MEMPHIS (AP) - Two lawsuits seeking class-action status allege several Tennessee hospitals routinely overcharge patients through illegal billing practices.

The Commercial Appeal reported Saturday that the lawsuits filed in Shelby County Chancery Court name hospitals in the Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare system and Saint Francis Hospital as defendants. A U.S. District Court judge dismissed a parallel filing, ruling administrative resolutions hadn't been exhausted. The litigation was refiled in federal court.

Plaintiffs' attorney Jimmy Blount says the Memphis hospitals engaged in practices called "substitute billing" or "balance billing," in which hospitals continued trying to collect money from patients after debts were legally extinguished through payments from private insurance companies, TennCare and other programs.

Methodist said in a statement that it believed the suits to be baseless. A spokesman for Saint Francis Hospital-Bartlett declined to comment.

Information from: The Commercial Appeal,

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