Phillips v. Hillcrest Med. Ctr., 244 F.3d 790, 2001 U.S. App. LEXIS 4600 (10th Cir. 2001)

The patient presented with severe chest pain and pneumonia-like symptoms. The hospital took a history, and indicated on the patient’s records that he was “uninsured,” even though the patient stated that he was covered, but simply did not have his insurance card. The patient was examined, was given two prescriptions, and was discharged with instructions to follow-up at a clinic. In the next several days, although he was present at work, his condition deteriorated rapidly and his father took him to another medical center. The physician there suspected pneumonia, but was concerned about something more severe. After additional tests, it was confirmed that the patient suffered from bacterial endocarditis. He died soon thereafter.

The plaintiff alleged that the patient was treated differently due to concerns over his ability to pay and lack of insurance. Despite evidence showing that the nurse at the first hospital was concerned with his insured status, the court found this information to be irrelevant to whether he was treated similar to other patients. Although the court found that it could be relevant in determining whether standard policy was followed, this information was not, in itself, enough to establish a cognizable claim. The court found that the plaintiff alleged nothing more than a misdiagnosis claim, and there was no evidence that standard policies were not followed.

Notes: Although there was cognizable evidence of repeated inquiries into the patient’s insurance status (the nurse actually wrote “uninsured” on the triage form), the court found that so long as policies were followed, this information was not relevant.