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Honey v. Bayhealth Medical Center, Inc.

Superior Court of Delaware, Kent

July 28, 2015

JEAN F. HONEY, Plaintiff,
v.
BAYHEALTH MEDICAL CENTER, INC., a Delaware corporation, and ERIC M. HITCHCOCK, D.O., Defendants.

Submitted: July 17, 2015

Upon Consideration of Defendants' Motion in Limine to Preclude Plaintiff from Introducing Medical Expenses Exceeding Amounts Actually Paid or Payable by Medicare GRANTED

William D. Fletcher, Jr., Esquire, Schmittinger & Rodriguez, P.A., Dover, Delaware for Plaintiff.

James E. Drnec, Esquire, and Melony R. Anderson, Esquire, Balick & Balick, LLC, Wilmington, Delaware for Defendant Bayhealth Medical Center, Inc.

Bradley J. Goewert, Esquire, and Lorenza A. Wolhar, Esquire, Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin, Wilmington, Delaware for Defendant Eric M. Hitchcock, D.O.

ORDER

Robert B. Young J.

SUMMARY

The Delaware Supreme Court in Stayton v. Delaware Health Corp., [1]recently determined limits of the collateral source rule regarding healthcare bill amounts written-off by medical providers, where the injured party is covered by Medicare. The Stayton Court held that an injured Plaintiff's damages stemming from the costs of medical treatment are limited to amounts actually paid by Medicare, rather than the amounts billed to Medicare.

During the Supreme Court's consideration of that issue, Bayhealth Medical Center, Inc. ("Defendant Bayhealth") and Dr. Eric M. Hitchock ("Defendant Dr. Hitchock, " and, together with Bayhealth "Defendants") filed a motion in limine in the case at bar, seeking to prevent Jean F. Honey ("Plaintiff"), a Medicare Advantage enrollee, from presenting evidence of medical expenses above that which her Medicare Advantage insurer, Bravo Health, Inc. ("Bravo Health") actually paid. Given the pending case before the Supreme Court, which concerned the Medicare issue, the Court stayed consideration of Defendants' motion.

Although the Supreme Court's ruling resolves the question regarding the collateral source rule and Medicare write-offs, it does not specifically address situations in which a plaintiff is enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, such as the one administered by Bravo Health. This case requires determination as to whether the Plaintiff in the case at bar was insured under traditional Medicare, and, thus, is subject to Stayton's limitation on the collateral source rule, or was instead covered by a private health insurer.

For the reasons that follow, the Court finds that Bravo Health, and other Medicare Advantage insurers are within the larger Medicare system. Thus, Plaintiff was insured by Medicare, and the Court GRANTS Defendants' motion, consistent with the Supreme Court's directive in Stayton.

FACTS AND PROCEDURES

On March 1, 2012, Plaintiff underwent a laparoscopic cholecystectomy at Bayhealth's Milford Memorial Hospital, performed by Defendant Dr. Hitchcock. Plaintiff alleges that the surgery resulted in a urinary bladder laceration, leading to further complications from an undetected post-operative intra-abdominal hemorrhage. Defendant Dr. Hitchock's negligent conduct in performing the surgery, is purported to be the cause of Plaintiff's injuries. Plaintiff claims she suffered from immense pain and suffering, as well as having endured injuries to her gastrointestinal and urinary systems.

On May 16, 2013, Plaintiff filed an action sounding in medical negligence against Defendant Dr. Hitchcock and Defendant Bayhealth. Plaintiff's Complaint alleges $217, 437.50 in damages stemming from the treatment of Plaintiff's injuries, and that she will incur greater medical expenses in the future. At the time of Plaintiff's surgery, she was enrolled in a Medical Advantage program ...


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