When it comes to damages in any personal injury lawsuit, one of the most important items is medical bills. It may seem straightforward, but the issue becomes tricky when we consider that not all patients are billed the same way for the same services.
In most states, hospital chargemasters follow complex systems that vary considerably. Managed care organizations will often restrict payments for the services of members, leading to an increase in prices for uninsured patients, who don’t benefit from a provider’s contracts with the plans that negotiate rate differentials. Back in the 1960s, everyone paid the same rate. Not so anymore. For example, a family could be stuck paying a $40,000 hospital bill over the course of a decade, while Medicaid reimburses just $6,000 for that same procedure. Commercial insurers might offer something in between.
So then the question, as outlined in the recent case of Moore v. Mercer, is whether defendants should have to pay more or less, based on the type of insurance the plaintiff has. Is it fair that two defendants liable for the same negligent act pay two vastly different prices? The California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, delved into this issue in the Moore case.