Thomas Asks GAO To Collect Hospital Data on Uncompensated Care
House Ways and Means Committee Chair Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) has asked the Government Accountability Office to collect data from hospitals nationwide on uncompensated medical treatment, including charity care and bad debts, CQ HealthBeat reports. Thomas has questioned whether not-for-profit hospitals, which account for about 85% of U.S. hospitals, provide a different type of care for low-income patients compared with care provided by for-profit hospitals, according to CQ HealthBeat.
Jon Ratner, assistant director of Medicare payment issues at GAO, said the agency is receiving data on uncompensated care from individual states but is not contacting individual hospitals. Ratner said the investigation did not involve pricing matters or a class-action lawsuit against not-for-profit hospitals alleging that the hospitals charged uninsured patients more for medical care that what insurers would be charged. Ratner said GAO was in "mid-stream" with its investigation and has had "ongoing conversations" with committee staff.
Ratner declined to comment on the details of Thomas' written request, which Ratner said GAO received in November 2004. Ratner said, "We anticipate a hearing in May. We don't have details." To date, no committee hearings have been scheduled for May, according to a Ways and Means spokesperson (CQ HealthBeat, 3/30).