Consejo de Latinos Unidos Sues California Healthcare West Over Billing Practices
A group of former patients of the California Hospital Medical Center on Tuesday filed a class-action lawsuit against Catholic Healthcare West alleging that the hospital chain overcharged uninsured patients and engaged in unfair business practices that violate California's consumer protection laws, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Activist K.B. Forbes, head of the advocacy group Consejo de Latinos Unidos, organized the suit on behalf of three Latino plaintiffs. One patient stayed in the hospital for two days with gastritis and was charged $20,296.50, compared with $5,600 for the same medical care from an average private insurer and $3,994 for a Medicare beneficiary. Another patient was billed $15,897 for two X-rays of his shoulders, compared with $4,451 from a private insurer and $3,839 from Medicare (Lin, Los Angeles Times, 10/12).
The suit aims to make CHW consider reforming its billing practices in California, Nevada and Arizona and reimburse the three patients, the AP/Contra Costa Times reports (Prengaman, AP/Contra Costa Times, 10/12).
"It's price gouging," Forbes said, adding that CHW should have informed the patients of available charity care and government assistance programs. Forbes said he wants CHW to implement standards similar to those of Tenet Healthcare, which was sued in 2003 by Consejo de Latinos Unidos. Tenet subsequently started offering uninsured patients discounted rates after the suit. Forbes said, "None of these people are looking for a free ride. They are looking for a fair rate."
CHW officials did not comment on the suit, but they said the company already offers free and discounted rates to the uninsured and has helped many such patients obtain state and federal coverage (Los Angeles Times, 10/12). Jan Emerson, spokesperson for the California Hospital Association, called the lawsuit "unfounded," adding, "The allegation of price gouging is absurd" (AP/Contra Costa Times, 10/12).