According to Kaiser Permanente, it has filed a lawsuit in federal court against Queen’s Health System to "protect their patients from unfair billing practices."

Kaiser Permanente says that without a contracted rate for its commercial members, Queen's Health System is threatening to bill patients for the balance of any charges, above what KP pays.

The health care company calls this "balance billing" and says that it is "intolerable and puts patients who may be dealing with serious and stressful health issues in the middle of a contract dispute. The company says it will act to protect its patients.

"While we remain committed to working toward a fair and equitable agreement, we cannot agree to Queen's Health System's demands for unreasonable rate increases. Such payments are unsustainable and would greatly increase medical inflation and escalate the overall cost of care for all Hawaii residents. KP currently is paying what is called usual, customary and reasonable or UCR. These are based on industry benchmarks and existing hospital contracts in the Hawaii market," the company said in a statement.

Minna Sugimoto, a spokesperson for The Queen's Health Systems released the following 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.”