The study also found that—as 1.3 million Texans filed for unemployment during the coronavirus quarantine—Texas hospitals continued to file lawsuits against patients with medical debt.
However, CPRMC officials said none of the hospital's lawsuits mentioned in the study stemmed from patients suffering financial hardship due to coronavirus. CEO Bo Beaudry said CPRMC has financial counselors and flexible payment plans, and litigation is used only as a "last resort" when it is determined that the patient has the ability to pay but fails to do so.
The 108-bed, for-profit hospital located at 1401 Medical Parkway, Cedar Park filed 84 lawsuits during a two-year period, according to the study released early May 27. CPRMC tied with Longview Regional Medical Center for the second most in the study.
Beaudry issued a written statement May 27.
"Fortunately, the majority of our patients pay their bills so a very small percentage of our hospital’s nearly 180,000 annual patient encounters result in litigation," Beaudry said in the statement. "Litigation is always a last resort and is only pursued after we determine the patient has the financial ability to make some level of payment based on employment status and credit record," he wrote. "Once a bill is mailed, if no payment is received, we make numerous attempts—often 10 or more times—to contact patients via phone and mail in order to establish an interest-free payment plan workable for their circumstances. If a patient does not respond or agrees to a payment plan and then does not make payments, we may seek payment through the judicial process."
Beaudry said none of the 84 lawsuits are related to financial hardships caused by coronavirus because of the "lengthy process" required before medical debt issues result in litigation.
He urged patients who are facing litigation from CPRMC due to financial hardships related to coronavirus to contact the hospital.
"Our hospital already has policies in place against pursuing collection suits against anyone who is unemployed and without means to pay their hospital bills," Beaudry said. "If someone has lost their job due to COVID-19 and is currently a defendant in a collection suit brought by Cedar Park Regional Medical Center, they can call 866-450-0044."
South Texas Regional Medical Center topped the list with 109 lawsuits. In 2017, South Texas Regional Medical Center in Jourdanton was acquired by Methodist Healthcare System and renamed Methodist Hospital South, according to the study.
The Johns Hopkins research team reviewed court records in 62 of Texas’ 254 counties from January 2018 to February 2020.
Due to the small sampling of Texas counties, CPRMC spokesperson Laura Balla said the study provides a "narrow—and likely incomplete—snapshot of medical debt collection across Texas."
According to the study, 28 of the 414 hospitals in the study filed lawsuits against delinquent patients during the two years. The study also found that 83% of lawsuits were filed by the DeLoney Law Group in Dallas.
Beaudry said that although litigation numbers are low, collecting payment for hospital services is essential to stay in business.
"Collecting reimbursement for the care we provide is critical to sustain operations and continued investments to enhance care for the community," Beaudry said. "Cedar Park Regional Medical Center last year provided more than $131 million in charity and uncompensated care."
The 25-page study is available below.