The South Dakota Supreme Court has upheld the dismissal of class-action lawsuits that alleged the state's three largest hospital systems charge unreasonable prices to patients who are not covered by health insurance or government programs.
The three lawsuits were dismissed earlier by circuit judges who ruled that the patients had no legal grounds to pursue their claims. The high court, in a unanimous vote, refused to reinstate the lawsuits against Avera Health, Rapid City Regional Hospital, and Sioux Valley Hospitals and Health System.
The uninsured patients had sought damages because they were charged prices that exceeded those for patients who had insurance or were covered by Medicare or Medicaid, but the Supreme Court said the patients signed agreements to pay unspecified, undiscounted charges that had already been set by the hospitals.
Because the prices were fixed and could be determined, courts cannot calculate different prices, the high court said.
The hospitals said their rates were available in their business offices. A new law that took effect last year makes it easier for people to find out the prices that hospitals charge. The law requires hospitals to disclose prices for 25 of their most common inpatient procedures, and the South Dakota Association of Healthcare Organizations now coordinates the price postings to the state's Web site. -- by the Associated Press