Cleveland Clinic Foundation, New York Presbyterian Healthcare System and Ochsner Clinic Foundation, New Orleans, have been swept into the wave of class-action lawsuits brought by Mississippi plaintiffs' attorney Richard Scruggs and others on behalf of uninsured patients. In separate filings Thursday in federal courts in Louisiana, New York and Ohio, the healthcare systems were charged with "victimizing" the uninsured patient plaintiffs by failing to provide charity care, while allegedly "reaping enormous cash windfalls from their tax-exempt status." The lawsuits accuse the three systems, allegedly among the largest and most profitable in the nation, of requiring uninsured patients to pay "sticker price" for services, far more than the discounted rates paid by most privately insured patients and their insurers.
Since June 17, 31 class-action lawsuits over hospitals' billing of the uninsured have been brought against not-for-profit organizations controlling about 300 hospitals in 17 states. More suits are expected, Scruggs said. New York Presbyterian officials said it was premature to comment on the specifics without having seen the lawsuit, but they intend to defend the system vigorously. The lawsuits are "misdirected and baseless," said a spokeswoman for the American Hospital Association, which was named as a non-defendant conspirator in the suits. -- by Cinda Becker