A nonprofit hospital in Missouri sought to recover unpaid bills by suing former patients; after news reporting and congressional attention, the hospital changed its policies and dropped the charges.

"For years, Heartland Regional Medical Center, a nonprofit hospital in the small city of St. Joseph, Missouri, had quietly sued thousands of its low-income patients over their unpaid bills.

"But after an investigation by ProPublica and NPR prompted further scrutiny by Sen. Charles Grassley, the hospital overhauled its financial assistance policy late last year and forgave the debts of thousands of former patients.

"The hospital 'deserves credit for doing the right thing after its practices were scrutinized,” Grassley, R-Iowa, wrote last week in a letter to his Senate colleagues, “but it should not take Congressional and press attention to ensure that tax-exempt, charitable organizations are focused on their mission of helping those in need.'"-- Paul Kiel, ProPublica, and Chris Arnold, NPR