Many uninsured and underinsured patients rely on charity assistance from hospitals and healthcare organizations in order to cover the cost of medical care. Who receives charity care and how much help a patient gets varies from hospital to hospital, depending on each facility’s resources and healthcare accounts receivable constraints.
Recently, however, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued a proposed rule which would serve to regulate charity care awarded to patients at nonprofit hospitals. The rule stipulates which hospitals would be covered by the policies, as well as how qualifying patients would be charged for services.
Many of the proposed changes are much-needed and would greatly benefit self-pay patients who often get charged more for medical treatment than those who are insured. The rule specifically mentions a ban on overcharging and would prevent hospitals from unfairly billing an uninsured patient more than the standard for patients who have insurance coverage.
The IRS also proposes that at least a summary of each hospital’s financial policies be made available to the general public, possibly before or at the time of a patient’s visit. By implementing such procedures, hospital administrators can bring clarity to the healthcare accounts receivable process and help patients understand their payment responsibilities.
Not far behind, the U.S. Treasury Department also issued proposed rules last week which are intended to prevent aggressive medical collections tactics. One part of the plan, for example, would require medical organizations to give patients at least four months to find financial help before their debts can be turned over to a collections agency.
With the medical industry implementing new technologies and the government working on policies to improve patient care and introduce healthcare reform, it’s only natural that other changes will come about as well.