May 13, 2005 – A study released yesterday revealed that many US hospitals fail to inform patients in low- or middle-income groups who have lack adequate health insurance how to access free or reduced rates.
The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and the Access Project phoned members of the American Hospital Association (AHA), which had issued guidelines 18 months ago detailing how hospitals should develop polices on financial assistance, or "charity care," and communicate those policies to patients and the communities they serve. The Access Project indicated that the AHA claims that over 4,200 hospitals have committed to following the guidelines.
However, the surveyors who asked about the policies found that it was still nearly impossible to learn about the low or free care programs the hospitals offer.
"The result of hospitals' failure to communicate their policies is many low and middle income, uninsured or under-insured people having their lives ruined by crushing medical debt," ACORN said in a press statement.
The groups urged hospitals to provide copies of their financial assistance policies to all who request them, and to collaborate with low-income community leaders to monitor the effectiveness of those policies.