National Federation of the Blind and Disability Rights North Carolina Also Parties
Nash Hospitals, Inc. will pay $150,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees to settle legal claims by a blind Rocky Mount, NC man whom Nash General Hospital refused to provide written materials in Braille. The National Federation of the Blind, America’s civil rights organization of the blind, and Disability Rights North Carolina also agreed to not pursue further litigation against Nash Hospitals, Inc. for its past failures to provide written materials in formats accessible to the blind.
John Bone received emergency medical care at Nash General Hospital. Mr. Bone’s claims stemmed from his inability to read bills and other communications from Nash relating to his medical care because they were not provided to him in Braille, either at all or on a timely basis, resulting in collection agencies pursuing him for debts that he was unaware he owed. Importantly, these debts are also being forgiven as part of the settlement.
Following the settlement, Nash Hospitals, Inc. is no longer part of the lawsuit, but litigation against the other defendant named in the lawsuit, the UNC Health Care System, will continue. Timothy Miles, Mr. Bone, the National Federation of the Blind, and Disability Rights NC allege that UNC Health Care System systematically discriminates against blind people by failing to provide them written information in formats they can access, such as large print, Braille, and accessible electronic formats, that enable them to participate in their care and make timely payments on their medical bills.
“With today’s technology, providing bills, medical records, and treatment instructions in alternative formats, such as Braille and large print, is readily achievable,” said Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind. “We believe this settlement sends a strong message that medical providers should take this legal and moral obligation seriously. We are happy to work with healthcare entities who want guidance in providing medical information in accessible formats.”
Virginia Knowlton Marcus, chief executive officer of Disability Rights NC, applauded Mr. Bone’s steadfast insistence that he has a right to know how much he owed for the care he received. “Sighted people count on receiving printed bills from their healthcare providers, reviewing the charges, and negotiating with medical providers and the insurance company if they believe they were charged incorrectly,” she said. “Blind patients like Mr. Bone should not have to wrangle for their right to billing information in a format they can access, or live in fear of building up late fees and damaging their credit due to bills that are impossible for them to read.”
The plaintiffs are represented by the attorneys of Disability Rights NC and the Baltimore law firm of Brown Goldstein & Levy.