This is a not-for-profit health care system which claims to be "a system of 40 hospitals and medical centers in California, Arizona and Nevada. Founded in 1986, CHW is the eighth largest hospital system in the nation and the largest not-for-profit hospital provider in California." The system's mission statement is:
Catholic Healthcare West and our Sponsoring Congregations are committed to furthering the healing ministry of Jesus. We dedicate our resources to: delivering compassionate, high-quality, affordable health services; serving and advocating for our sisters and brothers who are poor and disenfranchised; and partnering with others in the community to improve the quality of life.The lawsuit, however, charged that Catholic Healthcare West overcharged uninsured patients compared with what it charges those who have insurance. One plaintiff was Mirna Esupinian, who was billed $20,296 for a two-day hospital stay for gastritis. The lawsuit claimed that the "average private insurer" would have been billed $5,600, and Medicare, $3,994 for similar care. Estupinian took out a loan to pay her bill. The hospital suggested she raid her son's college savings to pay it.
Another plaintiff is Sergio Pantoja, who was billed $15,897 for a five-hour stay after he was in a hit-and-run accident. Again, the lawsuit claimed an average insurer would have been billed $4,451 for such a visit. Pantoja makes $9,000 yearly as a tattoo artist.
"Forbes said Catholic Healthcare West should have alerted these patients to charity care programs they may have qualified for and should have identified government assistance programs." "Forbes said the tactic preys on the fears of uninsured patients who want to protect their credit and have no idea what the regularly discounted rate is for a procedure."
We have previously posted about how not-for-profit hospitals frequently charge uninsured patients, who are often poor, much higher rates than insured patients. (See this link for a recent post about another suit by Consejo de Latinos Unidos, and an earlier post about the apparently ongoing congressional investigation of this billing practice.) This practice surely is yet another driver of high health care costs.
Worse, it directly undermines the hospital's charitable missions. In the example above, Catholic Healthcare West claims to offer "affordable health care," and to advocate for "our sisters and brothers who are poor and disenfranchised." How can the system's executives possibly square their stated mission with their bills to Ms. Esupinian and Mr. Pantoja?
Health care executives who actually try to fulfill their organizations' lofty mission statements would take us far down the road to the accessible, affordable, high-quality health care everyone says they want.