Sutter Health has settled a class-action lawsuit brought by uninsured patients who said they were overcharged for care and targets of aggressive billing practices.
The settlement of over $ 275 million was approved by a Sacramento Superior Court judge. This allows thousands of patients to make refund claims of between 25 percent and 45 percent of their prior hospital bills.
As a condition of the settlement, Sutter Health's pricing policies for the uninsured must be comparable to insured patients for the next three years, and its hospitals must adopt more compassionate bill collection policies for patients who fall behind on payments.
The class action includes anyone 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.
The settlement is valued at $275 million, but could increase substantially as the number of plaintiffs could reach into the hundreds of thousands.
Sacramento-based nonprofit Sutter Health is Northern California's largest hospital chain. Among its 26 affiliated hospitals are Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland and Berkeley, Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, Mills-Peninsula in Burlingame, California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco and Sutter Antioch.
The lawsuit was initiated in September 2004 on behalf of uninsured patients, including a Berkeley man who was billed $4,600 for treatment of a minor hip injury.