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Arkansas Hospitals See Wins in Lawsuits Over Billing

3 min read

Hospitals are notching legal victories over patients who have challenged their billing practices.

A federal judge dismissed a case in March that was filed against the collection company RevClaims LLC of Jackson, Mississippi, and St. Bernard’s Hospital of Jonesboro.

Sue Garrison of Craighead County had sought class-action status in the case, which centered on a controversial practice in which hospitals refuse to accept the health insurance of patients who have been injured by the actions of others. Garrison was injured in an automobile accident in 2013; another driver was found to be at fault.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys claimed that the hospitals created financial and legal headaches, including filing liens against the injured patients, in hopes of being paid higher list prices from the patients’ settlements with the at-fault party rather than the discounted prices that their health insurance companies have negotiated for policyholders. Garrison’s bill from St. Bernard’s was $2,000, which was the price before any discount her insurance carrier would have received.

Garrison also named as defendants Baptist Health of Little Rock, Lawrence Memorial Hospital of Walnut Ridge and White River Health System Inc. of Batesville. The hospitals argued that Garrison was not injured by any conduct traceable to them.

“Garrison agrees that these defendants have not directly caused her injury,” U.S. District Judge J. Leon Holmes of Little Rock wrote in his order. “She contends, nevertheless, that she has been harmed by all of the defendants through a conspiracy to bill patients like her illegally.”

Holmes found that Garrison’s complaint didn’t allege sufficient facts to support her claim and dismissed Baptist, Lawrence Memorial and White River from the lawsuit.

Holmes also found that St. Bernard’s and RevClaims didn’t injure Garrison because they didn’t recover anything from a lien filed against her. St. Bernard’s released the lien on March 17 and has “written off all outstanding amounts claimed by the lien and will not report any unpaid amounts on Garrison’s credit history,” Holmes wrote.

Holmes’ ruling came shortly after the dismissal of a similar case brought by Lacey Robinett of Lawrence County against Regional Medical Center of Memphis and the collection company it used, Avectus Healthcare Solutions LLC of Corinth, Mississippi.

U.S. District Court Judge D.P. Marshall Jr. in the Eastern District of Arkansas granted the defendants’ request to dismiss the case earlier this year. Robinett has appealed the decision to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where it is pending and being monitored by other hospitals and plaintiff Tammy Hargett of Craighead County.

Hargett sued RevClaims and St. Bernard’s Hospital on charges that mirror Robinett’s allegations. In May, the attorneys in the Hargett case asked to stay the litigation until the 8th Circuit rules in Robinett’s case.

If the 8th Circuit affirms the dismissal of the Robinett case, Hargett “will have no cause of action to pursue and dismissal of the action in this Court will occur,” a joint motion filed by the attorneys for the plaintiff and defendants said.

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