SAN FRANCISCO — Hospital group Catholic Healthcare West has agreed to reimburse as many as 800,000 uninsured patients for excessive charges to settle a class-action price-gouging lawsuit.
The suit claimed that the San Francisco-based healthcare provider, which owns 40 hospitals in California, Nevada and Arizona, routinely charged uninsured patients as much as five times the amount paid by private insurers and government programs for the same services.
"It's clearly in the hundreds of millions of dollars," plaintiffs' attorney Kelly Dermody said.
Lawyers said the deal announced Wednesday, which covers overcharges since 2001, also allows patients to be compensated in medical care.
Another plaintiffs' attorney, Sid Backstrom, said the case was one of 50 he was litigating in which hospital groups were accused of charging uninsured patients their maximum rates. The hospitals charged no other patients the maximum.
Backstrom noted that private insurers and government insurance programs negotiated lower rates that were unavailable to the uninsured.
"The uninsured people got forgotten and left behind," he said. "I don't think it was a deliberate act to charge them more than anybody else."