Judge Allows Lawsuit Alleging Violation of 14th Amendment For Hospitals To Charge Insureds And Uninsureds Different Rates

The Montana Supreme Court has revived the case of a woman who says it's unfair for hospitals to charge different rates to treat insured and uninsured patients.

The high court reversed District Judge James Reynolds' decision last year to throw out the case challenging the agreements hospitals make with insurance companies to set discounts for the companies' customers.

The justices ruled 4-1 Tuesday that Reynolds didn't address all of plaintiff Jessica Gazelka's arguments on whether those discounts discriminate against uninsured patients.

Montana hospitals can negotiate agreements with insurance companies that set discounts for the companies' customers. The law allowing the practice is the Montana Preferred Provider Agreements Act.

Gazelka, an uninsured 23-year-old woman who was in a car accident in 2010, sued St. Peter's Hospital over the Helena hospital's preferred provider agreements.

Uninsured patients are charged more for the same medical care as a result of the agreements, she argued. She asked a judge to rule the agreements violate the Montana Constitution's equal-protection provisions.

Attorneys for St. Peter's Hospital responded that the insurance company agreements have nothing to do with the amount Gazelka was charged, and that they are beneficial because they help lower cost through more efficient-care delivery.

The hospital argued that ..... read more here: http://www.bnd.com/news/article20853819.html#storylink=cpy