LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KRQE) – You get a medical procedure at a hospital and expect to get a bill, but what happens when you get a lawsuit as well? A nonprofit has filed a class action countersuit against Mountainview Regional Medical Center. They’re claiming the hospital is illegally suing low-income patients for unpaid medical bills. The nonprofit says they’re hoping to send a message. 

“No one should have to worry that going to a hospital means that you’re gonna go to court right after,” says NMCLP Staff Attorney, Nicolas Cordova. 

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The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty is filing a class action lawsuit against Mountainview Regional Medical Center. They claim the hospital sued low-income individuals who are protected by the “Patients’ Debt Collection Protection Act”. The law passed last year requires hospitals to check a patient’s income before filing a lawsuit. 

The complaint asks the court to order the hospital to stop filing lawsuits and other legal actions without confirming an individual’s income status. 

It also wants all pending lawsuits and garnishment proceedings to be dismissed, reversing any reports sent to credit agencies, and returning any wages received from garnishing individuals. It’s taken a toll on the plaintiff’s lives. 

“Just because you’re in an emergency and because you’re low income doesn’t mean that you deserve to be sued and to have this fear hanging over your head every day that you don’t know if they’re gonna garnish your wages or not,” says former hospital patient, Alex Rougeux. 

The nonprofit also claims the hospital has unlawfully sued over 200 patients since the Protection Act went into effect last year. 

A spokesperson with BeWellNM, New Mexico’s health insurance exchange, says this case further shows the importance of getting coverage. “When you’re not covered, you expose yourself to enormous financial risks….regardless of how much you make. How little or how much you make, there are options available to you through trusted, licensed, comprehensive health insurance plans,” says Interim CEO for BeWell NM, Heather Korbulic. 

News 13 reached out to the law firm representing Mountainview, but they did not want to release a statement at this time.