In 2014, Sheryl Freeman of Georgia pursued litigation against Tenet Healthcare Corporation and Conifer Healthcare Solutions for allegedly violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). These companies allegedly called her and several patients illegally for non-emergency reasons.
Mrs. Freeman claimed to have received illegal robocalls and prerecorded messages from Tenet Healthcare and its debt collection partner company. The companies were sued because they used autodialing systems to leave prerecorded messages pertaining to Mrs. Freeman’s husband’s medical debt. These calls had been placed to her cell phone without her prior express written consent, as is necessary per the TCPA.
Since January 2014, Mrs. Freeman had received several calls pertaining to Mr. Freeman’s debt after he was hospitalized a year prior at Spalding Regional, a local hospital owned by the Tenet Healthcare Corporation. These calls did not contain any medical information and neither she nor her husband had ever given Tenet Healthcare Corp. express written consent. Per her TCPA class action suit “Both Conifer and Tenet knew that they did not have the ‘prior express consent’ to call members of the class for debt collection purposes, but did so anyway.” Such calls are considered invasions of privacy under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which was passed in 1991 to regulate telephonic communications.
Since its inception, the TCPA has struggled to keep up with emerging technology such as cell phones and the ability to text message. Today, each TCPA violation can bring a plaintiff $500 to $1500 per call or text, with the help of a skilled attorney.
WHAT IS EXEMPT FROM THE TCPA?
In both 2013 and 2015 the FCC made attempts to clarify TCPA exemptions for healthcare services. In 2013, the TCPA allowed for prerecorded messages to be sent to landlines to remind consumers of important medical information. Calls about upcoming appointments, prescription refills, and information about follow-up appointments were acceptable.
As of 2015, the FCC expanded certain healthcare exemptions to cover wireless communications and cell phones, permitting certain actions to be taken “without express written consent.” So long as the calls or texts relay an important healthcare message, as defined and covered by HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), the following calls are permitted:
- Calls pertaining to appointments and exams
- Calls pertaining to appointment confirmations and appointment reminders
- Calls about wellness checkups
- Preoperative instructions
- Lab results
Debt collection calls are not allowed without express written consent under the TCPA, even if it is a healthcare provider.
Despite these restrictions, healthcare providers across the country consistently violate the TCPA. If your privacy has been obstructed due to these communications, you can receive a just settlement. Each TCPA violation can bring $500 to $1500. Call 1-(844) JIBRAEL or contact us online for a free case evaluation today. Put an end to those calls and get paid!