Catholic Healthcare West Settles Patient Lawsuit
A Superior Court judge in San Francisco on Thursday approved a settlement that could be worth as much as $423 million between Catholic Healthcare West and more than 780,000 uninsured patients, the Los Angeles Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 1/12). The not-for-profit company operates 43 hospitals in California, Arizona and Nevada.
The patients in October 2005 filed a class-action suit alleging that they were charged "far more" than patients covered by Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
A settlement was reached in June and received final approval from San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer.
The Chronicle notes that it is legal for hospitals to set higher rates for uninsured patients to compensate for low Medicare and Medi-Cal reimbursements. However, the suit claimed that the price disparities were unfair to the uninsured patients because the price gap was "so extreme" (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/12).
Uninsured patients who were treated at CHW facilities between July 1, 2001, and Sept. 25, 2006, can file claims for a 35% bill reduction if their annual income is less than $250,000. Patients who already paid their bills can file claims for a 35% refund from CHW. Claims must be filed by March 8 (Fujii, Stockton Record, 1/12).
The settlement also requires CHW to:
- Charge uninsured patients over the next four years the same rates offered to patients in managed-care plans;
- Provide no-cost or discounted care to uninsured patients with incomes on a sliding scale of up to $100,000 annually for a family of four; and
- Adopt "more compassionate collection policies" for patients who do not pay their bills, according to attorney Kelly Dermody (San Francisco Chronicle, 1/12).