HOSPITALS/POLICY: Hospitals and the uninsured–a discount’s OK

Hospitals that have been complaining that Medicare won’t let them discount to the uninsured have been told that by the Bush Administration they are wrong and that they can. Last year I wrote about how providers have been charging cash payers more than the insured’s wholesale price and that they come after you for the money.

In a related story, those hospitals who were chasing down patients and putting them in jail for non-payment are finding out that collecting on the "body attachments" will be very expensive. The WSJ reports:

    In an unusual move that is sending shock waves across the hospital industry, Illinois authorities have revoked the tax-exempt status of a prominent Catholic hospital. Their decision follows a determination by local tax authorities that the hospital wasn’t a charitable institution, in part because of the way it treated needy patients.

    As a result, Provena Covenant Medical Center, a hospital in Urbana with 270 licensed beds, will have to pay $1 million in property taxes, though the hospital says it plans to appeal. More worrisome to hospital-industry officials is the possibility that not-for-profit hospitals nationwide could find their tax-free status as charitable institutions challenged on similar grounds.

Last year at Bard Parker’s request I wrote some comments in his medical and Georgia Bulldog football blog A Chance to Cut to respond to his post about it. I basically said that the bad publicity would outweigh the benefits for these hospitals (scroll down to the very bottom of this page for my comments published over there). I’m obviously getting prophetic in my old age!

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