In McAlester, Oklahoma, many residents have been sued by their “nonprofit” hospital for thousands of dollars which they often can’t afford. “It’s not even a secret,” said one resident, “everyone in this town probably has a story about McAlester Regional”.
Some of McAlester’s 18,000 residents have been taken to court multiple times. A few examples include:
- Sherry McKee, a dorm monitor at a tribal boarding school outside McAlester: The hospital has sued her three times, most recently over a $3,375 bill for what she said turned out to be vertigo. Her debt exceeds her monthly salary.
- Renee Montgomery, a city treasurer in an adjoining town and mother of a local police officer: The hospital sued her last year for more than $5,500 following a trip to ER for chest pain. She dipped into savings she’d reserved for her children and grandchildren to cover the debt.
- Dusty Powell, a truck driver: The hospital sued him for almost $9,000 after he went to the ER for what turned out to be gastritis. His wages were garnished to cover the bill, causing him to lose his pickup and motorcycle.
- Even new mothers said they compare stories of their legal run-ins with the medical center.
The CEO of McAlester Regional Hospital was unaware his hospitals took patients to court, “I had to call and ask if we sue people”, said Shawn Howard.
McAlester Mayor John Browne, who appoints the hospital’s board of trustees, said he, too, didn’t know about the lawsuits. “I hadn’t heard anything about them suing,” he said.
In 2022, McAlester Regional provided just $114,000 in charity care, out of a total operating budget of more than $100 million, or just 0.11%, according to hospital records. On McAlester Regional’s website, it says it has “limited appointments” for low-income patients, yet 1 in 5 residents in the area live below the federal poverty line.
Better Solutions is committed to shedding light on the true driving forces behind rising healthcare costs. In America, no one should avoid medical care for fear of medical debt.