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Class Actions Get Relief for Uninsured and Overbilled Hospital Patients

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There are thousands of uninsured people out there with unfair emergency room bills and they don’t realize they could make the hospital pay them. Patients with no insurance can fight for justice in class action suits, according to a veteran attorney.

Los Angeles, CAThere is an increasing amount of evidence to show that charges for emergency room treatment in American hospitals varies, and varies widely. One hospital might charge $1,000 for a particular test or treatment while another hospital might charge $12,000 for the exact same services.

Not only that, it’s the poor, the uninsured, and members of minority groups that are being squeezed the hardest and ending up with the most expensive medical treatment, according to a recent study done by Johns Hopkins researchers and published in Jama Internal Medicine in August, 2017.

Heard That Before



No surprise to veteran attorney Barry L. Kramer, from Kramer Law in Los Angeles, California.

Kramer regularly represents uninsured patients saddled with huge hospital bills they can’t pay. They turn to Kramer for help because they are being hounded by a collection agency hired by the hospital to get the money.

“A lot of uninsured people want to pay their bill. They were treated in the emergency department, they received the service and they want to pay,” says Kramer. “But the hospital is charging them way more than it should have.” They shouldn’t have charged the patient $8,000.

“If you look at the hospital’s master list of what it charges for specific services you’ll see that the uninsured patient, for example, pays $8,000 for a particular service, while Medicare would only be paying a $1,000 for the exact same thing.

“The uninsured patient is paying 8 times as much. It’s unfair. It is unconscionable billing,” he says.

Uninsured Get Settlement



Several years ago, Kramer filed a class action lawsuit against Swedish Health Services in Washington State. The lead plaintiff, an uninsured patient called Chad Humphrey, brought the suit on behalf of himself and other uninsured patients who had been treated in one of Swedish Health Services four hospital emergency rooms in the state.

Humphrey contended, according to the settlement agreement, among other things, that “Swedish’s charges to uninsured patients were greater than those charged to other patients for the same treatment, were unreasonable and not authorized by its Condition of Admission forms.”

There were a potential 50,000 other uninsured patients that had been treated and billed by Swedish.

Swedish vehemently denied overcharging and admitted no liability. It settled the case with Humphrey and the other plaintiffs to save time and costs associated with going to court, according to the settlement agreement filed in the Superior Court of Washington State dated August 8, 2014.

Hospital Charges Vary Widely



The 2017 Johns Hopkins study looked at the billing records of 1,200 emergency room doctors from across the US. It found, on average that patients paid 340 percent more than what Medicare patients paid for everything from sutures to CT scans.

“There are massive disparities in service costs across emergency rooms and that price gouging is the worst for the most vulnerable populations,” Martin Makary, M.D., M.P.H., professor of surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the study’s senior investigator said in a Johns Hopkins press release in 2017. “This study adds to the growing pile of evidence that to address the huge disparities in health care, health care pricing needs to be fairer and more transparent.”

How Does that Happen?



When a patient who is covered by insurance arrives in the emergency department the hospital will have to check with the insurance company to get cost approval for the CT scan or MRI or a list of expensive lab tests before the procedures are done. The insurance company will want to know what the procedure is for and whether it is absolutely necessary.

“The hospital won’t order the CT scan for an insured patient because they know the insurer won’t pay unless it is a necessary test,” says Kramer. "But it is a different story when it comes to uninsured patients."


Plus, any services rendered to the insured patient will be charged at the discounted rate that the insurance company has negotiated with the hospital.

But not so for the patient with no insurance. They pay the maximum rate. They often don’t realize exactly what they are being billed for. They don’t know whether the test is really necessary, there is no insurance company asking pesky questions, and Medicare isn’t there to insist the patient only be charged the Medicare rate.
When uninsured patients asks about costs for a particular treatment or test they sometimes don’t get a clear answer according to Kramer.

“CT scans, room charges, lab tests, lab reports,” says Kramer. “It’s outrageous. All these huge bills run up generally to tell you there is nothing wrong,” says Kramer.

Uninsured patients with big bills should first question whether the emergency room bill matches the services they received. If it was too high, and they go the class action route, the hospital might end up paying them.

READ ABOUT EMERGENCY ROOM CHARGES LAWSUITS

Emergency Room Charges Legal Help

If you or a loved one have suffered losses in this case, please click the link below and your complaint will be sent to an insurance lawyer who may evaluate your Emergency Room Charges claim at no cost or obligation.

READER COMMENTS

Posted by

on
During the waiting period for insurance to kick in I went to ER twice on Oahu. First time with a BP of about 210/120, second time same thing went to urgent care told me possible stroke went to Ear , insurance was one week away from kicking in. Was able to make payment arrangements settled from 10k to a bit over 3k my husband lost his job same week as settlement was finally reached. When I called to start making payments when jobs were found. They told me it was in collections now. I happened to pay an extra month after we became eligible for free insurance due to job loss. I am wondering if I could apply that to the period of waiting? I’m scared I’ll be sued what can I do? I was simply waiting like the laws tell us.

Posted by

on
I have been abused financially by 2 hospitals. I am mentally disabled and had no money to pay. They are still harassing me.

Posted by

on
Dies this also cover medical bills not from emergency room that are now in collections

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