Some California hospitals fail to comply with charity care transparency law: report

In January, a law went into effect in California requiring hospitals to post their financial assistance policies on their websites. More than nine months later, some still had not complied, the Los Angeles Times reported Nov. 29. 

A 2019 Kaiser Health News investigation found that nearly half of nonprofit hospitals nationwide were sending medical bills to low-income patients who qualified for charity care. California's law, AB 1020, increased the income level under which hospitals were required to offer charity care in addition to requiring them to be listed online. Posting the financial assistance policies is designed to help patients understand what they are eligible for more easily, according to the newspaper. 

Bernadette Manigault, a senior attorney with Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, told the Times this information can be "incredibly difficult to find for the average consumer." She said she was "surprised but not surprised" that some hospitals still had not complied. 

CHA Hollywood (Calif.) Presbyterian Medical Center, Salinas-based Natividad Medical Center, Colton-based Arrowhead Regional Medical Center and Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital were among those that allegedly did not have policies posted online until a Times reporter contacted them. Some said they were still revising their policies, while others posted them within days after being contacted by the Times

"It's the easiest of the requirements," Anthony Wright, executive director of consumer advocacy coalition Health Access California, told the newspaper. "If they're not doing that, then I worry about the other things." 

"The other things" Mr. Wright refers to involve changes AB 1020 mandated involving debt collection and discount eligibility for low-income patients. 

In June, California Attorney General Rob Bonta issued a consumer alert and sent letters to hospitals after receiving complaints they were not complying with the new policy, according to the newspaper. In October, a spokesperson for Mr. Bonta's office told the Times it "stands ready to enforce the law and use every tool we have at our disposal to make sure patients and their families do not have to suffer from needlessly high medical costs or be forced to choose between going to a doctor or being able to pay the bills." 

However, the spokesperson did not confirm or deny whether an investigation was taking place, according to the newspaper.

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