Justia Business Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Health Care Law
Kaiser Permanente covered three patients who received care at an emergency room operated by Dameron Hospital Association. The patients were injured due to the negligence of third party tortfeasors who had automobile liability insurance with California Automobile Association Inter-insurance Bureau (AAA) and Allstate Insurance Company. Unlike Kaiser, neither AAA nor Allstate had contracts with Dameron. In the absence of an agreement for negotiated billing rates, Dameron sought to collect from AAA and Allstate its customary billing rates by asserting liens filed under the Hospital Lien Act (HLA). AAA and Allstate ignored Dameron’s HLA liens when paying settlements to the three Kaiser patients. Upon learning of the settlements, Dameron sued AAA and Allstate to recover on its liens. The trial court granted the automobile liability insurers’ motions for summary judgment on grounds the patients’ debts had already been fully satisfied by their health care service plans. Reasoning the HLA liens were extinguished for lack of any underlying debt, the trial court dismissed the case. The trial court further found dismissal was warranted because Dameron failed to timely file some of its HLA liens against AAA. The issue this case presented for the Court of Appeal was whether a heath care service plan’s payment of a previously negotiated rate for emergency room services insulate the tortfeasor’s automobile liability insurer from having to pay the customary rate for medical care rendered? AAA and Allstate contended they were not responsible for any amount after Kaiser paid in full the bill for the emergency room services provided by Dameron. Dameron contended that it contracted with Kaiser to preserve its rights to recover the customary billing rates from tortfeasors and their automobile liability insurers. Dameron argued the tortfeasors and their liability insurers were responsible for the entire bill for medical services at the customary rate, not just the difference between the reimbursement received from Kaiser and the customary billing rate. Although Dameron claimed it should benefit from the California Supreme Court’s holding that it may avoid extinguishment of its HLA liens upon receiving payments from health insurers, the contract in this case preceded that case by 10 years. The Court of Appeal concluded that the Dameron/Kaiser contract did not preserve the right to recover the customary billing rate for emergency room services from third party tortfeasors: "[I]f Dameron wishes to preserve its right to recover its customary billing rates through an HLA lien, it is free to contract for this right. But Dameron must actually contract for this right. A history of voluntary cooperation with Kaiser does not suffice to avail Dameron of the [Supreme Court's] guidance on reservation of contractual rights under the HLA." Consequently, the trial court properly granted summary judgment in favor of AAA and Allstate. As to Dameron’s argument that it filed a timely claim relating to patient Rita H.’s HLA lien, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s dismissal based on the statute of limitations. Dameron has not made a sufficient showing of diligence to toll the claim under the discovery rule. View "Dameron Hospital Assn. v. AAA etc. Ins. Exchange" on Justia Law