Hospitals required to offer free or discounted care

Florida, Illinois take action

At least two state legislatures have taken action in recent weeks regarding free or discounted health care services for uninsured patients, according to reports in the on-line news service, AHA News Now.

A Florida House committee passed legislation in late March that would require hospitals to offer a discount program for uninsured patients seeking treatment through emergency departments, but with modifications to an original proposal by the Florida Hospital Association (FHA).

The committee changed the proposed discount for qualified uninsured patients from the 30% or more proposed by FHA in January to a percentage of the Medicare payment rate.

The association was evaluating the impact of the amendment, said FHA spokesman Rich Rasmussen, but had concerns it would leave a number of hospital services uncovered by the discount, since most of the uninsured treated at Florida hospitals are children and pregnant women, who may receive services not covered by the Medicare program.

Also in late March, the Hospital Charity Care Act (SB 2579) passed the Illinois Senate. It would require hospitals in the state to provide free care to uninsured patients whose income is at or below 100% of the federal poverty level, and discounted care to uninsured patients whose income is from 100% to 200% of the poverty level.

As originally proposed by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the bill would have required free care for the uninsured at 300% of the Medicare poverty level and discounted care at 400% of the Medicare poverty level, which would target families earning up to $75,000 per year.

The modified bill, a compromise between the Illinois Hospital Association (IHA) and SEIU, encompasses a set of charity care guidelines adopted by IHA and the Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council in September 2003.

To view the IHA’s charity guidelines, go to www.ihatoday.org