The lawyer was Richard “Dickie” Scruggs, the lawyer who beat Big Tobacco in the 1990s. Later, he launched a series of ill-fated national lawsuits aimed at getting non-profit hospitals to quit price-gouging low-income patients, and chasing them hard for payment. It... didn't go as well as the tobacco lawsuit, by a long shot. Scruggs did help start something that ended up making real change.
For instance: We’ve been following the work of Jared Walker, who went super-viral on TikTok, spreading the word that non-profit hospitals are legally obligated to provide charity care. That obligation didn’t exist when Scruggs launched those lawsuits.
This is the start of a four-part series about how change actually happens. In this case, it’s a wild ride, and it's not done. By the end of this series, we'll meet folks today who are pushing that work forward.
Next stop: The White House. It’s gonna be fun.
Meanwhile, maybe you can help make change happen: Researchers at the Innovation for Justice program at the University of Arizona are looking at hospitals’ debt collection practices, and how laws or regulations could do a better job protecting people. They’re looking to talk to some people who have been sued over medical bills. If that’s you, or someone you know, here’s a link to get in touch: bit.ly/talkmeddebt. It’s a 30-minute interview. They’re not gonna release your name or anything to ANYBODY, it’s all anonymous. (And there might be a gift card in it for you.)
Here's a transcript for this episode.
Big thanks to Kindling Group for allowing us to use audio from their documentary Do No Harm in this episode. You can learn more about their work at kindlinggroup.org.
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