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Commentary, sarcasm and snide remarks from a Florida resident of over thirty years. Being a glutton for punishment is a requirement for residency here. Who am I? I've been called a moonbat by Michelle Malkin, a Right Wing Nut by Daily Kos, and middle of the road by Florida blog State of Sunshine. Tell me what you think.

Friday, September 09, 2005

The Knucklehead of the Day award

Today's winner is the Virginia Mason Medical center. They have allowed a $418 charge to a patient turn into a class action lawsuit as the Seattle Times reports today.

It began last year with Lori Mill's toenail — or rather, with Mill's $1,133 medical bill from Virginia Mason Medical Center for a 30-second office procedure on her toenail.

Mill complained about a $418 charge for "miscellaneous hospital charges." When Virginia Mason responded that it routinely adds such a "facilities charge" when patients go to its downtown clinic instead of its other clinics, she got a lawyer and sued.

This week, a King County Superior Court judge granted class-action status to her consumer-protection lawsuit, meaning she will represent all Virginia Mason patients whose bills have included such fees. That likely will encompass tens of thousands of patients, said Mill's attorney, John Phillips.

And that could potentially cost the medical center millions of dollars.

"There is an entire population of patients who have to pay a portion of their bills, and they were not treated fairly — and not told they would get excessive charges they don't get elsewhere," Phillips said.

Virginia Mason stands by its extra fee, arguing that the downtown facility is licensed as a hospital so it is authorized by Medicare to charge more. The medical center says that is standard industry practice.

Judge Greg Canova, in authorizing the class action, said the overriding questions in the case are whether Virginia Mason had "unfairly or deceptively" charged patients at the downtown clinic more than they would have been charged at other clinics, and whether the medical center had failed to disclose that to patients.

The article goes on to report that some of the staff and doctors at Virginia Mason have complained about outrageous billing charges.

I'm no fan of class action lawsuits but Virginia Mason was so dumb in handling Lori Mill. A $418 bill being turned into a legal case is just insane. The hospital will spend many times more the amount on legal fees disputing and now its a CA suit. Virginia Mason should have quietly settled with Ms. Mill.

For making a mountain out of a toenail, Virginia Mason Medical Center is today's Knucklehead of the Day.

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