Catholic Healthcare West Settles Lawsuit
San Francisco-based Catholic Healthcare West on Wednesday agreed to provide refunds to some uninsured patients who alleged in a lawsuit that the hospital chain overcharged them, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Based on patients' income, CHW will pay full or partial refunds to patients treated at CHW facilities since July 1, 2001, the settlement agreement states. CHW admitted no wrongdoing in the settlement (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 6/15).
Under the agreement, CHW for four more years will maintain a discount payment policy for uninsured patients that the hospital chain adopted in 2004. The policy calls for uninsured families of four with annual household incomes that do not exceed $40,000 to receive care at no cost to them. Such families with annual household incomes that do not exceed $60,000 would pay rates similar to what the hospital would receive in Medicare reimbursements. Uninsured families of four with annual incomes of as much as $100,000 would make payments similar to rates paid by private insurers (Kasler, Sacramento Bee, 6/15).
CHW announced plans to notify about 700,000 former patients of the settlement (San Francisco Chronicle, 6/15). The AP/San Francisco Examiner reports that as many as 800,000 patients could receive refunds under the settlement.
A San Francisco County trial judge is expected to approve the settlement next month (Kravets, AP/San Francisco Examiner, 6/14). A second case against CHW over patient charges dating to 1995 is pending in Los Angeles (Sacramento Bee, 6/15).
CHW spokesperson Tricia Griffin said the hospital chain in 2004 changed its billing practices and under the current settlement agreed not to overcharge uninsured patients. Griffin said, "We settled the lawsuit to put this matter behind us, avoid the costs of litigation and focus our resources on caring for patients" (AP/San Francisco Examiner, 6/14).
Plaintiffs' attorney Kelly Dermody said the settlement could amount to "hundreds of millions of dollars in refunds or bill adjustments for the uninsured" (Sacramento Bee, 6/15). Dermody said the agreement is "the best and most generous monetary relief I have ever heard of happening to uninsured patients in a pricing case."
CHW declined to estimate the cost of the settlement (San Francisco Chronicle, 6/15).
Plaintiffs' attorney Sid Blackstrom said the case is one of 50 cases nationwide alleging that hospitals overcharged uninsured patients that his firm is handling (Sacramento Bee, 6/15).
CHW operates 40 hospitals in Arizona, California and Nevada (AP/San Francisco Examiner, 6/14).