Hospital pricing policies to be posted on web site

Hospitals' pricing policies for the uninsured will be posted on a web site to be established by the Consejo de Latinos Unidos (Council of United Latinos), the organization has announced.

The council says it will monitor whether hospitals are complying with and informing uninsured patients about their discount and pricing policies, and will solicit financial donations from hospitals to support its program, according to a news item at AHA News Now, the American Hospital Association's on-line news service.

Executive director of the group K.B. Forbes acknowledged that the council has close ties to Archie Lamb, a class-action lawyer, who, along with Richard Scruggs, has sued hundreds of hospitals across the country, challenging their tax-exempt status and alleging unfair billing and collections practices.

Nearly all of the federal lawsuits have been dismissed or withdrawn and at least 37 of the state lawsuits so far have been dismissed., which describe an approach to helping uninsured patients of limited means pay for hospital care, the news item points out.

Court upholds dismissal in tax-exempt status case

The decision confirmed a federal district court's October 2004 decision that the charges were barred by previous state court litigation. The court also stated that EMTALA claims had been properly dismissed because the statute of limitations had expired.

The court added that there was "simply no indication Congress intended EMTALA to address hospitals' bill collections practices."

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs alleged that Baptist Health, the largest health care provider in Alabama, was contractually bound by its tax-exempt status as a charitable organization to provide charity care to uninsured individuals, but breached that contract by its charging practices.

The March 9, 2005, ruling was the first issued by a federal appeals court in a series of lawsuits filed across the country beginning in June 2004 attacking not-for-profit hospitals' tax-exempt status under Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c).

HQA survey planned on patients' perceptions plan to begin collecting data from a new national survey on patients' perceptions of hospital care, with the first public reporting of results scheduled for late 2007.

The Hospital Compare site now enables patients and families to compare the performance of the nation's acute care hospitals on 20 quality measures for care provided to adult patients since 2004 for heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia, and the prevention of surgical infections.

In the latest Hospital Compare posting, for the fourth quarter of 2005, roughly 4,200 hospitals provided information on the 18 measures for heart attack, heart failure, and pneumonia. In addition, 1,349 hospitals provided data on two measures for surgical infection prevention added to the site in September 2005.