by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
A unanimous three-judge panel of the N.C. Court of Appeals has upheld a lower-court ruling favoring UNC Health Care in a class-action lawsuit involving charges for operating room time.
Alexander Julian III, a Carrboro-based science fiction writer and not the similarly named fashion designer, had brought the suit. It challenged the hospital’s ability to charge patients for half-hour increments of operating room time. Julian had been billed for 2.5 hours of operating room time for a procedure that lasted two hours and four minutes. He argued that the extra charge amounted to a breach of contract between the hospital and its patients.
A trial judge dismissed the case in November 2017. The three-judge panel affirmed that decision.
“[T]he ‘component’ of a healthcare procedure at issue here is a half-hour block of operating room time,” Judge Richard Dietz wrote for the panel. “The hospital supplied that component to Julian, although he did not use it in full. This is no different from charging a patient for a bag of solution used in an intravenous fluid drip even though the patient does not use every drop of fluid in the bag. The plain language of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 131E-273 permits a hospital to bill for these types of components of a procedure even if they are only partially used.”