicron variant.”

AS HOMICIDES SPIKE IN US Cities, NEW ORLEANS

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