A state court in Los Angeles has approved a settlement that could turn health care providers’ “retail prices” into relics.[@@]
California Superior Court Judge Wendell Mortimer has given Tenet Healthcare Corp., Dallas, a publicly traded hospital company, permission to implement a settlement agreement with a class consisting of uninsured patients treated in 114 Tenet hospitals in 16 states between June 15, 1999, and Dec. 31, 2004.
The settlement agreement calls for Tenet to help those uninsured patients by providing partial refunds for any who paid too high a percentage of Tenet hospitals’ retail prices, or “gross charge rates,” according to a copy of the settlement agreement posted on the Web site of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro L.L.P., Seattle. Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman, is the lead counsel for the uninsured patients.
Berman and his colleagues have filed pleadings that accuse Tenet hospitals of hurting uninsured patients by charging those patients much higher rates than the hospitals have charged patients with managed care coverage.
Tenet has vigorously denied the allegations and has made no admission of wrongdoing.
But Tenet says it once had to include huge “provisions for doubtful accounts” in its financial statements because many of the bills sent to uninsured patients turned out to be uncollectible.
In January 2003, Tenet unveiled a “Compact with Uninsured Patients” that calls for the company’s hospitals to simplify accounting and make life easier for all uninsured patients by offering uninsured patients the same kinds of discounts offered to members of managed care plans.
The settlement agreement negotiated in connection with the Los Angeles court litigation, Tenet Healthcare Cases II, is a separate document.
Some sections of the settlement agreement call for Tenet to help all uninsured patients by carrying out measures similar to those proposed in the Compact. The agreement requires, for example, that Tenet hospitals offer uninsured patients discounts similar to those the hospitals charge members of managed care plans, and the agreement also requires the hospitals to offer flexible payment plans for uninsured patients with bills for more than $1,000.
Other sections of the settlement agreement deal with compensation for uninsured patients who paid most of Tenet hospitals’ billed charges between mid-1999 and the end of 2004.