Just reading on the internet about a place where I had lived for a couple of years...specifically Charleston, West Virginia (beautiful state and people and would benefit by a federal healthcare and education support), I ran across a few interesting articles that give insight to some of the way things are handled there. Especially by the biggest hospital by the name of "CAMC". They have such a large monopoly in the state and region that the United States of America federal government has actually taken them to court for "Anti-Trust" violations. Here is an interesting article I ran across that will give some deeper insight:
Uninsured patients suing CAMC
Charleston Area Medical Center is accused of charging uninsured patients more than it charges others. But the hospital said it has not even been served with the class-action lawsuit.
Out-of-state lawyers partnered with a Moundsville-based law firm to file the class action Feb. 14 in Kanawha County Circuit Court. That same day, a New York City-based public relations firm began circulating a news release on behalf of the plaintiffs' legal team.
According to Lin Wu, the New York City spokeswoman for the plaintiffs, CAMC was targeted because it is a nonprofit hospital that is posting healthy revenues.
"When a nonprofit hospital enjoys tax exemptions but is placing liens on people's homes, ... we think there is something wrong with that," Wu said.
CAMC officials learned the hospital was being sued because of publicity generated by the news release.
"We have not been served with a lawsuit. We don't litigate press releases," hospital spokesman Dale Witte said.
The plaintiffs are accusing CAMC of violating several state laws, including "contract laws mandating fair and reasonable prices for the value of services provided, the state consumer and protection act and laws against unjust enrichment," according to the press release.
Wu said the West Virginia case is one of 26 states in which lawsuits have been filed in the past six months about unlawful hospital billing and collections practices. Plaintiffs first tried to bring the cases in federal court, but it was sent to the state court level.
"They could have dismissed the claim (outright), but they didn't. ... We see that as a green light for the state (claim)," Wu said.
Moundsville attorney Rich Wilson was asked to spearhead the West Virginia lawsuit by Jackson, Miss., lawyer, David Meredith, with whom he worked on another lawsuit.
Leading the plaintiffs' litigation team is the Scruggs Law Firm of Oxford, Miss. The Atlanta law firm of Vroon & Crongeyer also is working on the case.
When asked why CAMC had not yet been served with the lawsuit, Wilson said plaintiffs have 120 days from the date a case is filed to serve the defendant. He told The State Journal he does not yet know when the plaintiffs will serve CAMC with the complaint.
The case has two named plaintiffs and an unknown number of others.
"A lot of class members are good, decent folks, and a lot of them have jobs," Wilson said. "But they don't have insurance."
People with health from a "strength-innumbers" approach that insurance companies and government payers take with hospitals, Wilson said.
"They contract with the health care provider to provide (services) at a discounted rate," he said. "The uninsured, however, are getting assigned some arbitrary (fee). ... The charges are discretionary"
In most segments of the economy a consumer has control over how much he wants to spend, but not in health care, Wilson continued.
"For the uninsured patient, he doesn't go in and receive a menu of services, see what the prices are and make a decision based on what care is needed and what they can afford," he said. "... This case highlights the need to help uninsured working West Virginians."
Witte said CAMC's charity care policy gives free care to all patients who apply and qualify, giving $60 million in free services in 2004.
Wilson said many working West Virginians are "too rich" for free care policies, but they don't make enough to afford health insurance, leaving them with bills they can't pay.
But hospital rates are strictly controlled in West Virginia. The Health Care Authority, which oversees hospital practices, reviews hospital rates each year. CAMC, like all other hospitals, must receive approval from the FICA for all charges.
The health care community long has complained about poor reimbursements from public and private payers. Hospitals have been losing money on patient care in West Virginia for years. Nonpatient income, such as that from investments, has kept some hospitals in the black, but, as a whole, hospitals have been losing money across the board for three or four years, the West Virginia Hospital Association told The State Journal in an earlier article.
At the same time, lawsuits about billing and collection charges have become more frequent. Witte issued a news release for CAMC in response to the plaintiffs' allegations and said CAMC is aware of numerous lawsuits filed in the United States that make similar claims and that "many of these cases have already been dismissed by the courts."
"The American Hospital Association has been coordinating efforts to raise awareness of the lawsuits and the tactics of the plaintiffs' attorneys and to assist hospitals nationwide in defending against these attacks, which do nothing but increase the cost of health care and divert attention from the delivery of quality care."
For now, Wilson said he believes many CAMC patients could be potential class members based on the number of collection cases brought by the hospital in magistrate court.
"There also are potential class members who have not been sued but continue to pay for life, so to speak," he said. "Once this gets some coverage, people will start to contact us."
Wilson added that the lawsuit just happened to be filed at a time when Gov. Joe Manchin and the Legislature are looking at ways to reduce the number of uninsured working West Virginians.
"It's certainly an issue that's worthy of attention," Wilson said.
Crimes at Hospitals in Charleston CAMC