Catholic Healthcare West, San Francisco, became the latest not-for-profit health system sued for allegedly discriminating against uninsured patients in its billing and collection practices.
Attorney Archie Lamb filed the class-action lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court on behalf of three uninsured patients identified by Consejo de Latinos Unidos, which is not party to the lawsuit but has spurred similar actions against other hospital companies. Lamb said the allegations are similar to those in uninsured-billing lawsuits against hundreds of not-for-profit hospitals nationwide, but are based on California consumer protection and breach-of-contract laws.
In a statement, 40-hospital CHW said it offers free or discounted care to uninsured patients with incomes up to 500% of the federal poverty level and has provided $623 million in charity care and community benefits in the year ended June 30. It had $6 billion in total revenue. The litigation is against only CHW and its California hospitals, not against the system's hospitals in Arizona and Nevada.
Separately, Catholic Healthcare Partners, Cincinnati, said a state judge dismissed an uninsured-billing suit against CHP's southwest Ohio operations and that plaintiffs withdrew a similar suit against the system's Lorain, Ohio, region. The suits were refiled in state court after being dismissed by federal court earlier this year.
In a news release, attorney Richard Scruggs, whose firm has led the litigation against hospitals, said plaintiffs have had a string of recent successes in state courts, including the previously reported decision by an Oregon judge to grant class certification to a lawsuit against Legacy Health System, Portland. Scruggs said judges in 13 state courts have denied hospitals' motions for dismissals.