Sutter Health Files Counterclaim in Charity Care Case
Sutter Health this week filed a counterclaim against uninsured patients who were ineligible for the hospital chain's charity care program and did not pay their medical bills, the Sacramento Bee reports. Sutter's lawsuit comes in response to a class-action suit filed by uninsured patients in 2004, claiming that the 31-hospital chain charged prices uninsured patients alleged were four to five times the amount charged to insured patients.
Sutter said that people who did not qualify for its charity care program should not be exempt from paying their bills regardless of their insurance status. Under the charity care program, Sutter provides health care at no cost to uninsured patients earning less than 200% of the federal poverty level.
Sutter's counterclaim states that a class of potential plaintiffs does not exist. The suit states that if a class should be certified, Sutter should be allowed to seek action for "breach of contract" against patients who did not pay for treatment they received.
Jeffrey LeVee, a lawyer representing Sutter, said, "The lawsuit addresses those people who are essentially well off enough to purchase insurance, elected not to, (then) chose not to pay their bills."
However, Michael Vitiello, a professor at the McGeorge School of Law, said Sutter might face difficulty because each patient's case is different (Osterman, Sacramento Bee, 8/19).