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Liberal lawmaker sues poor people

By M.D. Kittle 

Wisconsin Spotlight  | Sept 22, 2020 

MADISON — State Rep. Steve Doyle the liberal politician likes to talk about “affordable and accessible health care.” 

But Steve Doyle the corporate lawyer has made a very comfortable living suing people who can’t pay their health bills. 

It’s that kind of disconnect that has critics raising some serious questions about the Democrat who has represented the La Crosse area in the Legislature for nearly a decade. 

Records obtained by Wisconsin Spotlight, show Doyle as the attorney of record on at least 18 small claims cases in the first seven months of 2020 alone. At his day job, Doyle practices law at Johns, Flaherty & Collins, SC in La Crosse. 

The vast majority of the cases involve tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills, with Doyle principally representing Gundersen Lutheran Administrative Services, or Gundersen Health Services, based in La Crosse. 

In one case, the judgment, entered on Jan. 30,  was $29,816. In another, Doyle’s client is suing a couple for nearly $9,000. 

In several cases, the medical bill-collecting attorney’s wife, La Crosse County Circuit Court Judge Gloria Doyle, is the presiding judge. 

The Coulee Conservatives, a La Crosse-area right-of-center group, brought to light Doyle’s work in medical bill litigation in a post earlier this month. 

“The same Steve Doyle who represents the 94th Assembly District in Madison, sits on the County Board of Supervisors, and can be heard on local radio touting his experience as a (alpaca) farmer or on T.V. playing with puppies is also a lawyer in his day job and obviously doesn’t mind working on behalf of a large corporation who pays him to sue poor people,” the group asserts in the post.  

La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat last month called out Gundersen Health System for “forcing citizens to choose between their health and financial well-being.” Curiously, the Democrat failed to note that his old progressive pal Doyle is lead attorney for the medical center’s bill collection efforts. 

“Our citizens and their families should not be penalized for health care services and medical procedures,” Kabat said in a statement, according to the La Crosse Independent. 

He read the statement aloud at the Stand Against Medical Debt event at Poage Park in La Crosse. The demonstration was organized by SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin and left-wing group Citizen Action. Curious that the union and Citizens Action didn’t note the legal services of Doyle, whom they have endorsed.  Doyle’s campaign also has benefitted from both labor unions and health service providers, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. 

“Medical debt affects our most vulnerable low-income neighbors,” Kabat said. “People who are already making tough decisions between paying rent, buying groceries, child care, and keeping their lights on.”

Doyle did not return a call seeking comment, but in his campaign literature the legislator asserts, “What our state needs now is jobs, lower taxes, and a renewed commitment to education and affordable and accessible health care.” 

In a WisconsinEye interview earlier this year he said hospitals deserve greater attention in the next biennial budget because they have been “getting whacked by (Medicaid) reimbursement formulas.” 

“We haven’t given them the support they need,” Doyle said. 

“I really hope our hospitals are looked at as really more of a hold harmless and, if anything, moving in the opposite direction, to give them a break because they’ve really helped to carry us through this pandemic,” he said. 

Attorney Doyle is making sure his hospital clients can at least recoup in court some of the medical debt they have accrued from the people the liberal lawmakers claims he wants to help.  

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