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Doctor billing lawsuit expands, now includes Kettering Health

More patients have joined a lawsuit arguing they were unfairly charged high medical bills when they went to an in-network hospital for emergency care but were unknowingly assigned an out-of-network plastic surgeon.

Three new patients, represented by law firm Sadlowski & Besse, are joining two others suing plastic surgeon Dr. Kenneth Christman, Premier Health and Kettering Health Network.

The Dayton Daily News previously reported on the initial lawsuit filed against Premier’s Miami Valley Hospital and Christman. Two hospitals owned by Kettering Health, Soin Medical Center and Kettering Medical Center, were recently added to the lawsuit.

The patients are asking to have their case in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court granted class action status, arguing there is a pattern of unfair practices by Christman and the hospitals where he is on call.

Kettering Health Network and Premier Health said in statements they do not comment on pending litigation. Christman’s attorney Caroline Gentry did not return a request for comment.

The hospitals are in-network with the plaintiffs’ insurance companies, meaning they have contractual agreements for price discounts and in return the insurers cover a larger portion of the patients’ medical care.

Christman is not an employee of either hospital and is not in-network with any insurance company. Christman did not tell the patients his insurance status, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit argues “Kettering Health continued to allow this misconduct to continue, despite repeated complaints and grievances filed by patients over the course of years regarding Christman’s unethical and illegal misconduct.”

The suit states that as a result of patients not being informed of his insurance status until after the fact, patients are unable to make an informed decision, such as requesting a different in-network physician, requesting an out-of-network referral, or going to a different in-network hospital to have the medical services performed.

When responding to the complaints from the patients treated at Miami Valley Hospital, Christman filed a motion stating that he is not legally obligated to tell the patients his insurance status.

“The initial question for this Court is whether such a legal duty exists as a matter of law. The answer is straightforward: Ohio law currently does not establish such a legal duty,” Christman’s motion states.

Premier Health has said it had no duty to disclose any information about the practices of contract doctors at its hospital, according to a motion filed in July.

The lawsuit says the patients were surprised by the high bills from Christman and after initially not paying them they faced mounting calls for them to be paid by the doctor’s office.

Billing practices is an issue the medical industry has been grappling with nationally.

Several independent physicians previously told the Dayton Daily News that they feel squeezed by insurance companies, saying their small practices don’t have enough negotiating power to demand fair in-network prices for their services.

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