Hospitals Lobby to Block Patient Lawsuits While Suing Patients

CORPORATE ACCOUNTABILITY, NOT IMMUNITY

Welcome to the latest edition of “Corporate Accountability, Not Immunity,” a tipsheet highlighting key news and important facts on why Congress should not give corporations legal immunity from coronavirus-related harms to workers, consumers, patients and the public. See our past tipsheets here. The tipsheet will go out on Mondays and Thursdays through mid-September. Please send tips, feedback and questions to David Rosen at drosen@citizen.org.

HOSPITALS SUING PATIENTS WHILE LOBBYING TO BLOCK PATIENT LAWSUITS: As millions of Americans lost their jobs and fell sick with the coronavirus this year, hospitals in some of the hardest-hit states have been suing patients who are unable to pay their medical bills. Almost all of the roughly two dozen Community Health Systems hospitals in Florida, Texas and Arizona have sued patients since the pandemic began, filing dozens – and in some cases hundreds – of cases per county between Jan. 1 and Aug. 14 of this year, according to a review of court records by Axios. At the same time, hospitals have been lobbying Congress to block patients from suing them for failing to take reasonable steps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

CORPORATE IMMUNITY WILL COST TAXPAYERS: “Immunity from civil liability for negligence does not prevent harm or injury. It simply shifts the burden and costs to the person or group who has been injured – and all too often, to the taxpayer,” wrote Steve Ellis, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense. “The last thing millions of unemployed Americans need as they continue to recover from the devastating financial impacts of this pandemic is to pay the cost of businesses’ mistakes.”

WORKERS SEEK TO HOLD HOSPITALS ACCOUNTABLE FOR INCREASING CORONAVIRUS TRANSMISSION RISKS: Several hospital workers and their union filed a lawsuit Thursday against the nation’s largest health care chain, alleging that the company and one of its Southern California hospitals failed to protect employees and patients against coronavirus infection. The lawsuit accuses HCA Healthcare and Riverside Community Hospital of creating a public nuisance “through knowing and reckless acts and omissions” that increased the risk of infection and led to two employees’ deaths. The case alleges that the hospital company provided inadequate protective gear and required employees to work while infected, according to the Service Employees International Union, which initiated the suit. Yet the Republican corporate immunity bill would block lawsuits such as this one and bar workers from holding corporate hospitals accountable for policies that created unsafe conditions that increased COVID-19 transmission.