Ventura County Board of Supervisors Approves Plan To Expand Discounts for Uninsured Patients
In response to the increasing number of uninsured residents, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a proposal to expand "steeply discounted rates" that Ventura County Medical Center offers to low-income patients to include some higher-income uninsured patients, the Los Angeles Times reports. The discounts, which previously have been available to uninsured patients with annual incomes slightly higher than the income eligibility level for Medi-Cal or Medicare, will now be tiered by income and family size. Under the plan, patients with annual household incomes of about $30,000 will be eligible for a 75% discount on regular costs or a payment equal to about 50% of Medicare rates, whichever would result in the lowest payment. Families that earn as much as $75,000 annually will qualify for a 25% discount, or a charge of 80% of Medicare rates. Obstetric care, including infant delivery, is excluded from the discount policy, but VCMC will offer packages for such care that are comparable with prices at other hospitals. "Our goal is that when they come to the hospital or to our clinics, they will have a better understanding of what their costs will be and will be more realistic about our expectations of payment," VCMC Administrator Michael Powers said. Jim Lott, spokesperson for the Southern California Hospital Association, said that most California hospitals offer special payment rates for uninsured patients but noted that the VCMC plan is "likely to be somewhat precedent-setting" because it offers discounted rates to people with a wider range of incomes and makes the discounts available immediately. Federal Medicare regulations prohibit hospitals from charging different rates for patients, which has complicated hospitals' efforts to provide discounts to the uninsured, but some other hospitals also have "chosen to defy those rules," according to Lott. VCMC is the only public hospital in Ventura County (Saillant, Los Angeles Times, 2/11).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.