Thousands of times a year, hospitals are suing uninsured patients. Some of the most litigious hospitals boast healthy profits, and critics contend they could afford to help such patients rather than take them to court. Over the past five years, North Carolina hospitals have filed more than 40,000 lawsuits to collect on bills. It's unclear how many of the patients lacked health insurance and substantial income or assets. But in interviews with 25 of those patients, The Charlotte Observer and News & Observer found 17 of them were uninsured—and 10 said they were never told about the hospitals' financial assistance programs.