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Swedish Medical Centers Face ER Overcharging Class-Action Lawsuit

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Seattle, WASwedish Health Services (SHS) is facing an emergency room overcharges class action lawsuit brought Plaintiff Chad Humphrey who alleges he was grossly and unfairly charged for emergency room medical care at a Swedish Medical Center (SMC).

Despite an attempt by Swedish to have the class action dismissed, the judge reading the case recently ruled that it should proceed, and that there may be several thousand class members.

The class action alleges that SHS, doing business as SMC, engages in a pattern and practice of charging unfair, unreasonable and grossly inflated prices for Emergency Room (ER) care provided to uninsured patients.

The lawsuit states that mandatory reporting of hospital financial data required by various governmental entities confirm that SMC has, year after year, charged its uninsured emergency care patients about three times the average reimbursement amounts compared with other patients for the exact same care. This occurs even though both sets of patients receive the exact same treatment and services and are required to sign the exact same contract and financial liability provisions.

Further, patients are not given payment rates prior to being provided treatment and services at the SMC. At the heart of the lawsuit is SMC’s contract which states that it holds each emergency care patient financially liable for the “charges not paid by insurance.” However, SMC fails to define the “charges” in the context of the contract because there is no single, uniform set of charges it applies to all patients, insured and uninsured.

The class consists of all people (or their guardians or representatives) who, a) from July 31, 2006 to the date of class certification (June 21, 2013), received medical treatment through a SHS ER in Washington, state, b) were not covered by insurance or government healthcare programs at the time of treatment; and c) did not receive a discount or waiver of their charges from SHS.

Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. Hospitals nationwide charge their so-called grossly inflated “retail prices” to their uninsured patients, whereas insured patients typically are charged rates 50-75 percent less. This means that uninsured patients end up being billed for emergency room care at double or triple the rates charged to the insurer of the patients sitting right next to them in the ER, for the exact same treatment.

More than 46 million Americans do not have health insurance. When these people are unable to pay outrageous emergency room overcharges, they can become harassed by collection agencies, have their credit ruined, or even wind up in bankruptcy court.

That said, approximately 1 million patients received refunds or hospital bill adjustments under class action settlements reached between the years 2006-2008. Hospitals paid back almost $1 billion to patients who were overcharged, mainly by providers of emergency medical care.

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READER COMMENTS

Posted by

on
I was in Swedish overnight for a minor surgery .6 months later I got a bill for $340 that was not paid by medicare.
While a patient I was given,on two occasions, drugs I didn't recognize as my regular regimen. Both times I told the nurse that I refused the offered drugs and would take my own drugs that my wife had brought from home. The nurse in each case got testy and said that taking your own drugs was " against Swedish policy"
Months later Swedish started calling incessantly, demanding payment, When I finally reached a supervisor she told me it was Swedish "policy" to charge for self administered drugs even though they had no idea what iI had actually taken, if anything.
They would charge for the incorrect drugs iI didn't take

Posted by

on
I'm just wondering what the status on this lawsuit is... I joined in on it, via online, and never heard back to confirm, or tell me my application was accepted....

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