Gateway seeks to dismiss class action complaint

Steve Gonzalez Dec. 27, 2005, 4:25pm

A class action complaint alleging Gateway Regional Medical Center in Granite City inflated charges for uninsured patients will be heard on the hospital's motion to dismiss on Jan. 5.

Circuit Judge Don Weber will hear the motion at 9 a.m.

Kimberly Chronister, Lisa Golino, Julia Holman, Linda Hughes, and Robert Orasco accuse the hospital of charging unfair and unreasonable prices for medical care. The plaintiffs are all from Illinois.

"Gateway charged...more than triple what Gateway received for the same services from the vast majority of their other patients, often triple what governmental agencies paid under Medicare and Medicaid; and more than triple the actual cost of the care," according to the suit filed by SimmonsCooper attorney Ken Brennan.

Chicago attorney James Branit of Bullaro & Carton also represents the plaintiffs.

Gateway, represented by Richard Hunsaker, Patrick Cloud and Michael Daniels of Heyl, Royster, Voelker & Allen in Edwardsville, filed the motion to dismiss on June 15, stating, "Plaintiffs failed to plead sufficient facts to state a claim for breach of contract, Illinois Consumer Fraud, common law fraud, or abuse of process, consequently, this Honorable Court should dismiss each claim."

"More specifically, the plaintiffs have not alleged facts indicating that Gateway's conduct offended public policy, was immoral, unethical, oppressive, or unscrupulous, or caused substantial injury to consumers," the motion continues.

The class claims the only group required to pay the alleged inflated rates are those who do not qualify for Medicaid or Medicare, or are not sufficiently covered by health insurance, often because of financial inability.

Fees charged to the uninsured or under-insured "bore no rational relationship to actual costs and were not 'regular' or 'usual and customary'," according to their complaint.

"None of the plead facts in the complaint indicate that Gateway did anything other than what they allegedly promised to do, charge their regular rates," the motion to dismiss states.

Plaintiff Chronister alleges that on Oct. 16, 2003, her son was admitted into the emergency room at Gateway for a psychotic episode, and released four days later. At the time, Chronister did not have health insurance.

She claims that she was required to sign several documents, including an agreement to pay the regular rates of the facility.

Upon her son's release she received a bill dated Oct. 26, 2003, for $6,596.75, and claims she was charged significantly more than what they would accept from a vast majority of their patients for identical services.

She was sued by Gateway on April 21 for the amount of $6596.75 plus attorney fees in the amount of $2,198.89.

All of the named plaintiffs have been sued by Gateway seeking to recover money for medical services provided to them or their minor children.

In the 10-count class action suit, the plaintiffs allege Gateway was in violation of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, constructive fraud, fraudulent misrepresentation, breach of contract, breach of good faith and fair dealing, unjust enrichment, theory of imposition, unconscionability, civil conspiracy and declaratory judgment.

The class also alleges that if they would have known the truth about being charged regular rates for medical services, it would not have accepted the services that Gateway provided, or would have negotiated the charges before receiving the services.

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Heyl Royster
124 SW Adams St
Peoria, IL 61602

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