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Collection Professionals, Inc v. Morgan Schlosser

September 28, 2012

COLLECTION PROFESSIONALS, INC.,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
MORGAN SCHLOSSER,
DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 13th Judicial Circuit, La Salle County, Illinois, Circuit No. 10-SC-2171 Honorable Daniel Bute, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Wright

JUSTICE WRIGHT delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Justices Holdridge and O'Brien concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 Defendant received medical treatment, services, and lab work from Illinois Valley Community Hospital and Health Clinics, St. Margaret's Hospital and Community Health Clinics, and Hospital Radiology Service at a time when defendant was both uninsured and not receiving any public benefits regarding medical services. Plaintiff, a collection agency, filed a complaint on November 9, 2010, as assignee, asking the trial court to enter a judgment against defendant for the full amount of the medical bills totaling $8,906.16, plus attorney fees of $250 and court costs.

¶ 2 During the bench trial, plaintiff presented undisputed evidence that defendant received medical services billed in the amount totaling $8,906.16 during 2007 and 2008 for pregnancy-related treatments. It was also undisputed that, when defendant requested these medical services, she was unemployed and signed paperwork indicating she was uninsured and would be responsible for the payment of the medical treatment she was about to receive.

¶ 3 Defendant's attorney attempted to cross-examine plaintiff's witness regarding whether the medical provider accepted less than the entire billed amount to satisfy the bills from other patients. The court sustained plaintiff's objection to this line of inquiry.

¶ 4 At the close of the evidence, the trial court found that plaintiff complied with the requirements of the Fair Patient Billing Act (210 ILCS 88/1 et seq. (West 2010)) and proved that the entire billed amount reflected the usual and customary amount for similar services performed by other providers the area. The court entered judgment for plaintiff in the amount of $9,156.16 plus attorney fees of $250 and court costs. We affirm.

¶ 5 BACKGROUND

¶ 6 Plaintiff-appellee Collection Professionals, Inc. (plaintiff), became the assignee of defendant's unpaid past-due accounts for medical services provided to defendant by Illinois Valley Community Hospital and Health Clinics (IVCH), St. Margaret's Hospital and Community Health Clinics (St. Margaret's), and Hospital Radiology Service for pregnancy-related medical services she received in 2007 and 2008. At the time defendant received these medical services related to her pregnancy, she was uninsured, unemployed, and not receiving any type of public assistance. At the time she requested services, she agreed in writing to be personally responsible for the payment for those services.

¶ 7 On November 9, 2010, plaintiff filed a small claims complaint alleging defendant owed $453 to Hospital Radiology Services, $2,356 to St. Margaret's, and $6,097.16 to IVCH for medical treatment and services provided to defendant. The complaint asked for judgment to be entered for that amount plus attorney fees in the amount of $250, for a total amount of $9,156.16. Defendant requested a bench trial, which occurred on June 27, 2011.

¶ 8 During trial, plaintiff called Janette Kneebone, the patient accounts director for St. Margaret's, who presented defendant's signed written agreement to pay for services before defendant received medical treatment, lab and radiology tests, and services from St. Margaret's health care providers in October, November, and December of 2007, and February and April of 2008. This included treatment provided at St. Margaret's clinics, for follow-up OB/GYN treatment and lab tests for defendant. Kneebone testified the total amount billed for medical services defendant received at St. Margaret's included only the usual and customary charges that were consistent with the amount charged by other medical providers in the area for the very same health services. To assure their charges were reasonable and customary charges, Kneebone said St. Margaret's periodically reviewed charges from other medical providers in the area for the same health services, as well as purchasing explanation of benefits information from insurance companies regarding amounts they paid for medical treatment services, fee schedules, and Medicare fee schedules. Kneebone stated St. Margaret's billed all patients the same amount for the respective health care services provided regardless of the source of payment.

¶ 9 During cross-examination, defense counsel asked Kneebone whether these customary medical charges were "in any way reflective [of] what is normally received" for the same services and whether they "receive the same amount from either a patient or a third party for all services." Plaintiff's counsel objected to this line of questioning on cross-examination. In response, defense counsel argued the court should consider whether St. Margaret's accepted less than the billed amount to settle other patient's accounts as a factor to ascertain the reasonable and customary charges for health care services. The court sustained plaintiffs' attorney's objection.

ΒΆ 10 Defendant's attorney asked Kneebone whether she prepared a written document for her records stating that she "reasonably met the condition of 210 Illinois Compiled Statutes 88/30?" Kneebone answered, "I don't know what that statute is." Then, defendant's attorney clarified that he was referring to the section of the Fair Patient Billing Act which provided that legal action may not be initiated against a patient for nonpayment of a hospital bill without "written approval of an authorized hospital employee who reasonably believes conditions for pursuing collection action have been met." Defendant's counsel asked if there was any written document in the file stating that the hospital had complied with that statute. After a recess, defendant's attorney restated the question asking Kneebone whether she or any other St. Margaret's employee had "certified" in writing that they had complied with the Fair Patient Billing Act (210 ILCS 88/30(c) (West 2010)) prior to the filing of the current collections lawsuit. Plaintiff's attorney objected, but the ...


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