California Law Likely Resulted In Lower Bills, Free Care For Uninsured

A California law limiting how much hospitals can charge the uninsured likely resulted in lower bills for many patients — and free care for most of the state’s poorest uninsured residents, according to a study published today in the journal Health Affairs.

While some hospitals around the country have voluntarily agreed to reduce how much they charge the uninsured, the California law, passed in 2006, requires hospitals to draw up financial assistance policies. The law also prohibits hospitals from charging higher rates to uninsured patients who earn less than 350 percent of the federal poverty level, or less than $40,215 for an individual this year, than those paid by Medicare patients. The same rule applies to those whose annual medical expenses exceed 10 percent of their income.

Unlike some other state rules — and the federal health law – the California legislation is “specific and it actually sets a cap,” said study author Glenn Melnick, a health care finance professor at the University of Southern California.

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Source: Kaiser Health News