Archive for Friday, March 10, 2006

Kline probes billing practices of hospitals

Attorney general says guidelines needed to ensure ethical actions

March 10, 2006


— Atty. Gen. Phill Kline on Thursday announced his office was investigating billing and collection practices of the state's not-for-profit hospitals.

The probe has involved the amount of charges for medical care, hospital contracts with collection agencies and how those agencies try to collect debts, Kline said.

"Hospitals have a right to be paid for the services that they render," he said. "But that right does not extend to unconscionable and coercive collection practices."

Kline declined to say how many hospitals had been the focus of complaints, nor how much in billing was involved since the investigation started last year.

Kline has appointed Bob Stephan, a former Kansas attorney general, to lead negotiations with not-for-profit hospitals to come up with guidelines for billing and collections. The office has requested information and even issued some subpoenas, Kline said.

"The plight of the poor, the uninsured and underinsured with regards to medical and hospital care is tragic," Stephan said. "It's a living hell for a lot of poor people."

There are 121 not-for-profit hospitals in Kansas, including Lawrence Memorial Hospital.

"There aren't any nonprofits that won't be looked at," Stephan said.

Officials at LMH said Kline's office had not requested or subpoenaed any information from the hospital, 325 Maine.

"We always pursue best practices," said Janice Early-Weas, director of community relations at LMH. She said the hospital was generous in its guidelines for charity care.

In 2005, the hospital's net patient revenue was $114.3 million, while it performed $3.86 million in charity care and sustained $9.2 million in debt for unpaid bills, she said.

About 2.5 percent of all patient accounts end up in some kind of legal process for collections, Early-Weas said.

"Those would be only folks who have ignored all attempts to collect and who we feel have an ability to pay something," she said.

Cindy Samuelson, vice president of the Kansas Hospital Assn., said she didn't think Kline's allegations were widespread.

Kline's office has requested information from the association concerning how hospitals charge and collect unpaid bills, she said.

She said Kansas not-for-profit hospitals provided $170 million in charity care in 2004.

Kline said sometimes disputes arise after hospitals submit bills to the wrong insurance company, or the hospital fails to get prior authorization for services billed. That starts a collection process that is sometimes aggressive and unfair to the patient, he said.

Samuelson said hospitals were always trying to become more efficient in those areas.

"I really think that is the mission that hospitals have to work on, and that is to get better information from the patients," she said. "That would avoid some of these problems."


moderation 12 years, 2 months ago

Geeze dirkleisure. Did something crawl up your tailpipe???

Do you actually believe that Kline has never been in court??? What proof do you have that he has never been in court other than a patently false smear campaign conducted by Kline's opponents?

As a matter of fact, he is an experienced litigator. The Democratic Wichita DA Nola Foulston recently said that Kline's argument before the US Supreme Court "was extraordinary." And Former US Solicitor General Ted Olsen said few have argued a case before the Supreme Court as well as Kline did.

justthefacts 12 years, 2 months ago

"Hospitals have a right to be paid for the services that they render," he said. "But that right does not extend to unconscionable and coercive collection practices."

dirkleisure 12 years, 2 months ago

justthefacts - It is Blackwell Sanders, not Saunders.

Define "top of his class." Top 10? Top 25? Top 50? Top 300?

Define "lots of courts." Can you give 20 examples? Was he in court 20 times? 10 times? 4 times?

Can you give one example?

justthefacts? More like just the hyperbole.

Speaking of facts, if this investigation has been going on for a year, why can't a single target be named? Or would that be too many "facts" coming from the AG?

tell_it_like_it_is 12 years, 2 months ago

Its good to see Kline sink his teeth into something that really matters and might help people for a change. Even if it is just 99% for political purposes.

badger 12 years, 2 months ago

Some hospitals, if they make a mistake in how they submit your insurance claim, will just send you the bill when the insurance company denies it. If you don't protest it, then they start collections on you and they can be hideously aggressive.

Some insurance companies will also deny a claim on fairly minimal grounds (I've had a dental claim denied because the work was done shortly before my birthday, and by the time the insurance company got to processing my paperwork, the age was incorrect), and if you don't push it with them, they won't tell you what has to happen for the claim to be approved.

justthefacts 12 years, 2 months ago

Just in case anyone cares about the facts, Kline was one of the top students in his law-school class ( and made those grades while also running for Congress during one year's classes). Straight out of law school he was hired by Blackwell Saunders, which at the time was one of the biggest law firms in Kansas. While working for that firm he appeared in lots courts, as the lawyer, including district court, federal courts for several states, and the 10th Cir. Appeals court. The only court having jurisdiction where he has appeared since becoming AG that he had not already been to before he was elected is the US Supreme Court. So, anyone saying he was not a "real lawyer" or hadn't appeared in court before he became the AG simply has their facts wrong. In case anyone cares about facts.

Mercat 12 years, 2 months ago

It's just breathtaking that when a person stands up to the military entertainment abortion complex (a little Eisenhour X Files reference there), that person is labeled by some "moderates" as a right wing religious wacko. We must all bow down and worship the great abortion industry or die.

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