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Long Island Health Organization Suspends Billing Lawsuits After Critical Report

Courtesy of Pixabay

Northwell Health on Long Island suspended legal action over unpaid medical bills hours after The New York Times published a story detailing 2,500 such lawsuits filed during the pandemic.

The Times reported that the unpaid medical bills averaged $1,700 and included teachers, grocery store workers and some who lost work because of the pandemic or were sick themselves.

A Northwell spokesman said the bills were incurred before the pandemic and that no one sick with the coronavirus was sued.

Last spring, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered all private hospitals to stop suing patients. Northwell, New York’s largest hospital chain, instituted a six-month pause on medical bill collections from April to September, and resumed lawsuits when the economy improved and the COVID-19 infection rate lowered.

However, a Northwell official told Newsday that because of a computer glitch several hundred lawsuits were mistakenly filed during the moratorium.

Northwell CEO Michael Dowling is a close ally of Cuomo and has acted as the governor’s proxy to hospitals on several occasions during the pandemic.

Northwell offers zero-interest payment plans and said it only initiates lawsuits after patients have not responded to multiple attempts to resolve the matters without legal action.

Charles is senior reporter focusing on special projects. He has won numerous awards including an IRE award, three SPJ Public Service Awards, and a National Murrow. He was also a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists and Third Coast Director’s Choice Award.