The recently passed Affordable Care Act is one of the most significant laws that has been passed in recent history in terms of health care costs and how they impact low income and uninsured patients. The law deals primarily with the way in which hospitals may collect outstanding funds from patients.
Among other changes, the act has acted as an impetus for hospital boards to reevaluate the way in which they assess patients and their ability to pay for care.
Not For Profit Hospitals
Private, not for profit hospitals, are affected by this act, and subject to a number of stipulations under it. Many of these stipulations deal with the way in which patient’s financial needs are addressed. Hospitals must now comply with limits on the degree to which they may make collection efforts. In many cases, they will now also be required to approve financial aid for patients.
Surrounded By Controversey
The act comes on the heels of some controversy over the ways in which hospitals were formerly collecting debts. It will no longer be legal for hospitals to use aggressive measures such as selling debts to third party collectors or taking out liens on patients and their families. Now, before any such action is taken, hospitals are required to offer financial aid to low income patients.
Because of this, many hospitals are offering financial assistance before care is even administered. It is beneficial for both the the hospital and the patient to offer more reasonable rates and payment plans, as addressing the issue of need before services are rendered can take less time and money than attempting to sort out aid and altered payment after the fact.
Most hospital boards are currently in the process of weighing their own policies against the conditions of the act. Because the responsibility to address financial policies and needs now rests on the hospital rather than the patient, many facilities are taking extra care to ensure that any patient they treat is appropriately identified as low income.
There are serious financial consequences for hospitals who do not comply to the conditions of the act, so extra care is being taken during the initial admissions process to ensure that there is open communication and clarity between hospital and patient in terms of the cost of care and patients’ ability to pay.
Low Income Patients
Many hospitals are even identifying potentially low income patients by looking at indicators such as previous enrollment in assistance programs, and beginning the process of submitting qualified patients for aid before patients ask to be included in relief programs.
Enrolling patients automatically helps hospitals lower the amount of bad debt they hold, as a large amount of the country’s defaulted debt is affiliated with patients who could have received help from non-profits or other agencies, but did not take the correct steps to apply for certain programs.
The Affordable Care Act seems poised to benefit both patients, who may now receive the care they need without facing insurmountable debt, as well as hospitals, who may look forward to having more of their costs defrayed by non-profit and charity programs.
About the Author: Kenneth Gray is an expert in medical billing and coding from his time as the CEO of A-Fordable Billing Solution. Learn more about medical billing and coding by reading their free medical coding guide.