Yale – New Haven Hospital faces another lawsuit over its uncharitable care towards its most vulnerable patients:

David Martinez, suffering from epilepsy and earning less than $10,000 a year, was sued by Yale-New Haven Hospital in 1993 for an $18,000 medical debt incurred by his infant daughter. After a decade of wage garnishments, he managed to pay $10,000. Now he wants it back. Claiming the contract the hospital entered into with Martinez and similarly poor patients was fraudulent, the Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization at the Yale Law School has filed a class-action suit on the issue. The clinic, which has represented more than 30 patients in the last year challenging the hospital’s debt collection practices, settled the majority of those cases when people were simply willing to have the debt forgiven.

Vincent Petrini, a spokesman for Y-NH, said the hospital was “very
disappointed” with the decision of the clinic to pursue litigation at this
time, particularly after it had agreed to close more than 5,000 accounts. He said the particulars of the suit “are not reflective of current hospital policy.” Robert Solomon, the professor who runs the clinic, agrees the hospital “made an enormous amount of progress” in addressing certain issues, such as removing liens on people’s homes, forgiving the debt of those under 250 percent of poverty and processing aid. “But, ultimately, we broke down over the return of funds,” Solomon said. “They don’t want to return any money they received, which we think they
received illegally.” The suit formally challenges the common industrywide practice of applying inflated charges to the underinsured and uninsured, and is one of 31 such suits against hospitals in 17 states filed in the last month. Hospital charges are usually close to 50 percent higher than the actual cost of procedures.

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