After his mother died in a violent attack, a metro Atlanta man was surprised to find a lien by Grady hospital filed in her name for more than $670,000 in hospital bills for her treatment. He learned the hospital never submitted the bill to Medicare or supplemental insurance.
Channel 2 Investigates found that Grady does this frequently, particularly if the hospital stay was related to an auto accident.
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We checked clerk records and found Grady has filed more than 13,000 of these hospital liens the past 5 years in Fulton County, whether the patient has insurance or not.
"Who decides to do something like this? it's just unethical. That's what Medicare is for. That's what she paid every month for," the woman's son Charles Kimsey said.
78-year-old Jacqueline Mixon spent 10 days at Grady before dying last spring from injuries sustained in a violent attack at the Piedmont hospital parking garage.
As Channel 2 Action news reported before, Mixon was allegedly tackled from behind by 68-year-old Gloria Franklin, then run over by an SUV.
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Kimsey says Grady never billed his mother, Medicare or her supplemental insurance before filing the lien.
"I have not gotten one bill for Grady, not one" Kimsey said.
Personal injury attorney Susan Witt says hospitals file the liens, looking for a piece of potential settlements.
"It's a predatory practice that we see over and over again, and consumers are unaware of what their rights are," Witt said.
Witt says hospitals file liens for their full retail price. That's significantly higher than what they charge insurance companies or Medicare through negotiated pricing.
"They would prefer not to deal with your insurance company because they are going get paid less than if they charge you the retail rate and scare and intimidate you that it's the rate you have to pay," Witt said.
Grady tells us in a statement quote:
"We never place liens on property or an estate. Hospitals routinely place liens on insurance claims and settlements. For services related to an accident or injury, the no-fault or liability insurance pays first and Medicare pays second, consistent with state and federal law."
It just adds insult to injury, and I don't know what to do. this is unbelievable, its crushing me," Kimsey said.
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Hospitals can not go after your personal property like a house or car with a hospital lien like with a traditional lien.
Susan Witt tells clients that if the hospital won't submit the claim to insurance or Medicare, you should do it yourself.
"The hospitals don't like it. They don't want you to know you can do that on your own but that is what you have the right and ability to do," Witt said.