Dignity Health must face class action over ER fees, court rules

San Francisco-based Dignity Health must face a class-action lawsuit filed by uninsured patients seeking a declaration that self-pay patients are liable only for the reasonable value of services or treatment provided, a California appeals court ruled Nov. 12, according to Bloomberg Law.

The plaintiffs' third amended complaint, filed in May 2015, seeks two declarations: First, that Dignity Health's billing practices as they relate to uninsured patients who received emergency room care at Northridge (Calif.) Hospital Medical Center are "unfair, unconscionable and/or unreasonable." Second, that self-pay patients' charges are restricted to the reasonable value of treatment or services provided because Dignity's emergency room contract included an "open price" term.

In December 2017, the lower court denied class certification in the case. The trial court held that a class action was not manageable because determining the reasonableness of thousands of individual chargemaster rates would overwhelm the litigation, according to the report.  

On Nov. 12, an appeals court in California reversed the order denying class certification and remanded the case with directions to certify a modified issue class. The appeals court limited the class to uninsured patients who, during the relevant time period, received emergency care at Northridge Hospital Medical Center, signed the admissions contract and were billed for that treatment at chargemaster rates or chargemaster rates less the uninsured discount.

As to the modified class, the appeals court also directed the lower court to certify as a class issue whether Dignity's admissions contract contained an open price term.

Access the full opinion here.

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