Ignacio Alaniz with his wife.

Memorial Hermann sues uninsured patient for double the fees it would charge someone with insurance

 

Painter Law firm filed a counterclaim alleging that Memorial Hermann's billing practices are unconscionable and violate the Deceptive Trade Practices Act

 
June 20, 2013

Memorial Hermann Health System is a charitable, tax-exempt hospital system that sues some of its neediest uninsured patients to get money for the care that it provides to them.

What's shocking, though, is that Memorial Hermann sues and tries to collect from  its uninsured patients double or more the amount it accepts from its insured patients.

Health care attorney Robert Painter said, "We believe that Memorial Hermann's billing practices regarding the uninsured are unconscionable and violate the Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Why should a hospital try to collect from someone without insurance double or more what an insured patient would pay for the exact same care?”

Painter Law Firm stepped in to defend 55 year old Ignacio Alaniz when Memorial Hermann sued him in December 2012. On the way home from work in January 2012, Mr. Alaniz was severely injured in a car incident and was taken by air ambulance to Memorial Hermann Hospital in the Texas Medical Center.

Linda Ramon, an employee in Memorial Hermann's financial office, promised that the hospital's charity program would cover most of Mr. Alaniz's medical bills. All Ms. Ramon asked was a good faith payment of $100, which the family made, and then the hospital would work out the arrangements.

After providing the paperwork to Memorial Hermann, and over 10 calls to Ms. Ramon, Memorial Hermann refused to respond. Instead, the hospital sent bill after bill, and then hired a law firm to sue Mr. Alaniz for a whopping $456,675.23.

Instead of using its charitable contributions to help out a man in need, Memorial Hermann didn't discount the bill one red cent.

Most of the uninsured patients that Memorial Hermann sues are unable to afford a lawyer, and Memorial Hermann routinely asks Harris County courts to enter default judgments. This gives Memorial Hermann the legal right to go after its uninsured patients for the full amount of the medical bills, plus attorney's fees, court costs and interest.

But Mr. Alaniz was able to retain Painter Law Firm to step in and fight for his rights. The firm responded to Memorial Hermann’s lawsuit by filing a counterclaim on behalf of Mr. Alaniz. A Harris County jury will get to decide whether it is fair for a so-called charitable hospital like Memorial Hermann to charge an uninsured patient double what it would take from someone with insurance.

Attorney Robert Painter added, “Seeing the way Memorial Hermann treats its uninsured patients leads one to question whether it has lost touch with the noble charitable purposes on which it was founded.”

Memorial Hermann's 2010 tax return provides some perspective on whether the hospital system needs to go after its uninsured patients in court.
The hospital system brought in $2.9 billion in revenue, and has $4.1 billion in assets.

That same year, Memorial Hermann paid over 20 of its employees in excess of $300,000, while at least six were paid over $1 million. Memorial Hermann’s CEO and president, Daniel Wolterman, was paid an astounding $3.8 million from Memorial Hermann and its related organizations.

Robert Painter

Robert Painter is a medical malpractice lawyer at Painter Law Firm PLLC.

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