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Sunday, June 23, 2013

AP: Toothless Reform Giving Inadequate Protection From Medical Bankruptcy

Posted By on Sun, Jun 23, 2013 at 11:00 AM

A key provision of the Affordable Care Act—designed to limit hospital charges to the nation's most financially vulnerable citizens—appears to be on life support.

The Associated Press reports that the federal law was crafted in order to ensure hospitals charge uninsured patients no more than those with health insurance are billed. The idea was to keep tens of thousands of families away from bankruptcy caused by insurmountable hospital bills.

But the AP reports that the effort is toothless because No. 1: the U.S. government isn't doing an adequate job with enforcement and No. 2: only nonprofit institutions are affected, meaning about 40 percent of all community hospitals are exempt.

The consumer advocacy group Community Catalyst says its analysis reveals that most hospitals are still without a clear formula to determine how deep a discount is reasonable and rules still haven't been sent to hospitals, three years after the Affordable Care Act went into effect.

The AP reports that as written, "the law leaves it up to hospitals to determine which uninsured people qualify for discounted bills, and that could create a whole new set of disparities."

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