Catholic Healthcare West Expands Discount to Uninsured Patients by Raising Income Requirements
San Francisco-based Catholic Healthcare West announced Friday that it has expanded its financial assistance program to provide discounts to patients with higher annual incomes than previously allowed, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The health system, which includes 37 hospitals in the state, previously provided discounted or free care to patients whose annual income was 200% of the federal poverty level or below -- about $37,700 for a family of four. The new policy will extend discounts to patients with annual incomes up to 300% of the federal poverty level, or $56,550 per year for a family of four, according to hospital Executive Vice President Michael Blaszyk. Families with annual incomes of 200% of the poverty level or below will receive free care. CHW decided to change its policy "in response to the increasing federal scrutiny of aggressive collections tactics of some hospitals nationwide and the high prices they charge uninsured patients," the Chronicle reports (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 3/3). In February, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said that federal regulations do not prevent hospitals from offering discounts to uninsured patients. In a letter sent to Thompson in December, the American Hospital Association asked HHS to change or clarify pricing schedule rules so that hospitals can give discounts to uninsured patients without worrying about violating Medicare rules. According to hospitals, Medicare regulations require them to keep a uniform price list for treatments and procedures for all patients (California Healthline, 3/3).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.