New website on hospital “fair pricing” policies…

On the eve of a vote on a major health reform, it’s good to see reforms passed in previous years bear fruit.

There’s a new website out today, that helps uninsured and underinsured hospital patients and health consumers, by allowing them to find the fair pricing and free care policies of any hospital in California, including those in their area.

A new California law, sponsored by Health Access California in 2006, now requires hospitals to make public their guidelines for their pricing policies, and this website will help in getting that information out to the public. Uninsured or underinsured hospital patients have long been charged several times what insurers and government programs pay for exactly the same service. The new law makes sure than low- and moderate-income Californians should not be overcharged, and that hospitals make public their eligibility policies about providing free or discounted care.

The website, even in “stage one” of its development, is a one-stop shopping, allowing people to use Google Maps to identify hospitals in a given area, and then have access to the “fair pricing” eligibility policies, financial assistance applications, and the contact person of a key contacts at each hospital. It is expected to include the information for all 400 hospitals in California.

This will be a big boon to those who get a big hospital bill, and are looking for what financial assistance might be available.

The Web site, sponsored by the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD), can be accessed at:
www.oshpd.ca.gov/fairpricing

The bill, AB774(Chan), sponsored by Health Access Californian and signed into law in 2006, states that self-pay patients under 350% of the federal poverty level (around $72,000 for a family of four) should not have to pay more than the Medicare or Medi-Cal rate for hospital services. It also requires that uninsured and underinsured hospital patients get information about their consumer rights and financial options, and that hospital make public their policies of who qualifies for financial assistance, including fair prices, reduced prices, and free care. Along with a New York law also passed in 2006, it is the nation’s strongest in preventing hospital overcharging.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.

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