Catholic Healthcare West settles lawsuit

A large non-profit hospital chain has settled a class action lawsuit filed over the prices it charges uninsured patients. Catholic Healthcare West, which operates 40 hospitals in California, Arizona and Nevada, has agreed to pay an undisclosed sum believed to total "hundreds of millions" of dollars. The suit accused CHW of charging uninsured patients up to five as times as much as those with insurance or access to Medicare or Medicaid. As part of the settlement, the hospital chain agreed to provide free care to patients earning up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

This is one of hundreds of suits filed against non-profit hospitals by a consortium of law firms led by Mississippi attorney Dick Scruggs, who rose to national prominence in the 1990s with a series of class action suits against tobacco companies. The suits, which many hospital executives have dismissed as ungrounded, appear to have marked the beginning of an ugly trend. Another group of firms, led by activist Erin Brockovich, filed a similar class action suit against hundreds of hospitals last week. They accused hospitals of fraudulently billing the government for care in cases involving medical errors.

- read this New York Times article