KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Hospitals Often Don’t Tell Patients About Assistance Programs To Help Pay Bills

ABC reports that although nonprofit hospitals are obligated to give back to the community, they often don't ease the strain for patients with financial difficulties. And in other news, The New York Times looks at efforts to cut emergency room care costs.

ABC News: 'Real Money': Hidden Money At Your Hospital
[Joyce Ann] Huston still owes $25,000 from her original [lupus] diagnosis, and new bills from her ongoing care are mounting. ... what Huston and many others don't realize is that more than half of the nation's hospitals — the nonprofits — are required to give back to the community, often through what is called "Patient Assistance Programs." ... But in one study by Community Catalyst of 100 hospitals, nearly half didn't mention it on their website and almost 70 percent didn't tell patients how to qualify when they called (Faris, 3/28).

The New York Times: The Costs Of Emergency Room Cost-Cutting
For close to 50 years, emergency rooms have been fingered as a major source of excessive health care costs. And while some newer research has challenged the idea that a large proportion of patients visit the emergency room for routine problems, many payers and policy makers continue to focus on these patients as a major source of wasteful spending. Not long ago, for example, in an effort to cut back on Medicaid expenditures, several states zeroed in on these so-called "unwarranted visits" and proposed a policy so apparently logical that it was hard to resist the temptation to slap yourself on the forehead. The proposal was to reimburse for an emergency room visit based on the urgency of the discharge diagnosis. ... But according to the new study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, such a policy relies on a huge, and erroneous, assumption (Chen, 3/28).

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