I charge more for some patients, now a patient is suing me
In recent years, the United States has seen countless stories like Dr. Cost’s, in regard to charges by physicians as well as charges at hospitals.
Uninsured patients make up an ever increasing number of lower and middle income classes of Americans. Although patients with private or governmental insurance receive huge discounts for medical care, uninsured patients pay higher prices for the same medical care.
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Apparently this pricing disparity has gone on for years, but only recently has been brought to the attention of the American public. In a report from 2004, it was estimated that uninsured patients were charged 2.5 times more than a patient covered by one or more of the major insurance companies. The disparity is further accentuated by the fact that these inflated charges are not a voluntarily assumed debt, but rather, one that often cannot be avoided by the patient.
It is common knowledge that both not-for-profit and for-profit hospitals across the U.S. have policies of charging uninsured patients more than insured ones. Some physicians like Dr. Cost, aware of this fact, have done the same. However, over the last several years uninsured patients have increasingly sued hospitals for such policies. The claims have been based on several theories, one of them being that such differential billing policies violate state consumer protection statutes. Such lawsuits are based on the theory that uninsured patients have been subject to discrimination. The success of these claims depends on the state statutes where the litigation has been filed.