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Monday, February 23, 2015

IRS to Hospitals: "Think Twice About Suing Low Income Patients For Unpaid Medical Bills"

Low income family at hospital

Most people who walk into a hospital needing medical care are not concerned or even aware whether the hospital is a for-profit or non-profit facility. There is a difference, one that low-income patients need to be aware of. Why? Because non-profit hospitals are supposed to be fair to low-income patients. But not all of them are.

Non-profit vs for-profit

According to Medicare, a nonprofit hospital is one that does not pay either state or local property taxes or federal income taxes because it is considered a charity who provides certain community benefits in accord with state and federal guidelines. A for-profit, or investor-owned, hospital means the facility is either owned by private investors or is owned publicly by shareholders and is part of a company that issues shares of stock to raise revenue to expand the hospital activities.

What this means to patients

Non-profit hospitals are supposed to offer uncompensated health care to low-income patients. Low-income individuals and families who qualify can receive discounts of 50-90 percent, and even 100 percent. However, many non-profit hospitals have failed to offer financial assistance and even sued poor patients for hospital care expenses that should have been covered by the hospital. The good news is that the IRS is stepping in to do something about it.

Yes, the IRS is a friend to the low-income

The IRS is now taking a strong stand on these hospital practices and are requiring non-profit hospitals to do more in communicating financial aid programs to poor people who qualify for these discounts. This includes publishing more information on the Internet and posting more information in highly visible areas in hospitals where patients can see it.

If you are someone you know thinks they are qualified for discounts, the best thing to do is contact the hospital's billing department for policy information, a discount schedule, and an application.

For more information, visit www.truth-out.org/news/item/28607-new-irs-rules-for-nonprofit-hospitals-who-sue-patients#
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