At Colorado Health Insurance Insider we have written before about predatory collection practices at hospitals around the country. And now hospitals can be added to the long list of organizations that will access your credit report at some point during your transaction.
Hospitals say that they pull credit reports on patients who do not have health insurance, as well as those who have high deductibles and out-of-pocket maximums. The stated purpose is to determine which patients should be pursued for payment (those whose credit files indicate they can afford it) and which patients could benefit from charity and medical bill assistance programs. If this is actually the case, then so be it.
But how do we know that hospitals would not use the information in the credit file to deny treatment or offer sub-standard treatment? If a patient with a credit score of 525 and no health insurance goes to the hospital complaining of chest pain, will he get the same level of care as a patient with the same symptoms who has health insurance and/or a credit score of 800?
Some would argue that since hospitals are in the collections business and often have to extensively pursue payment, they have every right to look at our credit files. Every hospital is on its own to collect payment for services rendered, either from health insurance carriers, the government (Medicare and Medicaid), or from patients. Creditors – including hospitals – are entitled to see credit reports. But is this how it should be? Should health care be purchased in the same manner that we buy cars and houses? I can see a slippery slope here, with hospitals offering varying interest rates – based on credit scores – to patients who need payment plans. And of course, those with the least ability to pay would end up with the highest interest rates and payments, since that’s how our financial system works.