’60 Minutes’ Examines Hospital Billing Practices
CBS' "60 Minutes" on Sunday examined hospital billing practices for uninsured patients, who often do not receive discounts on medical services provided to those with public or private health insurance.
According to Gerard Anderson, a health policy professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, "virtually all hospitals" charge uninsured patients more than those with health insurance. In addition, because hospital price lists are not available to the public, patients "can't do any comparative shopping," and hospitals have "no reason to control prices," Anderson said.
Carmela Coyle, senior vice president for policy at the American Hospital Association, said that although some hospitals could improve billing practices for uninsured patients, billing practices at many facilities have "changed dramatically, literally in the last year." She added that the U.S. must "find a way to provide health insurance coverage for everybody."
Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who has begun an investigation into the billing practices and charitable activities of not-for-profit hospitals, said that billing practices for uninsured patients are "an institutional bias against uninsured people" and "something to be outraged about." Grassley said that without voluntary revisions to hospital billing practices for uninsured patients "very soon, we'll probably be doing some legislating in that area."
The "60 Minutes" segment also included comments from K.B. Forbes, executive director of Consejo de Latinos Unidos, and uninsured U.S. residents and their families (Rather, "60 Minutes," CBS, 3/5).
The complete transcript of the segment is available online. A video excerpt of the segment is available online in RealPlayer.