St. Joseph's parent trying to settle suit
The Arizona Republic
Jun. 16, 2006

Jodie Snyder

To settle a class-action lawsuit, the parent of St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center has agreed to reimburse about 700,000 uninsured patients who were charged higher rates.

The lawsuit alleged that San Francisco-based Catholic Healthcare West charged uninsured patients up to five times more than the amount paid by insurers and the government.

The settlement must still be approved, and an influential consumer group plans to contest it because it doesn't go far enough.

CHW, which has 41 hospitals in California, Nevada and Arizona, said it did not know how many Arizona patients would get refunds if the settlement is were approved. CHW also said it could not estimate the amount of potential refunds.

St. Joseph's is CHW's flagship hospital and has nearly 350,000 admissions and patient visits a year. CHW also owns Chandler Regional Hospital, and Mercy Gilbert Medical Center, which just opened.

Under the agreement, CHW agreed to apply its current discount policy retroactively to people who were treated at its hospitals from July 1, 2001, to May 2004, when its new policy began.

It plans to send out notices to former patients, according to a written statement.

Calls to CHW were not returned.

Consejo de Latinos Unidos, a Los Angeles-based advocacy group for Hispanics, said it plans to fight the settlement's approval because it disapproves of CHW's current discount program. Only those living in selected ZIP codes are eligible.

"It is essentially redlining health care. We think this is a horrible deal," said K.B. Forbes, the group's executive director.

The Hispanic advocacy group already successfully lobbied California-based Tenet Healthcare Inc. to discount its rates.

The class-action lawsuit was brought by several attorneys, including Richard Scruggs, a well-known Mississippi lawyer.