New Rules Limit Hospitals’ Collection Fee Tactics

January 28, 2015 Posted by kingcade

The Obama administration has adopted a new set of rules to discourage nonprofit hospitals from using aggressive tactics to collect payment from low-income patients. These new rules require nonprofit hospitals to offer discounts, free care or other financial assistance to low-income patients. In addition, hospitals are required to try and determine whether a patient is eligible for assistance before the case is referred to a debt collector, negative information is sent to a credit agency, a lien is placed on the patient’s home, filing a lawsuit or seeking a court order to garnish a patient’s wages.

The rules apply to nonprofit hospitals that are seeking or have tax-exempt status, about 60 percent of hospitals nationwide. Because the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has endorsed these new rules, health care lawyers believe this could set an industry standard, influencing the practices of for-profit hospitals.

These new rules should make it easier for low- and moderate-income patients to get valuable medical care without having to worry about a large hospital bill or collection agency harassing them for money they do not have. The rules do not prevent a hospital from engaging in lawful debt collection; however, it does require hospitals to first evaluate a patient’s need for financial assistance. In addition, each nonprofit hospital must establish and publicize in a written policy stating who is eligible for financial assistance and how patients can apply.

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