[…] SB12-134 will result in some significant changes in terms of how uninsured patients are billed when they receive treatment in a hospital (note that the bill only applies to hospitals – outpatient clinics, medical offices, and other non-hospital providers will not be impacted). Most people are aware that private health insurance carriers have negotiated rates that are lower than the “retail” price for medical services. Medicare and Medicaid have even lower negotiated prices. The reason SB12-134 is so important is that uninsured patients (usually those who have the least ability to pay medical bills) typically get charged the retail price. There is usually a cash discount available, but most uninsured patients typically don’t have enough cash sitting around to pay the whole bill up front. So – assuming they are able to pay the bill at all – they often end up on a payment plan (sometimes through a third party where interest rates can rival those of credit cards) and ultimately pay far more than any insurance carrier would pay.
SB12-134 applies to medically necessary care provided to uninsured patients who have a family income of not more than 250% of the federal poverty level ($57,625 for a family of four in 2012). And SB12-134 applies only if the care is not eligible for coverage through the Colorado Indigent Care Program (CICP). For those patients, hospitals may not charge more than the lowest rate they have negotiated with a private health insurance plan. This is a huge change from the status quo.
SB12-134 also requires hospitals to clearly state their financial assistance, charity care, and payment plan information on their website, in patient waiting areas, directly to patients before they are discharged, and in writing on the patients’ billing statements. Hospitals will also have to allow a patient’s bill to go at least 30 days past due before initiating collections procedures. […]