For the second time this year, Hartford HealthCare has been hit with a major lawsuit.
The first one was filed by rival Saint Francis Hospital.
And this time it’s Connecticut residents who are raising concerns about how much patients are paying and what services they’re receiving at Hartford HealthCare.
“It is a big deal,” said Ellen Andrews, Connecticut Health Policy Project executive director.
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Andrews is talking about the six residents from Connecticut who recently filed a class action lawsuit against Hartford HealthCare.
In the 60 page complaint, their attorneys argue the health system uses anti-competitive means to charge patients higher prices for lower-quality care.
The lawsuit accuses Hartford HealthCare of charging overall 20-percent more than nearby competitors with better quality ratings.
It argues that adds up tens of millions of dollars of overcharges every month.
“It's very hard to hold them accountable for good quality care because you can't fire them, you know. You can't drop them from the network,” said Andrews.
Take for instance a trip to the ER.
The lawsuit alleges Hartford Hospital charges anywhere from 50-percent to nearly three times more than nearby St. Francis.
The consumer advocacy non-profit Connecticut Health Policy Project supports the lawsuit though it is not directly involved.
“When you have one hospital or a monopoly, they can charge whatever they want because you have to have them in the plan. So our premiums go up, our co-pays and deductibles go up, and our taxes go up,” said Andrews.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys argue Hartford HealthCare has gobbled up practices, gained market power and has strong-arm negotiations with insurance companies.
They say if their lawsuit is successful it could help end “anti-competitive behavior.”
In a statement, Hartford HealthCare called the complaint without merit and wrote in part:
“The allegations misrepresent the many ways Hartford HealthCare is working to transform healthcare, building a system of care that is more accessible, has lower-cost options, is a champion for equity, and both attracts and delivers excellence.”
Outside legal experts call this a complicated fight.
“These arrangements need to be intentional in terms of systematic patterns of conduct and behavior and therefore it is it is a pretty significant threshold,” said Victor Rodriguez, University of New Haven Legal Studies Chair.
Earlier this year, St. Francis filed a federal lawsuit against Hartford HealthCare also focused on alleged monopoly power.