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Hospital lien ordinance rescinded

Published: Sep. 15, 2020 at 2:59 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG) - Since the early 1980s, hospitals in the area have been allowed to place a lien on patients they serve who could not or would not pay for those services. A lien is a right to keep possession of property belonging to another person until a debt owed by that person is discharged.

The original intent was to help Bay Medical Center, which at the time was a county hospital, and had a number of indigent patients. To help recoup some of their expenses, the county commission created this ordinance.

Since that time, Bay Medical has changed ownership several times. The health care system has also changed, which prompted the commission to re-examine the intent and, ultimately, to rescind the ordinance effective the day after passage by the commission. All existing liens prior to the effective date will remain in effect.

“Essentially, what happens is, if you got into a car wreck today, when you walked into the emergency room the hospital will place a lien on you immediately," Philip “Griff” Griffitts, Chairman of Bay County Commission, said. "So that any damages recovered, punitive damages from a lawsuit, the hospital is paid immediately, whether you have insurance, whether you have the ability to pay that doesn’t matter. They will place a lien on you immediately. We felt that was unfair.”

Ascension Sacred Heart Bay stopped this practice at the end of 2019.

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