MLK50 derived the figure of how much debt Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare had erased by reviewing the Shelby County General Sessions Court’s online payment records and the case satisfied notices Methodist filed in the months following the investigation.

To calculate the amount of debt erased, an MLK50 researcher downloaded the case satisfied notices filed between July 3 and Monday.

In September, MLK50 and ProPublica reported that Methodist had erased the debts owed by more than 6,500 patients it had sued for unpaid hospital bills. At the time, more than 2,300 case satisfied notices had been filed with the court between July 3 and Sept. 24 and a court administrator estimated a backlog of an additional 4,500 notices. When all the notices were processed, the actual number of notices was somewhat less than that, topping 5,300. In a statement, Methodist said that all told, it has reduced or eliminated the debts of 7,500.

Then, a team of researchers looked up each case in the court’s payment records online database, which lists both the payments and charges made in each case. In Robinson’s case, her payment record ends with this notation: Case Satisfied Per Attorney ($15,348.37).

A similar final notation appeared in all but around 250 cases, which all showed a zero balance.

Court records do not indicate how much, if any, of this debt was discharged in bankruptcies, but it’s likely that at least some of the $11.9 million erased was uncollectible.

This article was produced in partnership with MLK50, which is a member of the ProPublica Local Reporting Network. ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published.

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