Monday, June 28, 2004

Suit Charges Hospitals with Billing Uninsured Extra

MADELEINE BARAN, NEW STANDARD - Last week lawyers filed several civil lawsuits against more than a dozen nonprofit hospitals, arguing that the hospitals violated their charitable obligations by overcharging uninsured patients and then aggressively trying to collect money. According to the suits, uninsured patients are usually charged the most for their hospital visits. While insurance companies have negotiated huge discounts, the uninsured have to pay full price. A complaint filed against Provena Health, a Chicago-area hospital, alleges that uninsured patients are charged two to three times the rate collected from insurance companies. The suits also attack hospitals' aggressive collection practices. A suit filed against Advocate Health Care Network in Oakbrook, Illinois alleges that one uninsured patient "received numerous threatening and harassing phone calls" asking for over $48 thousand for her teenage son's emergency room visit, the New York Times reported. Her son was treated for multiple gunshot wounds in 1998. The suits came after months of controversy over hospitals' billing practices. A recent Wall Street Journal article described patients who were still in their hospital beds being approached by bill collectors asking them to pay a portion of their bill. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that some patients with past due medical bills were arrested or had to forfeit their homes.

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