Uninsured Coloradans need financial assistance information so they can responsibly pay their hospital bills.  Coloradans should not be afraid to seek the care they need when they need it because of fear of costs. The Hospital Payment Assistance Act, introduced in the Colorado Senate this week, would help working families who cannot afford insurance to responsibly pay their hospital bills.

If passed, the bill would improve transparency in hospital billing procedures; establish a standard for hospital’s debt collection policies and limit the amount hospitals can charge the uninsured for services. 

Uninsured patients, who do not have the bargaining power of large insurance companies or public programs, are charged much higher prices for hospital care than those with insurance. Public programs and private insurers negotiate lower prices with hospitals, uninsured patients are the only group that pays the full listed prices for hospital care. These higher prices are a significant hardship for working families that already struggle to afford medical care, forcing many patients to go into debt, or even declare bankruptcy.

The Hospital Payment Assistance Act outlines three mechanisms for improving the opportunity for patients to pay their hospital bills:

  1. Increases transparency standards: SB12-134 would require hospitals to make information about the discount program and charity care policies available in hospitals and on hospital websites. Patients would also receive this information while they are in the hospital and with their hospital bills.
  2. Establishes debt collection as the final option: SB12-134 would require hospitals to offer to screen uninsured patients for the discount program and other financial assistance or charity care programs before collections procedures and to offer payment plans to uninsured patients to allow them an option to pay for their own care.  The amount paid by uninsured patients annually would be limited to 5% of their total income.
  3. Puts limits on hospital prices for the uninsured: SB12-134 would limit the amount that low-income uninsured patients (400% of Federal Poverty Level or below) can pay to the actual cost of providing care, as determined by annual Medicare cost reports.

Many Coloradans face severe medical debt and often bankruptcy due to hospital bills.  The truth is, no one wants to be in debt.  Coloradans that have shared their stories with us have said that they want to take responsibility and pay their bills.  But, in order to do this people need to know the options available to them.

Getting adequate and affordable care is not too much to ask — working families who cannot afford health insurance want to responsibly pay their hospital bills and need the information to do so.

Do you want to be involved in our work on this bill?  Please contact Ashley Wheeland at awheeland@cohealthintiative.org for more information about how to get involved.  Have you personally faced excessive debt from a hospital bill?  Tell us your story.

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