Sunday, February 3, 2008
Charity care by hospitals and whether nonprofit hospitals should be treated as charities have been hot issues in recent years. California has just begun posting information reported by California hospitals, including information about the free care and discounted care each hospital provides. California's Hospital Fair Pricing Policies became effective January 1, 2006 and require hospitals to report information to the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. That Office had a year to ready the online list, which is now posted on its website.
The stated purpose of the policies and the posted information is to increase public awareness of charity care and discounted care with the goal of making healthcare widely accessible. The interesting byproduct, though, is that the data gives anyone who is interested a chance to compare the level of charity care provided by California hospitals. The data includes whether the hospital operates an emergency room, the federal poverty level required for free care, and the level required for discounted care. The site provides information on a hospital-by-hospital basis, making comparisons time-consuming, but someone concerned about the level of charity care now has access to that data.