An article in yesterday’s California Daily Journal (subscription only) by Evan George titled “ER Patients Use Court Ruling to Push for Billing Refunds” shows why Californians are going to soon have a lot more difficulty obtaining emergency care.
A man named Ariel Sabban is suing Scripps Memorial Hospital and its emergency physician group for $57.83 as a refund for a medical bill he paid more than a year ago after bringing his kid to the hospital and having the emergency physician sew up his kid’s head. In essence, since balance billing is now “illegal” in California, Sabban is stating that the hospital and emergency physicians shouldn’t have billed him for what his insurance didn’t cover. He is being represented by Vincent Slavens, a partner at Krause Kalfayan Benink and Slavens in San Diego.
The Daily Journal expects that if a wave of class action suits over the case occurs, “hospitals and ER doctors could be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars in collective refunds to patients.”
I “Googled” the terms “Ariel Sabban” and “San Diego” and the first thing that popped up was this link to the California Bar Association.
Is Ariel Sabban’s full name “Ariel Joseph Sabban” and is he a San Diego attorney with the firm Murray, Hayes & Sabban?
If Krause Kalfayan Benink and Slavens is able to obtain class action status in their law suit, they have the potential to get a large settlement on behalf of the “class” who will each likely end up with a pittance in “reimbursement”. You have to know that a class action is what the firm is shooting for – why else would they file a lawsuit over $57?
If Ariel Sabban is an attorney, he just might have a “referral fee” arrangement with the law firm representing him, which could mean that a class action settlement becomes a windfall for him — all over his $57 “overpayment.”
Whomever Ariel Sabban is, he can revel in the fact that his frivolous lawsuit will likely be the straw that breaks the back of the California emergency medical system.
Everyone in California should realize just how bad their emergency medical care is about to get. I already posted about the difficulties with emergency medical care in California HERE and HERE. According to the Daily Journal article, 70 hospital emergency departments in California have closed in the past 13 years. It’s not going to get better.
When your dad is dripping with sweat, can’t breathe and is clutching his chest with a heart attack and seconds count, the next hospital emergency department that closes because of lack of funding just may be the one down the street from you. When your child stops breathing and you have to drive an hour or more in traffic and hope that you get to the hospital before your child dies, think of the California Supreme Court’s ruling about balance billing and ask yourself whether the lives of your family were worth $57.
My advice to California emergency physicians: Leave.
My advice to California emergency physician groups: Give notice to each and every hospital that you work at that you will not renew your contract and send the notice to the editors of the newspapers. Then leave.
My advice to other groups that might want to do business in California: Avoid California like the plague.
My advice to Californians: Put some law firm phone numbers on your speed dials for when you have a medical emergency. After all, everyone knows that lawyers are more important than doctors, anyway.
I said that cases like this would create a public health crisis … here it comes.