Merit Health hospital sued in Mississippi, accused of hiding ER facility fee from patient

Merit Health hospitals in Mississippi are being accused of leaving patients in the dark about a facility fee charged after emergency room visits, according to the Sun Herald.

A lawsuit, which seeks class-action status, claims Merit Health hospitals in the state don't properly disclose their facility fee to patients before it appears on ER bills.  

Attorneys contend that the plaintiff, Kimberly Henly, was unknowingly charged the fee when she visited a Merit emergency room in Biloxi in May 2018, the Sun Herald reported, citing the lawsuit filed in federal court in Gulfport, Miss. Attorneys who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Ms. Henly said they also want to represent 100,000 or more people they believe were charged a fee over the last three years at Merit emergency rooms.

The main issue in the lawsuit is when patients are notified of the facility fee.

The newspaper said that many hospital ERs have facility fees and that such fees are permissible under federal law. But attorneys filing the lawsuit, Christopher Van Cleave of Biloxi, Miss., and Barry L. Kramer of Las Vegas, argue that patients, per state law, should know about the fee before getting treated.

"If this charge was properly disclosed to emergency room patients in advance of treatment, this surcharge would be a substantial factor in a patient's decision to remain for treatment at [Merit's] emergency room facilities or seek less costly treatment elsewhere," the lawsuit states.

The fees can range from  hundreds to thousands of dollars, but are "hidden" on itemized bills, according to the lawsuit.

Merit Health as of Sept. 23 had not responded to the Sun Herald’s request for comment. 

 

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