Mountain View Regional Medical Center sued for unlawfully pursuing aggressive debt collection against low-income patients

LAS CRUCES–Mountain View Regional Medical Center is violating state law by suing low-income patients, says a class action lawsuit filed today in the Third Judicial District Court.

“Last year I had an emergency while I was pregnant with my third child. I rushed to the hospital to make sure nothing was wrong with my pregnancy,” said Ruby Ramirez, a plaintiff in the case. “Almost a year later, the hospital sued me for over $6,000. My family is on a very tight budget. We can’t afford this lawsuit.”

The New Mexico Legislature passed the Patients’ Debt Collection Protection Act in 2021, which protects people with incomes under two times the poverty line from being sent to collections or sued over medical bills. The law requires hospitals, providers, and debt collectors to check a patient’s income status before taking these actions.

Ramirez has an income that qualifies her for protection from being sued under the medical debt law. Mountain View did not check Ramirez’s income before suing her. Represented by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and Treinen Law Office, Ramirez filed a class action countersuit. The lawsuit also names Faber & Brand, LLC, a Missouri-based law firm that Mountain View retains to pursue debt collection on its behalf.

Since the law went into effect on July 1, 2021, Mountain View has unlawfully sued over 200 patients over medical bills.

“When you go to the hospital, your primary worry should be your health, not being sent to court,” said Nicolas Cordova, an attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, which is representing Ramirez. “The New Mexico Legislature passed the medical debt law to take these aggressive collection practices off the table for hospitals. It’s time they follow the law.”

The class action lawsuit asserts the hospital’s conduct violates both the Patients’ Debt Collection Protection Act and the Unfair Practices Act, which prohibits deceptive trade practices. 

The legal complaint asks the court to order Mountain View to:

  • Stop filing lawsuits and other legal actions (e.g., wage garnishments) without first checking the individual’s income status.
  • Dismiss all pending lawsuits and garnishment proceedings against low-income individuals.
  • Reverse any damaging information reported to credit reporting agencies because of these unlawfully-filed lawsuits.
  • Return any wages it received from garnishing low-income individuals’ wages.

“I didn’t know there was a law protecting me. I’m really upset that they put me through this,” said Ramirez.

Mountain View Regional Medical Center is owned by Community Health Systems, Inc. Community Health Systems is a large hospital chain based in Tennessee that also owns Carlsbad Medical Center. The New York Times and CNN previously reported on the large number of lawsuits filed by Carlsbad Medical Center.

The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and private attorney Rob Treinen filed the class action on behalf of Ramirez and New Mexico patients.

The Las Cruces Medical Center, LLC (dba Mountain View Regional Medical Center) v. Ramirez class action counterclaim can be found here: https://www.nmpovertylaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/Answer-Counterclaim-MountainView-v.-Ramirez-2022-10-11-1.pdf

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