Hospital bill transparency, and what you can recover in a Texas medical malpractice suit
New federal rule sheds light on sky-high hospital charges
Under a new transparency regulation implemented by the Trump administration, hospitals must post their pricing online. I think this action by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is a major first step in lifting the shroud of secrecy off healthcare prices.
The new rule requires hospitals to disclose their entire chargemaster or book rate for thousands of procedures, services, and products. These are the eye-popping rates that hospitals sometimes use to gouge uninsured consumers.
Currently, there’s no uniformity to the way hospitals must make this information available on the internet. Some hospitals have predictably buried the information on their websites and the thousands of entries have codes and descriptions that are difficult to decipher. Still, I’m happy with this pro-patient move and am confident that things will further improve in the coming weeks and months, perhaps with additional federal rules.
Several years ago, I discovered that some Houston-area hospitals, including some that are non-profit or charitable hospitals, try to stick uninsured patients with these full chargemaster or book rate fees. In my experience, uninsured people are among the most vulnerable members of society
In 2015, I was annoyed that one hospital system in particular, Memorial Hermann, a charitable hospital system, was suing uninsured patients for the high undiscounted chargemaster rates. Many of these folks couldn’t afford legal representation and so Memorial Hermann secured default judgments against them, successfully moving courts to tag on attorney’s fees and interest to the already staggering bills.
I decided enough was enough and decided to represent one uninsured patient completely free of charge after he was sued for over $400,000 in undiscounted hospital bills by Memorial Hermann. Painter Law Firm even paid of out of pocket to hire a billing expert to analyze the bills and how much a patient with Medicare or private health insurance would have to pay for the same services.
Obviously, we couldn’t stay in business if we did that for every deserving uninsured patient. I still felt it was important, though, to bring some attention to this concerning issue. You can read about that case here.
Medical bills and medical malpractice
While many hospitals are eager to charge the maximum amount possible to their patients, when it comes to medical malpractice cases, they take a different approach.
One measure of damages that isn’t capped by Texas tort reform laws is the total amount of medical bills for health care a plaintiff needed because of medical negligence. It doesn’t matter if the medical bills add up to one or two million dollars, they aren’t capped. But there’s one important caveat that I should explain.
Quite often, when new clients come to Painter Law Firm to talk about their cases, they talk about the astronomical medical bills that they’re received because of their medical-malpractice-related injuries.
Under Texas law, though, a medical malpractice plaintiff can only recover money for the actual amount that was paid, or is still legally owed, for medical bills.
An experienced Texas medical malpractice attorney knows how to investigate medical billing issues, including what can be submitted to the jury to get plaintiffs the maximum verdict legally possible.
We are here to help
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured because of poor medical or hospital care, click here to send us a confidential email via our “Contact Us” form or call us at 281-580-8800.
All consultations are free, and, because we only represent clients on a contingency fee, you will owe us nothing unless we win your case. We handle cases in the Houston area and all over Texas. We are currently working on medical malpractice lawsuits in Houston, The Woodlands, Sugar Land, Conroe, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Bryan/College Station, and Waco.
Robert Painter is a medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits against hospitals, physicians, surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other healthcare providers. A member of the board of directors of the Houston Bar Association, he was honored, in 2018, by H Texas as one of Houston’s top lawyers. Also, in 2018, the Better Business Bureau recognized Painter Law Firm PLLC with its Award of Distinction.
Robert Painter is a medical malpractice lawyer at Painter Law Firm PLLC.
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