One Hospital System Sued 2,500 Patients After Pandemic Hit

Mr. Miller said that even with the stimulus money, Northwell lost $300 million last year.

He also said that all of the suits that Northwell had filed in 2020 stemmed from hospitalizations that occurred months or years before the pandemic began.

The other health systems that filed the most lawsuits last year echoed that sentiment, emphasizing that they have not sued any coronavirus patients.

St. Peter’s Health Partners, which runs a chain of hospitals in the Albany area and filed about 1,000 lawsuits last year, and Oneida Health, a health care system near Syracuse that filed about 500 lawsuits, both said in statements that they temporarily stopped suing in the spring but resumed over the summer.

Elisabeth Benjamin, vice president of health initiatives at the Community Service Society, a nonprofit that advocates anti-poverty policies, criticized hospitals for suing patients during the pandemic, even over unpaid bills from hospitalizations in past years.

She said that a few hundred dollars may not mean much to a hospital chain but can be a significant burden for a low-income patient. “It means someone is going hungry,” Ms. Benjamin said. “It means a kid is not getting a winter coat.”

In some cases, the lawsuits sought even larger sums. John T. Mather Memorial Hospital on Long Island, which is owned by Northwell, sued Thomas Kasper in April for $31,340 in unpaid bills — plus about $8,000 in interest and fees, records show.

That hospital sued Scott Buckley for $21,028, plus about $4,000 in interest and fees.

“I am literally broke,” said Mr. Buckley, 48, who works at a Stop & Shop grocery store. “I don’t have a penny to my name. I have three kids. If they take my paycheck, I won’t have anything.”

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