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November 16, 2015

Many Hospitals Keeping Quiet on Charity Care, Study Finds

More than half of nonprofit medical centers do not tell uninsured and underinsured patients that they could be eligible for free or discounted care before attempting to collect unpaid bills from them, The Washington Post reports, citing a new University of Michigan study.

Researchers at the school's Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation reviewed the tax returns of 1,800 nonprofit hospitals to assess compliance with Affordable Care Act mandates that take full effect next year. The requirements include having written policies on who can get discounted care and notifying such patients about their eligibility.

According to the study, published last month in The New England Journal of Medicine, 42 percent of hospitals tell patients about charity-care options before seeking payment from them. One in five hospitals were reporting indebted patients to credit agencies, placing liens on their properties, or garnishing wages.