Patients await Zuckerberg hospital's new policy to combat balance billing

Some Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital patients are facing uncertainty about their outstanding out-of-pocket costs as the hospital prepares to reveal details of a new billing policy, Vox reported.

Zuckerberg San Francisco General — renamed after Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, MD, donated $75 million to the hospital — is San Francisco's largest public hospital and houses a level 1 trauma center.

Although the hospital primarily treats Medicare, Medicaid and uninsured patients, it has been in the news since a recent Vox report revealed the hospital is out of network with all private health plans, which can leave patients with massive bills.

After the report, the hospital announced Feb. 1 that it is temporarily halting balance billing as it finalizes a plan to address billing issues in the long term.

Balance billing occurs when privately insured patients receive trauma or emergency services from an out-of-network provider and are billed for the balance after the insurance company pays its portion.

For 90 days, the hospital agreed it would not initiate or continue balance billing.

"We will hold these patients' bills and then follow the new [long-term] policy once it is in place," hospital spokesperson Brent Andrew told Becker's earlier this month. "We will continue to bill insurance companies for services during this time."

The hospital plans to reveal details of a new billing policy on Feb. 21, the same day as a San Francisco Board of Supervisors hearing on the hospital's billing practices, Vox reports.

But for now, the report states, some patients with outstanding bills — some as high as $10,400 — are uncertain about the amount they'll ultimately owe, or how the debt will affect their credit.

Vox reached out to Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital spokesperson Rachael Kagan for more clarity on the matter and was told the new temporary pause in billing applies to balances that have entered collection.

When the publication asked about patients who had not been notified of the new policy, Ms. Kagan said: "We are working individually with patients and insurance companies that have disputed bills. We have announced the temporary halt and encourage any patient with a question to call us."

 

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