Thursday, September 25, 2008

Health Train Discounts--at last

Illinois Law Compels Hospitals to Give Uninsured Patients a Price Break

Posted by Jacob Goldstein

Nobody pays list price at hospitals — except the uninsured. A new law in Illinois will change that for many families, the Chicago Tribune reports.

The law allows hospitals to charge patients for the cost of care, plus a mark-up of 35%. That may not strike you as a fantastic bargain, but it’s still a lot less than list prices, which can run to two to three times the cost of care. In urban areas, the law applies to those making up to six times the federal poverty level ($127,200 for a family of four); in rural areas where the cost of living is lower, the law applies to those making up to three times the poverty level.

The law also caps total charges at 25% of the gross annual income of qualified families, assuming the patient doesn’t have lots of assets squirreled away.

Illinois’s governor recently issued a veto of the bill that would have raised the income caps (apparently, Illinois law allows for amendatory vetos). But the state’s hospital association — which backed the initial version of the bill — said the higher caps could jeopardize the finances of some hospitals. And this week, the state’s legislature overrode the veto by an overwhelming margin, passing the original version of the bill into law.

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