A Medical Device Daily

A judge of the Sacramento (California) Superior Court has granted final approval to a class action settlement resolving claims regarding pricing and collection practices for uninsured patients at all ofSutter Health ’s (San Francisco) affiliate hospitals.

As part of the settlement, class members will be entitled to make a claim for refunds or bill reductions of between 25% to 45% from their prior hospital bills.

Sutter hospitals have also agreed to maintain, for the next three years, discounted pricing policies for uninsured patients that will make Sutter’s pricing for uninsured patients comparable to the pricing for patients with private insurance. In addition, Sutter has agreed to maintain more compassionate collections policies that will protect uninsured patients who fall behind in their payments.

The settlement class includes all persons who Received hospital services from a Sutter-affiliated hospital between Sept. 3, 2000 and Aug. 3, 2006, and were uninsured at the time of treatment.

A rash of suits claimed that Sutter violated numerous laws by “charging unfair, unreasonable and inflated prices for medical care to its uninsured patients who are generally the least able to pay.” The suits also claimed that Sutter “pursues aggressive collection techniques that often result in lawsuits, judgments, garnishments and bankruptcies against uninsured patients.” Other non-profits have been dealing with similar allegations.

The lawsuits argued that because Sutter receives hundreds of millions of dollars in tax exemptions each year, it is required to offer affordable care to the uninsured.

The consolidated lawsuit was filed by six uninsured patients on behalf of themselves and hundreds of thousands of uninsured patients at Sutter-affiliated hospitals in California.