By PETER H. MILLIKEN
Akron-based lawyers have filed class-action lawsuits against St. Elizabeth Boardman Health Center and Forum Health Northside Medical Center, alleging both hospitals improperly billed Medicaid patients for Medicaid-covered services.
The civil suits were filed in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court against St. Elizabeth and against Northside. Both suits allege breach of contract and negligence, and both demand jury trials. The suits were filed by Attys. Albert R. Nestico and Todd O. Rosenberg.
The suit against St. Elizabeth is assigned to Judge R. Scott Krichbaum, and the suit against Northside is assigned to Judge Maureen A. Sweeney.
The complaint against St. Elizabeth was filed on behalf of Denise Cuscino, of Struthers Road, New Middletown.
The complaint against Northside was filed on behalf of Ann Boylen, mother of a minor named Vivian Boylen, of Edgar Avenue, Youngstown.
Spokeswomen for Forum Health and St. Elizabeth declined to comment because the complaints are matters of pending litigation.
The plaintiff’s lawyers seek to include within the class all Ohio Medicaid patients each institution billed for Medicaid-covered services during the past 15 years. Each suit seeks more than $25,000 in damages for each plaintiff and each class.
Medicaid is a health-care plan for poor people, which is funded jointly by the federal and state governments and managed by the states.
“Cumulatively, the charges billed by defendant have resulted in hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars of damages to the class,” the suits say.
The suit against St, Elizabeth says Cuscino was treated there in November 2008 and billed for $1,285 for that treatment in April 2009. “Plaintiff has become unexpectedly burdened with this financial debt,” the complaint says.
The complaint against Northside says the Boylens were treated there in January 2010 and billed in March. The bill for Ann Boylen was $1,503, and the bill for Vivian Boylen was $1,421, according to the suit.
Neither Cuscino, nor the Boylens, were notified by the hospitals in writing before they were treated that the hospitals wouldn’t bill Medicaid for the services; none of the patients signed agreements to be liable for payment; and neither hospital told the plaintiffs other providers might give them free treatment, the suits say.
Ohio law prohibits billing Medicaid patients for Medicaid-covered services unless the health-care provider gives such advance notice in writing, the patient signs an agreement to be liable for payment, and the provider tells the patient that he or she might get free treatment elsewhere, the suits say.
The suits don’t specify the types of treatment each patient received or what conditions these patients were treated for.
Besides the hospitals, each complaint lists 50 unidentified defendants the complaints say are employees or agents of the hospitals, whose activities allegedly caused the improper billing.