Can’t Pay Hospital Bills? Advocates, Lawmakers Pushing for Help
According to the nonprofit Urban Institute, roughly 1 in 7 U.S. residents with a credit record has medical debt in collections.
With more Americans facing hospital debt due to the repercussions of COVID-19, patient advocates and some state governments say hospitals must do more to help patients deal with medical bills before the debt winds up in collections.
They say many people miss out on assistance because they didn’t know about the help or hospitals didn’t do enough to work with patients.
The Affordable Care Act requires nonprofit hospitals to notify patients about financial assistance they provide. But it leaves details on how that is done largely up to them. Hospitals say they often notify patients several times about help, and they’ve eased income limits for assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, hospitals say that they already often notify patients several times about available help. They’ve also eased income limits for assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic, and some have smoothed out hard applications.
Rick Gundling, a senior vice president with the Healthcare Financial Management Association, which consults with hospitals said that it could be challenging to identify specific people who need help.
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“I think many times when the patient doesn’t have the money, they retreat or they don’t ask for help when the hospital can help,” he said.
Medical center spokesman Mike Alday said medical centers have to confirm a patient’s financial need before providing help, and the information it requests is standard among hospitals.
Alday said the medical center makes financial counselors available and offers discounts and payment plans if patients don’t complete financial aid applications. It would give someone with a $1,500 outstanding balance 18 months to pay it off. That amounts to monthly payments of around $83.
Now, patients are clamoring for aid for their bills. If you need help with your hospital bills, contact your hospital to see if they are providing certain assistance. Make sure you keep your records to make sure you can avail any available aid.
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