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Group: Hospitals should detail charity care policies online

Posted February 11, 2010

Too few hospitals in North Carolina are getting the word out about care they provide for free or at deep discount to needy patients, according to a report released Thursday.

The "How Charitable are North Carolina's Hospitals?" report looks at how well hospitals statewide promote public health for those in need. It was published by the Health Access Coalition, which is part of the NC Justice Center, a left-leaning think tank.

Report: Hospitals give scant info on care for needy Report: Hospital info on care for needy scant

According to the report, only 41 of 112 hospitals statewide post comprehensive charity care policies online. The lack of information can create confusion about income eligibility levels, asset limits and discounts for catastrophic care, said Adam Linker, a policy analyst with the Health Access Coalition and author of the report.

"It's not a radical suggestion, we don't think, to have all hospitals post detailed policies on their Web sites," Linker said.

Many hospitals won't share their charity care policies unless someone is a patient, he said, adding that it's then too late for someone who can't afford the care they're receiving.

"Low-income people who don't have insurance should not be stuck with large medical bills," he said.

Rhonda Robinson, 44, is an unemployed single mother who suffers from epilepsy and grand mal seizures. She was rushed to a hospital three times last year and, without medical insurance, has amassed more than $111,000 in bills to date.

"Everything's a struggle," Robinson said. "I'm really stuck."

She gets a $400 workers compensation check every week, but her prescription medicines cost about $300 each month. She said she usually cannot make ends meet.

Linker said the larger Triangle hospitals, including WakeMed, Rex Healthcare, Duke University Health System and UNC Hospitals, spell out their charity care policies fairly well. Others could do better job of telling patients about their policies, he said.

Robinson said she was never told about charity care when she was in the hospital. She has applied for retroactive assistance.

"I'm just praying I qualify for this charity care. I never thought I'd say that, but I'm desperate right now," she said.

Winston-Salem-based Novant Health provides the most generous charity care policy in North Carolina, Linker said, adding that he believes policies would become fairly standard statewide if all hospitals posted them online.

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  • sqstroublemaker Feb 11, 2010

    Wayne Memorial Hospital is one such hospital that neither clearly states or follows the charity aid program. When you do qualify for the program this hospital just waits about a year then files for a civil judgment. Then when you answer their complaint, they go a step further to file for a summary judgment against you. When you go into court, the judge says it doesn't matter if you qualified for the program or not just whether you owe the bill or not and then gives Wayne memorial a summary judgment that hits the public record and your credit report.

    Why would they do this to people already living on minimal income when they would both help the patient and get paid if they were to follow the charity aid rules they have set?

    For this hospital it has nothing to do with helping those in need, only the bottom line of a buck while they kick those already down on their luck.