HCA charged with exorbitant and unlawful billing of auto accident patients
(PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla.) A federal appeals court has reinstated class claims in a complaint charging HCA Holdings, Inc., and three of its Florida-based medical centers, Memorial Hospital Jacksonville, North Florida Regional Medical Center, Inc., of Gainesville, and JFK Medical Center, of Atlantis, with violations of Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Practices Act.
The April 26, 2016, ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit overturns a February 2015 decision by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida which dismissed the class-wide allegations. The case charges the Florida medical centers and Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA with billing exorbitant and unreasonable fees for emergency radiological services covered in part by Florida Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance. Under Florida’s No Fault Car Insurance Law, drivers are required to have $10,000 in PIP insurance.
“We are delighted with the 11th Circuit Court’s ruling and look forward to bringing this case forth as a class action to benefit the many PIP-covered accident victims who were charged rates that were up to 65 times higher than the hospitals’ usual and customary charges for similar radiological services to non-PIP patients,” said plaintiffs’ lead attorney Theodore Leopold.
According to the complaint, filed on behalf of four Florida residents and others similarly affected, patients who showed up at the emergency room following a motor vehicle accident were billed far more for radiological services than other patients receiving the same services. “This clearly violates the PIP law that requires reasonable pricing,” said Leopold.
The 11th Circuit agreed with the plaintiffs that the district court erred in dismissing the class claims prior to allowing discovery and stated that “at this stage the complaint does not compel a conclusion that individualized inquiries into damages would overwhelm any common issues.”
First filed in U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida, in July 2014, the lawsuit was brought by four PIP-covered patients who were treated through JFK Medical Center, Memorial Hospital Jacksonville and North Florida Regional Medical Center’s emergency departments after their automobile accidents.
Their complaint charges that because of the exorbitant rates, each of the plaintiff’s $10,000 PIP coverage was prematurely exhausted and all four were billed thousands of dollars for radiological services not paid for by their PIP insurers.
The complaint also charges breach of contract since all four plaintiffs entered into a “Condition of Admission” contract that provides that patients must pay their accounts at the rates stated in the hospital’s price list. None of the plaintiffs were provided a price list at the time of medical treatment.
“Health care is too important for people to be purposely taken advantage of,” said plaintiffs’ co-counsel Andrew Friedman, of Cohen Milstein. “If there was ever an area within our business community that should never put profits over people, it is in the healthcare field.”
In addition to Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, the plaintiffs are represented by Boldt Law Firm, of Hollywood, Fla., and Gonzalez & Cartwright, P.A., of Lake Worth, Fla. The litigation is titled Herrera and Sanchez et al v. JFK Medical Center Limited Partnership and HCA, Inc.
Court Order - April 26, 2016
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