To examine debt collection practices by Maryland hospitals, The Baltimore Sun compiled a database of 132,000 collection lawsuits filed by hospitals across the state from January 2003 through June 30 of this year. The Sun also compiled a partial database of judgments after state officials didn't respond to repeated requests for a complete file. The incomplete database contained $101 million in such judgments without counting most judgments of less than $2,000. Thousands of computerized court docket entries were analyzed to identify hospitals and lawyers filing large numbers of these lawsuits as well as document cases that ended in judgments, liens or other actions against patients. Reporters reviewed samplings of court files in several busy court districts, observed the collection process play out in the busiest of these courts in Baltimore City, and interviewed lawyers and patients involved in those proceedings. The Sun also obtained five years of financial records and other documents from the Maryland Health Services Cost Review Commission, which over a period of several months provided the newspaper with four different sets of data, each time contending that the previous version contained inaccuracies.
Monday: How hospitals and their lawyers pursue unpaid bills in court against patients with few legal and other resources.
Tuesday: Why holes in the rate-setting system have persisted even as other states fixed similar problems.