I’m not sure the AP write-up does its readers many favors. It says, simply, the lawsuit “accuses the state’s largest hospital group of charging uninsured patients more for treatment than insured patients.”
Procedurally, I think the case is still at a very early stage – I don’t think the Supreme Court is at all being asked to decide whether hospitals can charge uninsured patients more than insured ones. The trial court dismissed the Plaintiffs’ complaint for failing to state a claim. The Court of Appeals reversed that decision. The Supreme Court has agreed to review the Court of Appeals decision. So, I think we’re still trying to figure out whether the Plaintiffs can even maintain a lawsuit.
The Plaintiffs want a court to declare what they actually owe the hospital. The hospital wants to say they owe whatever came out on the bill. The Plaintiffs are probably arguing for a more ambiguous “reasonable” amount. If the Supreme Court agrees that it’s appropriate for a patient to go to court seeking a declaration of the actual amount of the bill, the Plaintiff will then have to show the “reasonable” amount of the service is different from the amount charged. Plaintiffs are also seeking to maintain a class action which strikes me as some pretty tough sledding — the core of these kinds of cases is going to be trying to determine what the reasonable cost of the service is; and that’s a very individualized question, one that doesn’t lend itself to class treatment very well.
Finally, I have to think these plaintiff’s attorneys are going to have to figure out an angle that gets their attorney’s fees paid. The uninsured aren’t likely to have a lot of cash for paying lawyers, and a declaration that you owe less than the billed amount doesn’t provide an obvious stream of cash for paying lawyers.