Rowan Regional Medical Center Will Fight Lawsuit That Alleges Unfair Charges And Collection Practices

SALISBURY, N.C., Jan. 25 /PRNewswire/ -- Rowan Regional Medical Center, in response to a former patient's allegation that the hospital overcharged her for treatment in its Emergency Department, said today it would vigorously defend itself and its collection policy in court.

Rowan Regional sued the patient in November, 2004 -- more than a year after the patient's car accident, during which no payment was made on her bill.

The counter suit against Rowan Regional was filed in Rowan County by a Salisbury woman who claims she was overcharged and not given an estimate of charges prior to being treated in the Emergency Department. Notice of the counter suit was served on Rowan Regional last Friday.

The patient was brought to Rowan Regional following an automobile accident in June, 2003. She was treated in the Emergency Department before being kept overnight for observation and released the next day.

"The patient has made no effort to pay anything on her bill, despite repeated phone calls and letters from us," said Paula Tucker, Director of the Business Office at Rowan Regional Medical Center. "In fact, she never returned a phone call or responded to a letter from us in the 17 months between her treatment and when a lawsuit was finally filed against her."

"Rowan Regional provided more than $8,542,000 in charity care to uninsured and self-pay patients in the last fiscal year (which ended September 30, 2004)," said Marlin Markham, Chief Financial Officer at Rowan Regional. "We would have been happy to help her work out a payment schedule if she had only responded to our requests for information."

The patient's counter suit against Rowan Regional asks the court for class action status, and is similar to suits filed against other hospitals across the state and the nation in recent weeks.

One of her claims is that Rowan Regional and other hospitals use two tiers of pricing, which keeps uninsured patients from reaping the benefits of volume discounts such as those negotiated by insurance companies for the people they insure.

Rowan Regional's policy uses federal poverty guidelines to establish levels of payment, and the total amount to be paid by uninsured and self- paying patients for hospital services. Patients who don't have health insurance, or who aren't covered by Medicare, Medicaid or other government programs can request financial counseling to make payment arrangements.

"For years, we've made financial counselors available to patients who needed consideration with bills, whether they had insurance or not," said Charles W. Elliott, Jr., Chief Executive Officer at Rowan Regional Medical Center.

"Even with the new policy, we know some patients will be unable to pay a significant amount, and in some cases anything, on their hospital bills. We work with patients on a daily basis to make a careful review of their financial situation. We recognize the fact that some people are out of work or for other reasons are unable to pay medical expenses.

"We and other hospitals always treat patients in the Emergency Department regardless of their ability to pay," Elliott said. "And we constantly urge our patients to let us know if their financial situation changes. But patients need to communicate with our Business Office if they have difficulties paying so that we can help them."

Rowan Regional Medical Center is a private, not-for-profit, acute care hospital. It offers women's health services, cardiology, oncology, and inpatient rehabilitation services, extensive outpatient services, a 24-hour Emergency Department, hospice and home health services, and psychiatric services.

Rowan Regional Medical Center

CONTACT: Phil Whitesell, Director, Corporate Communications of RowanRegional Medical Center, +1-704-210-5632

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