Archie Lamb, a lawyer who is affiliated with some of the recent billing lawsuits against not-for-profit hospitals, is taking aim at for-profit hospital companies, starting with Health Management Associates, Naples, Fla. Lamb said today that he filed a national class-action lawsuit against the HMA in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court under Florida's consumer protection laws. According to Lamb, higher charges to uninsured patients, when compared with actual private insurance or Medicare payments, break the consumer protection laws. HMA spokesman John Merriwether said the company has not been served with the suit but has read Lamb's news release. "We believe our hospital billing and collection practices are appropriate and reasonable," Merriwether said, asserting that the HMA has provided "hundreds of millions" of dollars in uncompensated care over the years. The company plans a vigorous defense, he said.
During a teleconference with reporters, Lamb said he expects to file another lawsuit today in Nevada against either one or two for-profit defendants. Lamb is working with Consejo de Latinos Unidos, an advocacy group that has been pushing for changes in the way hospitals bill and collect payments from uninsured patients. He said any uninsured patient treated at an HMA hospital from Aug. 5, 1994, until the class is certified by a judge is eligible to participate in the suit against the HMA. Lamb is also the lead lawyer representing physicians in a federal class-action suit against insurers that so far has netted settlements with Cigna Corp. and Aetna. A trial against eight other insurers is set to begin in March 2005. -- by Vince Galloro