American Hospital Association Issues Alert on Billing Practices for the Uninsured
The Wall Street Journal today looks at an "Alert" the American Hospital Association issued last month urging hospitals to evaluate their billing, charity care and debt collection practices in the wake of increased media attention to, and government scrutiny of, their billing practices for uninsured patients. Although hospitals charge private health plans and public health insurance programs discounted prices for services, they typically charge uninsured patients the full listed care charges. Hospitals say that HMOs, lower reimbursement rates from other payers and Medicare rules that require uniform pricing have forced them to change their pricing strategies, according to the Journal. The AHA memo, which was sent to every state hospital association and to CEOs of 4,800 hospitals nationwide, urged hospitals to improve disclosure of their pricing strategies, proactively identify and assist low-income patients who might qualify for subsidized or charity care and be "kinder and gentler in collecting what is owed to them," the Journal reports. Some hospitals employ outside collection agencies and attorneys to extract payment from uninsured patients by filing lawsuits, placing liens on homes, seizing bank accounts and garnishing wages. The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce has confirmed that it has initiated a preliminary investigation into hospital pricing practices (Lagnado, Wall Street Journal, 7/7).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.