Medical billAHA, which representsnearly 5,000, mostly nonprofit hospitals and medical systems, hasissued few guidelines on such aggressive practices or the limitedfinancial assistance policies that often trigger them.

The AmericanHospital Association, the biggest hospital trade group, says itpromotes "best practices" among medical systems to treat patientsmore effectively and improve community health.But thepowerful association has stayed largely silent about hospitalssuing thousands of patients for overdue bills, seizing homes orwages and even forcing families into bankruptcy.

Atlantic Health System, whose CEO is the AHA's chairman, BrianGragnolati, has sued patients for unpaid bills thousands of timesthis year, court records show, including a family struggling to paybills for three children with cystic fibrosis.

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