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Uninsured Patients Given The Right To Know

Posted on August 23, 2008

Beginning the first day of next year, the Health Care Consumer’;s Right to Information Act becomes law. 

This will provide the uninsured medical consumer with reliable and understandable information about health care charges so a patient can make an informed decision.

Often it is the uninsured patient, seeking doctor or hospital services, who is charged a full retail rate, which is higher than the rate an insured patient pays.

That’;s because an insured patient’;s insurance company has generally negotiated a more reasonable rate for medical procedures.

This puts the uninsured at a distinct disadvantage. The uninsured are more likely to be sued by a medical provider,have liens placed against their property, and have their wages garnished.

This Act requires that an uninsured patient receive a reasonable estimate of charges whether from a hospital, ambulatory center, osteopath, or allopathic physician for any planned nonemergency health care. It must be written in a clear, understandable way and must give the charge of a specific procedure or for that type of disgnosis.

And, the consumer must be told whether there are any discounts or charity policies available to them.  

This requirement applies to facilities not operated by the state. The facility must also post the discount information or be subject to a $500 fine.

A patient who wants to know what the standard retail rate is for 150 of the most commonly performed inpatient, outpatient, diagnostic, or preventive adult and pediatric procedures, can check with the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, which must publish that information on its Web site so a patient can see if the charges fall in line with what’;s considered reasonable.  

It’;s ironic that people who have the least ability to pay are the ones preyed on by the medical establishment.  Hospitals can be very aggressive about collecting an overdue bill and many people are forced into bankruptcy as a result. 

This new law gives uninsured patients a little more leverage by becoming informed consumers. #