Can CA stick me with a 5150 bill?
November 20, 2007 10:30 PM   Subscribe

Hospitalized in California last year under a 5150: is it legal for them to stick me with the bills when I was hospitalized against my will?

I was held under a 5150 in CA in the summer of 2006 (taken away by the SF Bridge Patrol for being found contemplating flinging myself off--if it's relevant, yes, I was over the rail, but not off the bridge). I was taken to SF County, General, wherever you're taken when this happens. While I was in their psych unit, they rifled my wallet, and, upon discovering my insurance card, transferred me to Mills Peninsula, and billed my insurance company for the "treatment" (which was more detrimental than standing at the edge of the bridge contemplating suicide, but that's a rant for another day).
Insurance didn't cover everything, and, in the interests of putting it all behind me, I paid the remainder just to get it overwith. Now I've received another bill from them (something that was supposedly not paid by my insurance), and am not in a position to pay them, not to mention wondering if this whole thing is even legal.
Basically what I want to know is: Can they legally charge me for a hospitalization that was forced upon me? Was the hospital staff at the first location authorized to go through my wallet to find out if I was insured? Are they allowed to transfer me against my will under these circumstances? The receiving hospital claimed it was at capacity, and that because I was insured, I was being sent to a hospital that my insurance would pay for.
If this isn't legal, is it too late for me to recoup anything, seeing as how I already bit the bullet and ponied up the cash?
The original bills totaled up to about $8k, if that's relevant, and I think I ended up paying a little under $1k out of pocket, after the insurance payments.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (9 answers total)
 
It looks like you're screwed.
posted by dhammond at 10:36 PM on November 20, 2007


There is nothing in the link dhammond provided that says you're liable for the cost. Unfortunately, I can't say more than that.
posted by robcorr at 10:52 PM on November 20, 2007


When a medical provider bills a patient for the portion of the bill not picked up by insurance -- that's called "balance billing." There is currently legislation pending in the California legislature that would ban balance billing" especially when a person is forced in an emergency to seek care outside their HMO or insurance network. It sounds like your situation might constitute balance billing, but unfortunately none of the legislation has not passed yet (at least as far as I can tell). Though it looks like the govenor did sign an executive order to ban the practice http://gov.ca.gov/press-release/2613/. Google "balance billing in California" to find out more.
posted by bananafish at 10:53 PM on November 20, 2007


IANAL, but am a law student.

Oddly enough, we had a case like yours in the casebook a few weeks ago. In the case, a person was hospitalized against their will and later went to court to fight the cost of hospitalization. He lost because while he did not go of his own will, in that instance, a state appointed agent (county magistrate?) made the decision in his stead. The court held that the agent was legally appointed in the situation and the guy was liable for the costs. The difference, though, is that the guy was sent to a private hospital, which cost more and a few other things. Course, I can't recall the state it took place in, which can also affect things.

Given the facts, you might find a way to get out of these later costs. But I'd say that the laws for agency (letting someone make the decision for you, when you're deemed "incapacitated") are probably fairly mainstream throughout the country.

things to check is to see if the police/emergency responders followed the proper protocol before sending you to the hospital, rather than to jail. See if they went through the right process to legally assume the position to send you to a hospital. If they didn't, you could hold 'em liable for the costs.

Lastly, I'd investigate the "extra" billing that appears to have popped up. Ask for paperwork from the hospital and a written explanation why the first round of payment didn't cover it. But, then follow up on this aspect of your question, as most likely everything leading up to your hospitalization was correct.
posted by Atreides at 5:08 AM on November 21, 2007


Basically what I want to know is: Can they legally charge me for a hospitalization that was forced upon me? Was the hospital staff at the first location authorized to go through my wallet to find out if I was insured? Are they allowed to transfer me against my will under these circumstances? The receiving hospital claimed it was at capacity, and that because I was insured, I was being sent to a hospital that my insurance would pay for.

IANAL, but yes, they can do all of this. Imagine if you'd been brought in unconscious because of a car accident - the hospital staff would do exactly what you described. Think of the 5150 as the State's way of saying "this guy can't make decisions right now - help him"; getting your insurance information was just SOP.
posted by rtha at 5:50 AM on November 21, 2007


I am a lawyer. Don't take advice from anyone on this thread. Find a free local clinic. Try the closest law schools. No one else here, including me, knows the answer to this.

Don't listen to law students citing a "case they read, can't remember the name." YOU MUST KNOW THE LAW IN YOUR JURSIDICTION--IT IS THE ONLY CONTROLLING LEGAL STANDARD.

Seek free legal help to find out your rights in this situation.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:02 AM on November 21, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yeah, this is complicated. You'll want a lawyer to help you sort through the ins and outs.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:08 AM on November 21, 2007


Find a lawyer.
posted by Happydaz at 10:23 AM on November 21, 2007


Just as a point of interest, how would this be different from normal emergency care-- I get hit by a car and taken without my consent to the hospital, which then bills me for treatment. Does being unconscious or incapacitated constitute consent? (not trying to snark-- looking for the parallels). Admin if this belongs in MetaTalk, my apologies, but I've never quite figured out what goes where or why.
posted by nax at 11:51 AM on November 21, 2007 [2 favorites]


« Older Sales for budget laptops?   |   Is there a classic memoir similar to Elizabeth... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.