Phoebe case dismissal upheld - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Phoebe case dismissal upheld

June 7, 2006

Albany --  A major court victory for Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital. The Georgia State Court of Appeals upheld the decision by a Superior Court Judge to throw out a case claiming the hospital overcharged uninsured patients.  

It has been a long, costly battle for Phoebe Putney. A battle the hospital finally won. "This is a huge victory, because as you know, Phoebe Putney's been around 95 years and was founded on a mission of taking care of everyone who walks through our doors," said Phoebe Putney CEO Joel Wernick.

Many patients and critics of the not-for-profit hospital contend Phoebe makes millions of dollars every year partly by overcharging people who don't have insurance.

Wernick says that's ridiculous. "Frankly we believe this whole thing really had very little to do with the uninsured, and more to do with class-action lawyers wanting to get big legal fees."

The State Court of Appeals upheld the decision by Superior Court Judge John Harvey to dismiss the case, but not before it cost the hospital millions of dollars. "It's a very expensive way to confirm to the public that Phoebe has been and will continue to provide care for all people who come through our doors," said Wernick.

Doors that will always be open, but Wernick hopes this closes a door on the legal battles plaguing the hospital.  

Albany attorney Ralph Scoccimaro is one of the lawyers who filed the appeal with the State. He says he still believes Phoebe unfairly charges the uninsured and plans to petition the Supreme Court to hear the case.

If the Supreme Court denies that request, the appeals court's decision is final.

A class action lawsuit was also tossed out in federal court. There is no plan to appeal that decision.

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