Texas Hospital Threatens Legal Action Against Patient for Video Recording Employees
TEMPLE TX – When Brent McCain of Bruceville, Texas found himself on the losing end of a billing dispute with Baylor Scott & White hospital (BSW) in Temple, Texas, he decided to pay his remaining balance in pennies as a form of protest, all while his cell phone was capturing video of the incident. After McCain later posted the video to his YouTube channel, BSW sent him a threatening letter claiming they were victims of harassment and if the videos (below) aren’t removed, they plan to file a criminal complaint.
McCain’s billing dispute escalated last May after he sent a blistering email to the BSW executive team outlining the issues he faced dealing with “facility fees,” a controversial fee that charged patients as a direct result of a new hospital opening in the area. The fee, also referred to as “provider-based billing,” took many patients by surprise in the Spring of 2015, sparking so much backlash that BSW had to walk back their policy in a statement they made to the local Bryan-College Station newspaper, theeagle.com:
“Scott & White greatly appreciates the community’s patience as we work diligently to identify and correct claims/billing issues,” the joint statement reads. “We deeply value our 28-year relationship with this community and we apologize for any inconvenience we realize we may have caused some of our patients.”
“We are working to make things right for these patients as soon as possible,” the statement reads. “Anyone billed in error will be contacted, their bills will be reprocessed, and any patient who has overpaid will be refunded their overpayment.”
No less than two days after McCain sent his email, he received a certified letter from BSW’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Stephen Sibbitt, claiming his organization were victims of harassment by McCain, citing Texas Penal Code §42.07. The letter further instructs McCain to:
“immediately cease: 1) Contacting Baylor Scott & White Health regarding billing practices; 2) Issuing or causing to be issued harassing, abusive, defamatory, slanderous or libelous communications to third parties regarding our billing practices, to include any type of social media. If you fail to immediately comply with this request and you continue your conduct, we will pursue all legal remedies available, including filing a criminal complaint against you for harassment and/or termination of your patient status at Baylor Scott & White.”
Now, nearly eight months after the original legal threat, McCain attempted to begrudgingly pay his bill, except he decided to pay in person with an ammo can full of unrolled pennies. In the video below, McCain can be heard asking the clerk what types of payment they accept, and she stated “anything.” However, when McCain reached down and set the ammo can on the counter, the clerk had second thoughts and called a manager to the front desk. The manager refused to accept the unrolled pennies and can be heard refusing to accept payment. The young clerk did appear to be very sincere and apologized for his inconvenience. Nonetheless, McCain left without incident and without paying his bill.
The video of the incident, which had less than 30 views at the time, spawned a threatening voicemail and another certified letter from BSW.
“Effective immediately, you are banned from any Baylor Scott & White Health facility. If you are witnessed on this property or any BSW property, we will notify law enforcement and bring criminal trespass charges against you. You will cease and desist producing and posting any type of Social Media campaing involving video of BSW staff members you have recorded. You will remove any and all videos of BSW staff members that have already been posted to the Internet. You have until January 18, 2016 to demonstrate compliance in order to avoid BSW contacting local authorities to file a criminal complaint against you for harassment.
BSW has every right to ban McCain from their property, however, their demands to have the videos removed from the internet are likely unfounded. Texas is a one party consent state when it comes to recording private or public conversations. In other words, as long as one party of the conversation is aware of the recording, then the recording is lawful. Prior written consent is generally not needed if the recording is not part of a commercial production. So, BSW is likely employing an intimidation tactic in order to scare McCain into removing the videos. In an ironic attempt to censor bad publicity, BSW has inadvertently brought more unwanted attention to this issue, a phenomenon known as the Streisand Effect.
At this point McCain does not plan on taking the videos down by the demanded date of January 18th, 2016. We will report any developments after that time.
On the bright side, McCains remaining balance was forgiven, so no further business is required between the parties. McCain has acquired legal council for further guidance on this issue.
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