In This Oklahoma Town, Most Everyone Knows Someone Who’s Been Sued by the Hospital

Deborah Hackler, a lawyer who represents the hospital, McAlester Regional Medical Center, in small-claims court, frequently secures judgments for unpaid bills from patients. The hospital has filed close to 5,000 debt collection cases since the early 1990s. Residents of McAlester, Oklahoma have been taken to court multiple times for unpaid medical bills, impacting their lives and financial stability. Numerous lawsuits have failed to address this issue in the Oklahoma Legislature. The hospital has a history of providing minimal financial assistance, despite its purported mission to serve the community. The legal process surrounding these lawsuits is often misunderstood, and patients are typically unable to defend themselves. This report is part of a partnership between KFF Health News and NPR on medical debt in America.

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