A proposed class action out of Texas alleges St. David’s Healthcare Partnership (St. David’s HealthCare) charges emergency care patients a “substantial but undisclosed” emergency room facility fee, what effectively amounts to a surcharge, in addition to what it charges for individual treatment items and other services. The case, which has been removed to the Western District of Texas, argues that while knowledge of the facility fee for being treated at the defendant’s emergency room “would be a substantial factor” in a consumer’s decision to seek care from St. David’s HealthCare, the charge “is effectively hidden from Defendant’s emergency room patients.”
“The high cost of medical services is a matter of great public concern and emergency care patients have a right to be informed of a substantial surcharge before it is incurred,” the case reads.
Per the lawsuit, though St. David’s HealthCare patients are presented with and required to sign financial responsibility documents wherein they promise to pay the hospital for treatment and services, none of the defendant’s emergency room contracts disclose or even mention the apparent surcharge. Further, the plaintiff says that neither the surcharge nor the defendant’s intention to add a surcharge to an emergency room patient’s bill is disclosed anywhere around the actual emergency room, whether by signage or verbally during the registration process.
The surcharge itself is set at one of five levels according to the “seriousness and complexity” of a patient’s condition, the complaint continues, and is calculated “based on a secret formula or algorithm known only to” St. David’s HealthCare. As an example, the case says, the defendant’s emergency facility at South Austin Medical Center breaks out its surcharges into the following tiers:
- Level 1: $396
- Level 2: $719
- Level 3: $1,364
- Level 4: $2,800
- Level 5: $3,975
According to the plaintiff, the defendant’s emergency treatment surcharge is not based on the specific types of treatment or services a patient receives, but rather is incurred “simply for presenting and being seen at any one of Defendant’s hospital emergency departments.” Further still, the plaintiff asserts that the defendant’s emergency room patients “have no reasonable opportunity” to look over or negotiate the supposed surcharge.