Gateway Regional Medical Center charged patients with little or no insurance more than triple the amount received from patients with insurance, according to a class action suit filed Nov. 30 in Madison County Circuit Court.

Kimberly Chronister, Lisa Golino, Julia Holman, Linda Hughes, and Robert Orasco are plaintiffs accusing Gateway of charging inflated, unfair and unreasonable prices for medical care.

"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 Chicago attorney James Branit of Bullaro & Carton.

The plaintiffs, all of whom reside in Illinois, allege Gateway engaged in deceptive and unfair business practices using an unfair bargaining position suffered by the plaintiffs to charge unreasonable and excessive rates for medical care.

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 the complaint.

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.

Plaintiff Chronister alleges 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, they would have not accepted the services that Gateway provided, or would have negotiated the charges before receiving the services.

The class is seeking the following from the court:

  • certify the action as a class action with the named plaintiffs as class representatives and their attorneys as class counsel;

  • declare that the defendants must disgorge, for the benefit of the class, all or part of their unlawful gains and benefits received from the plaintiffs and class for the improperly collected money and make full restitution; and

  • award compensatory and punitive damages, attorney fees and court costs and any such other relief as is just and proper.

    The case, which is the 69th class action suit filed in Madison County this year, has been assigned to Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron.

    04 L 1322

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