Advocates: Nonprofit Hospitals Too Quiet About Charity Care

Kaiser Health News: Two advocate groups say hospitals make it too difficult for patients to find out whether they are eligible for free or discounted care. Access Project and Community Catalyst, the two groups, released the results of a small, 99-hospital survey Wednesday. The American Hospital Association contends that's too small to be meaningful, and that, at any rate, the issues it raises have been addressed in the health overhaul. The new health law will require nonprofit hospitals to publicize information about their charity care policy, limit what they can charge eligible people, and "bar 'extraordinary' debt collection" until a patient's eligibility for discounts is determined (Appleby, 5/5). 

The Columbus Dispatch: "The groups found that about 85 percent of hospitals mention charity-care programs to patients, fewer than half provide applications for financial help, and a quarter post eligibility criteria for the programs on their websites." The Dispatch also explains why some hospitals provide charity care in the first place: "In lieu of paying federal or state taxes, nonprofit hospitals are expected to provide free or discounted medical care to low-income patients" (Hoholik, 5/6).

Modern Healthcare: "The study also comes five years after a similar report from the Access Project, which found that despite assurances at the time from the American Hospital Association, hospital executives were reticent to even participate in a survey on the posting of charity-care policies. That study followed an AHA announcement at the time that 80% of its members had signed pledges to abide by voluntary charity-care guidelines" (Carlson, 5/5).

This is part of Kaiser Health News' Daily Report - a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. The full summary of the day's news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.