Most NYC Hospitals Provide Uninsured Patients With Information On Financial Assistance

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Most New York City hospitalsare in compliance with a new state law that requires them to inform low-income,uninsured patients about financial assistance for medical treatment, accordingto an investigation by the New York CityCouncil, the New York Times reports.

Under the law, which took effect in January, all New York hospitals must inform uninsured patientsverbally, in writing or prominently placed signage, that they could be eligiblefor state financial aid from an $847 billion charity care hospital fund. Uninsuredpatients with incomes at or below the federal poverty level are eligible forlower health care costs, including a maximum payment of $150 for surgery and$15 for emergency department and clinic visits. Patients with higher incomesare eligible for medical care on a sliding fee scale set by each hospital.

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For the survey, City Council personnel posed as patients or their relatives andmade one call and one visit to 59 hospitals in the city. The investigationfound that staff at 42 of the hospitals gave information about financial aidwithout prompting, while staff at nine hospitals did not offer the informationeven after being prompted. Staff at five of those nine hospitals said patientswho were unable to pay would not receive medical attention. In addition, theinvestigation found that 63% of hospitals had posters about financial assistancein two or more locations, while 22% of hospitals had no signs posted.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn said, "We saw a significant amount ofcompliance, for this early in a law's existence," adding, "But thething about a public health law is that if one person is forgotten, it createsthe real possibility that that one person might not get the lifesavinginformation they need" (Kershaw, New York Times, 10/31).

Reprintedwith permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign upfor email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health PolicyReport is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J.Kaiser Family Foundation.

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