Two discovery requests will proceed in a class-action lawsuit over the billing of uninsured patients against Jackson-based Mississippi Baptist Medical Center, Mississippi Baptist Health Systems and the American Hospital Association. David Meredith, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said he believes this is the first case to enter discovery among dozens of cases filed against not-for-profit hospitals by a consortium of law firms led by Mississippi attorney Richard Scruggs. U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Alfred Nicols allowed plaintiffs' previously served discovery requests that the hospital and its parent system answer whether they charge uninsured patients more for care than insured patients -- and attempt to collect more -- and that they explain their answer. The judge did not rule on the defendants' larger motion to dismiss the case.
In a related matter, a judge dismissed federal claims in a similar suit against William Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, Mich., and retained the right to take action on state claims. His reasons were similar to those cited in dismissals by other judges, including ruling that the hospital's tax exemption did not create a federal contract requiring the hospital to provide affordable care to all patients. -- by Paul Barr