Feds Propose Rules to Control Collection Practices at Non-Profit Hospitals

The U.S. Department of Treasury has proposed rules to protect patients from abusive collection practices at charitable hospitals.

Here are some key elements of the department's proposed regulations:

• Tax-exempt hospitals must establish a policy for financial assistance, explain its criteria to patients and provide clear instructions on how to apply for it.

• Hospitals must also publicize the financial assistance policies to ensure patients and community members are aware of the available aid.

• Tax-exempt hospitals are prohibited from certain collection methods, such as reporting a debt to a credit agency or garnishing wages, until it makes a "reasonable effort" to determine whether that individual is eligible for financial assistance. As part of this rule, hospitals must give patients a total of 240 days to submit applications for financial assistance.

• Hospitals cannot charge individuals eligible for its financial assistance more for medically necessary care than the amounts generally billed to insured individuals. If the person is eligible for aid, the hospital must refund any excess payments already made.

• Debt collection activities in emergency departments or other hospital venues where collection activities could interfere with treatment is prohibited.

"In recent months, we have heard concerns about aggressive hospital debt collection activities, including allowing debt collectors to pursue collections in emergency rooms," Acting Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy Emily McMahon said in the release. "These practices jeopardize patient care, and our proposed rules will help ensure they don't happen in charitable hospitals."

More Articles on Hospital sand Collection Practices:

AHA Approves Updated Hospital Billing, Collections Guidelines
Hospital Tax-Exempt Status: Considerations Regarding Maintaining Exempt Status
The Challenge of Non-Profit Status in an Era of Accountable Care

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