Charity care scofflaws face lawsuits, rage

So, here’s even more reason to shake your head and sigh.

I ask again, why would hospitals dodge their obligations, or neglect getting the word out on what good they do, when they’re likely to get their head handed to them on a platter? That’s a question I can’t answer, as an outside analyst, but hospital leaders, I’d love for you to explain what motivates such dumb, counterproductive behavior.

After all, the risks to their institutions are growing bigger by the day. For one thing, federal health reform rules will soon demand that  nonprofit hospitals have written and widely publicized financial-assistance policies that specify eligibility criteria. Hospitals are also barred from going after patients full-on before determining whether patients are indeed eligible for help.

What’s more, states have already begun enacting rules requiring hospitals to offer a sliding scale or free care for patients without insurance. A growing number of consumers and advocacy groups are challenging hospitals that keep slapping poor patients with big bills. Here’s an example from last month, in which Indiana-based Clarian Health is feeling the wrath of consumers:

“Clarian Health hospital system in Indianapolis has been accused of significantly overcharging uninsured patients and patients whose treatments aren’t covered by their health insurer according to a lawsuit…Clarian doesn’t give patients the opportunity to negotiate discounts off the prices listed in the hospital’s chargemaster, and those chargemaster prices don’t reflect Clarian’s actual costs, the lawsuit alleges.” (FierceHealthcare.com)

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