Oregon's nonprofit hospitals are ignoring charity care law, report finds 

An Oregon law went into effect in 2020 that requires nonprofit hospitals to screen all patients within 200 percent of the federal poverty level for discounts, but a Dollar For report found that hospitals are "not meaningfully screening patients for financial assistance eligibility but are instead sending low-income patients to collection."

Dollar For, a Portland, Ore.-based patient advocacy group, conducted a data-driven evaluation of the Oregon case filing system, public hospital financial data and federal hospital tax filings, according to the report released Feb. 28. 

"This report concludes that most Oregon hospital financial assistance programs are not compliant with the law, fail to bring in hospital revenue and leave thousands of patients with court judgments for medical debt they cannot and should not have to pay," the report stated.

Three things to know:

1. Since the requirement to screen patients went into effect, 42 of Oregon's 60 nonprofit hospitals gave less charity care than they did the year before. 

2. An estimated 4 in 9 patients sued for medical debt are entitled to have their bill written off. 

3. Patient self-pay amounts account for 1.6 percent of hospital revenue. 

"The burden must shift to the hospital to adequately screen patients for us to see real change as patients can't be expected to navigate an already-complex system alone," Dollar For founder Jared Walker said in a Feb. 28 news release. "These laws are safety nets for people who deserve to be screened before being subjected to the devastating consequences of medical debt — it's time we start using them accordingly."

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