Solution To Overcharging is Universal Health System, Editorial States
Uninsured patients who "are not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid," face "a double whammy": "[n]ot only do they have to pay their own medical expenses, but they often are victims of price-gouging by hospitals that offset lower fees they charge insurers, which have the clout to demand deep discounts," a USA Today editorial states. In addition, "many hospitals employ strong-arm collection tactics," including "garnishing wages, seizing homes and seeking arrest warrants," the editorial adds. While "pressure from scathing publicity and congressional probes" caused the American Hospital Association in December to recommend hospitals "offer discounts to the uninsured and curb aggressive collection tactics," many hospitals "still ignore the guidelines," according to the editorial. A "more rational system would let hospitals recover their costs without gouging patients or violating federal rules," the editorial adds. The editorial concludes, "A long-term solution requires a national commitment to extend health coverage to all," but "[i]n the meantime, safeguards are needed to protect millions of [people] who are forced to subsidize insured patients" (USA Today, 7/2).
"America's hospitals are about people taking care of people, often at the most vulnerable times in life," with a "long tradition of providing charity care," Dick Davidson, president of AHA, writes in a USA Today opinion piece. However, with the growing "uninsured problem," public and private insurers reducing provider payments and insurance companies using "their market power to negotiate deep discounts," it is "no wonder one in three hospitals are losing money and many more are struggling," Davidson writes. According to Davidson, "the uninsured are struggling, too," and that is why AHA recommended that hospitals "ensur[e] that collection practices treat patients with the same dignity and compassion they received at the bedside, and mak[e] useful information about hospital charges available." Hospitals "are doing what we can, but we can't do it alone. The bottom line should be our nation's top priority: health coverage for all," Davidson concludes (Davidson, USA Today, 7/2).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.