Wednesday, April 30, 2008
The Wall Street Journal reports that some nonprofit hospitals have adopted a payment policy used by many for-profit hospitals: requiring payments up front for patient care. The hospitals are apparently responding to sharp increases in unpaid bills for patients who are not indigent but rather uninsured or underinsured. While major for-profit hospital chains, such as Tenet Healthcare and HCA, have established policies of asking patients to pay before being admitted, it is unclear how far the practice has spread among nonprofit hospitals. The focus of the story is a single hospital, the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and the experience of one chemotherapy patient there. The article also cites a recent IRS report in which 14 percent of the 481 responding nonprofit hospitals stated they required either payment or making an arrangement to pay before providing inpatient services. The IRS report notes in its methodological appendix, however, that the data it reports cannot be projected to the entire universe of tax-exempt hospitals because of certain data gathering limitations. Nevertheless, the article continues the ongoing public scrutiny of nonprofit hospital billing practices.