Lawsuit over AVH billing ends in settlement
ASPEN The lawsuit that spurred a string of public complaints and criticism of Aspen Valley Hospital’s billing practices has been settled, according to court records.Attorney Richard Cummins, who sued the hospital and its billing agency on allegations that it “harassed” and “annoyed” him over a debt that he didn’t owe, withdrew his suit last week. The dismissal was made with prejudice, meaning the same complaint can’t be filed again. It was recorded Monday in Pitkin County Court.The settlement was confidential, but Cummins said Monday that he is no longer on the hook for the $5,500 the hospital claimed he owed.”They zeroed out my balance,” Cummins said. Cummins’ suit, filed Dec. 21, asked the hospital and its bill collector – Accounts Receivable Services LLC – to “cease and desist their harassment” and “clear the account.”Cummins accused the hospital of sending him repeated letters about a bill related to his son’s surgery in the summer of 2005, and claimed his insurance provider had covered the cost and his deductible had been met before the procedure.”I think [the lawsuit] turned out to be a good thing,” Cummins said. “A lot of people were in the same situation and it made them realize they were not alone. Hopefully this brought a net positive result.”Indeed, after newspaper reports publicized Cummins’ suit, a chorus of public criticism was levied at AVH. One Snowmass attorney even said the hospital’s alleged billing miscues might warrant class-action litigation, though there have been no other local lawsuits.The hospital’s board of directors responded to the complaints at its January meeting, saying that medical billing is a complicated issue, and it would work it out. In doing so, last month the hospital gave frustrated customers a 90-day grace period to settle their billing issues.Last week hospital CEO David Ressler said that about 1,000 of the estimated 3,500 disputed billing accounts have been reviewed during the grace period. The customers are paying some bills, while others have been the hospital’s fault, Ressler reportedly said. Ressler said the hospital is adjusting any hospital errors.Customers with questions about their accounts can call Debby Essex, the hospital’s financial counselor, at 544-7694, or Ed Lockliear, a billing contractor, at (863) 205-3217.Rick Carroll’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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