Hospital Sends Debt Collectors After Homeless Man

Phil Hughes is a homeless handy-man who’ll paint your house number on your curb for $5 and some turkey leftovers, says Mary Olsen, a homeowner who hires Hughes for occasional odd jobs.

When Hughes got sick, Mary Olsen told him to put down her name as an emergency contact.

“I didn’t want him to die and not know about it,” she told the Contra-Costa Times. Hughes spent 3 or 4 days in the hospital and the bill came to Mary Olsen’s house. It was for $42,000.

It was pages and pages and pages,” she said. “They detail every shot they give you, every antibiotic, every aspirin.

“Phil and I were laughing about it. Here’s a homeless man who doesn’t have a penny to his name and he has this enormous hospital bill. How’s he going to pay it?”

The humor quickly evaporated when a collection agency began hounding her with phone calls looking for Hughes. The collectors especially liked to call early Saturday mornings.

She told them Hughes did not live there, was homeless and could not afford to pay. Her pleas made no difference: The calls continued daily for a couple of weeks.

Finally, Mary had to threaten the debt collectors with media exposure to get the calls to stop. The hospital can’t discuss Mr. Hughes directly, but told the Contra-Costa Times that John Muir Hospital “seeks reimbursement through a county program for indigent adults. It does not bill patients or put them through collections.”

Mary Olsen says she’s happy with the care that her friend received at the hospital, but is less than thrilled with the debt collectors. “Phil is so obviously an indigent person that no one would expect he would have enough money for lunch,” she said, “let alone a hospital bill.”

Hospital seeks $42,000 — from a homeless man [Contra-Costa Times]
(Photo:Contra-Costa Times)