UNPAID BILLS: Hospital Charges Interest Via Credit Card
A Florida hospital, fed up with overdue and unpaid bills, this month will require patients seeking non-emergency care to present proof of insurance, pay a 50% security deposit or use a "health care credit card" -- with the debt accruing interest after 90 days. The Daytona Beach News-Journal reports that Halifax Medical Center's move "marks the first time [local] patients will be required to pay interest on their hospital bill." The cards issued by Chevy Chase, MD-based Health Charge Corp. -- which contracts with about 100 hospitals nationwide -- carry an APR of about 14%, and the company says it "recovers payment on between 50% and 97% of bills." That would be quite an improvement for Halifax, which currently receives full payment from about 10% of self-paying customers, resulting in $36 million in bad debt and a $4 million deficit. Halifax Administrator Dan Lang said, "This is just one small part of creating a new expectation at the hospital for establishing responsibility for payment up front. There also are a lot of uninsured people who can't afford the full cost of care, but we think there's an opportunity for (those) people to pay at least part of it." Halifax is also bringing its patient accounting system back in- house, and is trying to get "eligible residents to apply for Medicaid status when they seek to use hospital services" (Berson, 1/29).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.