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Home | Tag Archives: Texas Supreme Court

Tag Archives: Texas Supreme Court

Texas Supreme Court Decision Could Help Uninsured Patients Negotiate Excessive Hospital Bills

First came the crash. Then came the bill.

After a June 2015 car accident landed Crystal Roberts in the emergency room at North Cypress Medical Center, the hospital asked for more than $11,000 for the X-rays, CT scans, lab tests and other services she received. To Roberts, who was uninsured, that was quite a tab. She sued, calling the price excessive — it was more, she and her lawyers alleged, than an insurance company would have paid for the same procedures. Under the Texas hospital liens statute, hospitals have to charge uninsured patients a “reasonable and regular rate.”

To prove the charge was excessive, Roberts asked the medical center for more information: If she had been insured by, say, Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield or Medicare, how much would her insurance company have paid the hospital?

North Cypress wouldn’t provide that information, arguing that it was irrelevant to the lawsuit and that the organization would “suffer irreparable harm” if it disclosed “confidential and proprietary” insurance information.

This year, the issue made it to the state’s highest civil court, and on Friday, the Texas Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision that the information should be given to Roberts because it’s relevant to her case. The decision, authored by Justice Debra Lehrmann, is likely to make it easier for uninsured Texans to negotiate high hospital bills under similar circumstances.

In cases like Roberts’, hospitals aren’t allowed to charge uninsured patients more than a “reasonable and regular rate” — essentially, Roberts’ lawyer James Amaro said, what an insurance company would pay for the same services. But until Friday, uninsured patients trying to challenge excessive hospital bills weren’t able to see what insurance companies paid for similar services. The ruling, Amaro said, will allow light to shine on a notoriously mysterious process and make it easier for patients to negotiate fair payments in the future.

“No mechanism has existed to challenge excessive hospital bills for uninsured accident victims,” Amaro said. “This will reduce the price-gouging schemes that are just rampant right now.”

Lawyers for North Cypress Medical Center did not return requests for comment Friday. But Chad Ruback, one of the hospitals’ lawyers, told Law360 last year that if Roberts won, it “would, sadly, increase costs for all hospital patients.”

“I’m afraid that this type of discovery tactic will routinely be used to strong-arm settlements of otherwise meritless claims against hospitals,” Ruback said in May 2017.

Lehrmann wrote in her opinion that hospitals concerned about private information being made public could ask the trial court to seal that information, meaning those documents would aid Roberts and patients like her but wouldn’t be made available to the broader public. That decision would be made in the future by the trial court.

Read related Tribune coverage:

Disclosure: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here

Author: EMMA PLATOFF – The Texas Tribune

State Sen. José Rodríguez Statement on Texas Supreme Court Same-Sex Benefits Ruling

Friday afternoon, State Senator José Rodríguez released a statement in response a ruling by the Texas Supreme Court that would allow for a challenge to a decision by the City of Houston to extend benefits to same-sex couples.

Today’s decision by the Texas Supreme Court is quite simply a waste of time and resources made possible because the justices bowed to far-right political pressure to take up a case they’d first, rightly, declined to review. 

The U.S. Supreme Court has now ruled three times that discriminating against same-sex couples in laws and benefits related to marriage offends the Constitution. 

The Court reaffirmed that view just this month, ruling against an Arkansas birth certificate law that discriminated against gay parents.  Perversely, the Texas Supreme Court now uses this latest decision to make a thin argument that Texas courts must seriously entertain each and every discriminatory argument attacking gay married couples’ rights. 

Where does it end? 

I hope the lower court will again affirm that our Constitution requires gay couples be treated with equal dignity, no exceptions.

Texas Supreme Court Halts Children’s Therapy Cuts

The Texas Supreme Court on Friday delivered a temporary, last-minute victory to families of children with disabilities who want to stop sweeping budget cuts to a state-funded children’s therapy program.

State lawmakers last year approved $350 million in budget cuts for Medicaid programs that provide physical, speech and occupational therapy to disabled children. Blocked once before by a district court order, the cuts were scheduled to take effect July 15 after an appellate court ruled in April that Texas could move forward with them.

The Supreme Court’s order will delay those cuts, which have been tied up in court for nearly a year, once again.

The disabled children’s families, joined by therapy providers who are paid by Medicaid, the federal-state insurance program for the poor and disabled, sued the state over the pay cut, saying it would force medically necessary businesses to close and leave fragile children without access to health care.

Texas lawmakers ordered the cuts arguing that the state overpaid for those services. Many in-home therapy providers who treat children covered by Medicaid say the payment reduction would amount to a roughly 20 percent revenue cut that would force them out of business.

In the year since the budget was passed, dozens of lawmakers who voted for it have asked Texas officials to delay the cuts in order to study their projected effects more closely, for fear the move would jeopardize children’s access to health care.

The Supreme Court’s temporary injunction is not a ruling on the validity of the Medicaid cuts, but it buys time for the groups opposing the cuts to continue their aggressive lobbying campaign to have lawmakers revisit the issue.

Seventy-five state lawmakers — 61 Democrats and 14 Republicans — have written to state and federal health officials in recent weeks to express concerns about the Medicaid cuts.

The groups suing the state said they were overjoyed with the high court’s order.

“Our plaintiffs, particularly the parents of these children, are extremely grateful to the Supreme Court of Texas for their quick action which means that life-saving therapy remains available to our most vulnerable children,” spokesman Chuck McDonald said in a statement.

“It would be impossible to overstate how significant it is that this injunction remains in place,” he said.

Author:   – The Texas Tribune

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