INDIANAPOLIS – Indianas hospital boards and trial lawyers are closely monitoring a lawsuit that accuses the states largest hospital group of charging uninsured patients more for treatment than insured patients.
The case, set for May 10 arguments before the Indiana Supreme Court, involves a 2010 lawsuit by two uninsured patients who accuse IU Health of overbilling them. Although their breach-of-contract claims in the case amount to just a few thousand dollars, the legal stakes are high.
Indianapolis trial lawyer Scott Weathers told the Indianapolis Star that a favorable ruling for his two clients could allow patients to sue over billings as far back as 10 years.
If we win, Im afraid the other hospitals are going to hear from us. We have clients in the wings, he said, who are ready to sue.
Weathers wants to turn his clients lawsuit into a class action, open to hundreds of uninsured patients who might have been overbilled by the health system over the past decade.
The Indiana Hospital Association, which has filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Supreme Court in support of IU Healths legal position, views the case as a pretty concerning situation for hospitals, considering the trial lawyers intentions, said the groups president, Doug Leonard.
Its the first time the Indiana Supreme Court will wrestle with the legalities of a hospital charging uninsured patients more than insured ones, according to attorneys involved.
And the courts consideration of the issue comes even after a new federal law requires hospitals to give discounts to uninsured patients similar to those given to insured ones.
That law led IU Health to offer uninsured patients a 40 percent discount off its full-price chargemaster rates in January of last year, said Lauren Cislak, an IU Health spokeswoman. She said IU Healths discount applies to uninsured patients regardless of income and is based on the best rates it charges its commercial insured customers or Medicare.