Hospitals Demand Payment Upfront From ER Patients With Routine Problems

Last year, about 80,000 emergency-room patients at hospitals owned by HCA, the nation's largest for-profit hospital chain, left without treatment after being told they would have to first pay $150 because they did not have a true emergency.

Healthcare Financial Management Association

Led by the Nashville-based HCA, a growing number of hospitals have implemented the pay-first policy in an effort to divert patients with routine illnesses from the ER after they undergo a federally required screening. At least half of all hospitals nationwide now charge upfront ER fees, said Rick Gundling, vice president of the , which represents health-care finance executives.

"It has been a successful part of helping to reduce crowding in emergency rooms and to encourage appropriate use of scarce resources," HCA spokesman Ed Fishbough said.

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Source: Kaiser Health News