Information on Ohio's Consumer Laws from Attorney Daniel Myers, Myers Law, LLC, not legal advice
In a motion to strike filed recently with the Cleveland Clinic Billing lawsuit, the Cleveland Clinic and its lawyers are accused of trying to sell a “demonstrably false” story to the court while telling the public something completely different. Publicly, the Cleveland Clinic has claimed it can, and will, provide estimates to patients. In a recent News 5 Cleveland story about the pending billing lawsuit, the Cleveland Clinic told reporter Jonathan Walsh that it can provide patients with estimates for all of its services. According to the Clinic, “Estimates for care are available to patients when scheduling surgical and diagnostic services and upon request for all other services.” Pretty clear, right? The Cleveland Clinic wants the public to know that it can provide estimates for all surgical, diagnostic, and other services.
But in its arguments to the court, seeking to have the billing lawsuit thrown out, the Cleveland Clinic and its lawyers are arguing the exact opposite, that they cannot provide this information up front. When its trying to avoid complying with the requirements of Ohio’s consumer protection law, the Cleveland Clinic changes its claims and argues that “total costs . . . generally are not known up front,” that the “‘cash selling price’ of medical services is not knowable up front,” and that the Clinic cannot provide estimates “without insurer cooperation.” The Cleveland Clinic wants to the judge to take judicial notice of these “facts.” A court can only take judicial notice if facts are not in reasonable dispute. But at least one large area hospital disputes the Cleveland Clinic’s “facts.” That hospital is the Cleveland Clinic.
The Motion to Strike argues that the Cleveland Clinic publicly advertises and claims that it can tell patients what the total price of their services is going to be, and also that hospitals should provide estimates of total costs to patients.
The Cleveland Clinic publishes a price list, i.e. a list of its charges, which it is required to know and provide by law. At the beginning of that price list, the Cleveland Clinic states that its charges “are the same for all patients.” Using cost estimators and the price list, the Clinic tells patients that they can “[l]earn more about the total costs incurred for medical procedures at the Cleveland Clinic.” The Clinic tells patients that they can use a “Cost Estimator” to understand “the cost of your upcoming surgery or exam.” On that same webpage, the Cleveland Clinic sends patients who are “[l]ooking for more information for understanding healthcare pricing,” to follow a link and read “Understanding Healthcare Prices: A Consumer Guide” from the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA). The HFMA guide, hosted on the American Hospital Association website, to which the Cleveland Clinic directs its patients, tells patients to request estimates from medical providers, and that these estimates from medical providers “should include the following specific information. . . . The total price of your care and the portion of that price that you are expected to pay.” In case that statement is unclear, the guide says the same thing in different words multiple times. So not only does the Cleveland Clinic claim it knows its own pricing, but it also claims that its prices are the same for all patients, that patients can find out the total costs incurred for their services, and the Clinic sends patients to a guide telling them that they can and should request price information and expected payment information in advance.
The Cleveland Clinic has been consistently telling its patients and the public one thing, that the Clinic can provide up front estimates for total costs of medical services, but
when it is trying to avoid complying with Ohio’s consumer protection law it tells the court a different tale–prices and costs are not knowable and such up front estimates are not generally possible.
The Motion to Strike asks the Court to ignore the Cleveland Clinic’s argument because, in addition to the Clinic not raising that argument previously, the argument is “an unequivocal falsehood,” and the Clinic’s claimed “facts” are likely to be “demonstrably false” after discovery is conducted.
Have you previously received an estimate from the Cleveland Clinic for services? We’d like to hear about it.