Fair is fair. Not charity.

California enacted landmark legislation this year that would allow uninsured — and underinsured — hospital patients negotiate fair rates from hospitals.

As many are well aware, if you’re uninsured and end up in the emergency room, you’re often charged many times what insurance companies pay for the same procedures. Patients have reported visits that cost thousands of dollars per minute. Others have gone into bankruptcy as a result of needing health care at a time they were not insured.

As a result of these unfair and aggressive billing practices by hospitals, the Legislature passed (and governor signed) AB774 (Chan) last year, which would allow uninsured and underinsured patients to pay the same rates at Medicare.

Sen. George Runner, R-Antelope Valley, this year, is authoring a bill to clarify that law. Health Access is working with Sen. Runner’s office to ensure that this effort is a technical clean-up. We appreciated his public commitment at Senate Health Committee yesterday to not move the bill unless it is something that stakeholders like us agree to. We want to ensure the hard-won consumer protections stay strong and that patients are not overcharged and thrown into financial turmoil because they had the misfortune to get sick.

But one clarification of our own: in yesterday’s hearing, Runner repeatedly referred to the practice of “fair hospital pricing” as “charity care.”

The law that Senator Runner is attempting to amend is not about “charity care.” It shouldn’t be considered “charity” if you are simply paying the same price as public programs and big insurer.

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

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