By: Emily Goodell, 6/12/19
RICHLAND, Wash. – Kadlec Regional Medical Center is facing a class-action lawsuit claiming the hospital wrongfully charged thousands of emergency room patients a hidden fee —allegedly making millions in the process.
In court documents, former patient Stephen Bradford says he filed the lawsuit in response to an unanticipated and undisclosed $1,400 “cover charge” included on his emergency room bill from a visit in April 2017.
When Bradford asked for a more detailed, itemized version of his bill, he saw the charge was designated as “HC ED LEVEL 4” with no explanation as to what it was for, the lawsuit said.
Bradford says he later found that Kadlec regularly charges emergency room patients this fee on a sliding scale; patients aren’t told about the fee prior to getting treatment and the fee isn’t explained on their bills, the lawsuit said.
Patients are charged at five levels: $257, $424, $782, $1,425 or $2,437. In court documents, Kadlec objects to the characterization of the fees, but acknowledges they exist.
“Kadlec admits it charges a facility fee for emergency department services at five levels in the five amounts stated … but denies that this fee is an ‘undisclosed surcharge’,” the hospital said in court documents.
Kadlec operates two emergency rooms: a freestanding emergency department at 3290 W.19th Ave in Kennewick and another attached to the main medical center at 888 Swift Boulevard in Richland.
“Kadlec Regional Medical Center is proud of our longstanding practice of providing patients with all the information they need to make informed decisions about their care. Kadlec is aware of the recently filed lawsuit; we believe it is without merit. We are committed to our mission of providing safe, compassionate care, and are confident in our patient financial services.”
The hospital’s latest annual report shows 29,600 emergency room visits and 12,500 where a patient was seen in the ER prior to being admitted to the hospital, the lawsuit said.
Kadlec says in court filings that its business records show the total amount of emergency department facility charges “substantially exceeds” $5 million, again denying it acted wrongfully.
Other than that, it’s unclear from court documents exactly how much revenue the facility fees bring to the hospital, how the fees are determined or how those fees are then spent.
However, according to KAPP-KVEW calculations, if every person to visit the ER in that recently reported year — a total of 42,100 visits — was charged at least the lowest level fee of $257, the revenue could be as much as $10.8 million.