Judge Approves Proposed Settlement in Class-Action Lawsuit Against Tenet
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Wendell Mortimer on Monday approved a proposed settlement by Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare to resolve a class-action lawsuit that alleged the hospital chain overcharged underinsured and uninsured patients, the AP/Contra Costa Times reports (Veiga, AP/Contra Costa Times, 8/10). The suit cites Tenet hospitals in Alabama, California, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.
Under the settlement, uninsured patients, regardless of their income, will be guaranteed discounts equal to those offered to managed care providers. Tenet has agreed to provide financial counseling to uninsured patients for four years and will post information about how to access such services on hospital Web sites and in hospitals.
In addition, the settlement dictates that Tenet will provide patients with reasonable payment options and payment schedules and will not pursue legal action against any unemployed patients for nonpayment. Tenet said it also will reimburse uninsured patients who received treatment at its hospitals between June 15, 1999, and Dec. 31, 2004, and were charged more than a certain percentage of the hospital's gross charges. Uninsured patients who received services at Tenet hospitals during that period will be offered discounts on outstanding unpaid bills (California Healthline, 3/11).
Tenet and its subsidiaries did not admit any wrongdoing.
Plaintiffs' attorney Stephen Berman said, "It's a groundbreaking settlement." According to documents filed in the case, about 32,000 claims already have been submitted, and Berman said he expects about 50,000 total claims to be filed by Jan. 11, 2006, when the period to file for restitution expires (AP/Contra Costa Times, 8/10).
Tenet still faces related cases, including a suit filed earlier this year by Florida Attorney General Charlie Crist (R). Company officials did not comment on the settlement (Dow Jones/Wall Street Journal, 8/9).