Class action lawsuit filed against Scripps Health

A class action lawsuit filed in San Diego Monday alleges that over the past four years, Scripps Health billed a class of emergency medical patients for services after their HMOs refused to pay their entire bill.

The lawsuit alleges that Scripps Health and co-defendant La Jolla Emergency Physicians Medical Group, illegally engage in the practice of “balance billing’’ of their emergency medical services patients.

Balance billing occurs when a dispute arises between a medical service provider and Health Maintenance Organization over the reasonable value of medical services provided and the HMO refuses to pay the full amount of the bill submitted.

Rather than pursue the HMO, the medical service provider bills the patient for the unpaid amounts in dispute.

According to the suit, California’s Health and Safety Code requires hospitals and other emergency care providers to provide emergency medical care to patients who request it without regard to the patient’s ability to pay.

Don Stanziano, public relations director for Scripps Health, said he hadn’t seen the lawsuit and could not comment on it.

The suit seeks unspecified restitution and damages.