Hospitals and urgent care centers are required to treat patients seeking emergency medical triage and treatment. These institutions are prohibited from discriminating against any patient for any reason, including the inability to pay. All manpower, equipment, testing, lab work, and supplies used during the treatment of an uninsured patient are absorbed by the treatment facility. This is an unfortunate but very real circumstance for emergency room staff. In order to stay afloat and offset the costs incurred by uninsured or under insured patients, some hospitals are being accused of charging every other patient and insurance company higher than expected fees.
Third party billing companies typically represent hospitals and emergency room staff separately, each potentially charging exorbitant fees for miscellaneous items. While it is understandable that some medical institutions are in the business for healthcare at a profit, some patients and their attorneys are forced to question the routine practice of overcharging patients who can afford treatment. The investigation and comparison of standard rates and emergency room prices have prompted more than one lawsuit already, and many more could be on the way.
A recent suit filed in Florida is threatening to turn into a class action case in response to inflated emergency room surcharges that amounted to nearly 50 times more than customary rates for the same procedures. Passing on these excessive and unreasonable rates to insurance companies and the actual patients is having an unwelcome effect. In response to the higher charges, many insurance companies are forced to raise premiums and co-payments among all customers. This also forces insurance carriers to refuse coverage to some individuals’ altogether or risk being priced out of the competitive market.
While many consumers and even some law firms were hesitant to approach this subject just a few short years ago, the inflated hospital emergency room prices have become even more oppressive. To combat the prohibitive fees and unchecked practices, experienced attorneys like Baker & Zimmerman are aggressively representing clients in search of answers. Patient advocate groups are also pushing for more transparent and accountable legislation surrounding the standard fee schedules and limiting the rate of inflation. A strong call to action for standardized prices across the board promises a reprieve for insurance companies and patients who pay out of pocket for necessary medical procedures.