It can be difficult for patients to make sense of complex medical bills,
particularly after a lengthy hospital stay. As a result, overbilling is
all too common.
Most recently, Sutter Health agreed to pay $46 million to resolve allegations
that it imposed false and misleading charges for anesthesia. As part of
the settlement, the California hospital chain also agreed to provide more
detailed pricing information to patients.
As detailed by the
Los Angeles Times, the overbilling came to light after an auditor blew the whistle on the
hospital’s practices. Sutter reportedly overbilled patients by including
“Code 37x” anesthesia charges, which could reach thousands
of dollars, even though the costs were already included in additional
billing related to the hospital operating room.
The California Department of Insurance joined the suit, which was scheduled
to go to trial this month. In announcing the settlement, California Insurance
Commissioner, Dave Jones, characterized the case as a win for patients.
“This settlement represents a groundbreaking step in opening up hospital
billing to public scrutiny,” Jones said. “This new transparency
should lead to lower prices and point the way to similar billing reforms
for all types of hospital services.”