Agreement in Hospital Billing Dispute Approved
A San Francisco Superior Court granted preliminary approval to a revised settlement of a class action lawsuit alleging unfair billing practices by Catholic Healthcare West, the Sacramento Bee reports (Kasler, Sacramento Bee, 9/28).
In a settlement agreement announced in June, CHW agreed to pay full or partial refunds to patients treated at CHW facilities since July 1, 2001. Payments would have been based on patients' income (California Healthline, 6/15).
A CHW statement said that the settlement was modified "to address the court's concern that the original terms did not provide the same benefit to all patients" (Sacramento Bee, 9/28).
Under the revised agreement, all uninsured patients treated at CHW facilities from July 1, 2001, to Sept. 25, 2006, will receive 35% refunds or discounts on their bills. Court documents estimated the initial settlement value at about $228 million.
Plaintiffs' attorney Kelly Dermody said, "The only major change is the agreement now provides that all class members will be entitled to a refund or discount of 35% regardless of their income." She added, "It's definitely not any less money, but this changes how it is allocated."
CHW admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement and agreed to maintain for four more years a 2004 charity care policy upon which the settlement agreement is based.
Final court approval is expected on Jan. 11, 2007 (Robertson, Sacramento Business Journal, 9/27).
CHW operates 41 hospitals in California, Nevada and Arizona (Sacramento Bee, 9/28).