Friday, November 04, 2005

Providence Health Systems Settles Case About Unfair Billing of Uninsured Patients

The Portland Business Journal reports that Providence Health Systems "is the first nonprofit hospital group in the country to settle charges alleging unfair billing for uninsured patients." "The settlement, pending approval by the courts, spells out a revised pricing system under which uninsured patients would receive discounts on par with the prices insurance companies negotiate with Providence for the insured population. These preferred provider discounts are about 31.6 in Portland [Oregon]."
The settlement was of one of the many lawsuits filed that "charge health systems with giving private insurance companies and federal payors Medicare and Medicaid substantial discounts off their full 'sticker' prices, while charging the uninsured the full amount for these services." Many of these health systems' mission statements include service to the poor. For example, Providence Health Systems' mission statement opens with:

Providence Health System continues the healing ministry of Jesus in the world of today, with special concern for those who are poor and vulnerable.
We have posted frequently about hospitals and health systems accused of violating their missions by charging the poor and uninsured more than insured patients (see most recent post on this subject here).
Again, this sort of practice by the leadership of large health care organizations seems emblematic of what is wrong with our health care system, yet gets little attention in health policy circles.

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