Kaiser Permanente Hawaii has sued the Queen's Health System in federal court after it said the parties failed to reach agreement over a hospital provider contract that expired last month.
Kaiser said in a news release issued Wednesday that the dispute will impact services to members provided by Queen's Medical Center, the state's only level one trauma hospital, Queen's Medical Center-West Oahu, North Hawaii Community Hospital and Molokai General Hospital.
"We are disappionted that QHS has rejected multiple offers for a fair and reasonable contract and has not given any indication of compromise from their original demands. As a result, the four hospitals are now considered non-participating providers and are no longer a part of our Kaiser Permanente (KP) network," Kaiser said.
The health care network said Kaiser Permanente's Medicare and Medicaid (Quest) services will be paid at original rates and that Queen's recently said it plans to attempt to collect a balance of charges from Kaiser's commercial members who receive care at Queen's hospitals -- charges that are above what Kaiser says it pays as "usual and customary."
"This 'balance billing' is an unfair practice that puts patients, who may already be dealing with serious and stressful health issues, in the middle of a contract dispute," Kaiser stated.
Kaiser said it filed its lawsuit to protect patients from such "unfair billing practices," adding it is confident it will prevail in court.
Queen's issued its own statement: "Queen's is in the process of reviewing the lawsuit. While we do not comment on pending litigation, we can say that we will continue to ensure all patients who seek our help, regardless of insurance coverage, receive the highest quality of care. It has been our mission for 160 years to provide great clinical care for all the people of Hawaii, and we will continue to serve all patients, including Kaiser members, any time they need our services."
Kaiser said members who are currently receiving treatment at Queen's will not have their care interrupted, but for future referrals, "we will coordinate care for our members with quality contracted providers."