Hospitals rarely inform low- and moderate-income uninsured patients that free care is available, according to a three-year investigation of 60 not-for-profit hospitals in nine cities. Community Catalyst, Boston, had community residents, either in person or on the phone, ask hospital staff questions about free care using a prepared script. The group said almost all callers were told free care was not available and were directed to a public hospital if the community had one. In other cases, patients who thought they were receiving free care were later stuck with the bill. In general, the hospitals did not provide signs informing uninsured and underinsured patients about free care, and only a few made written materials available, the group said. Community Catalyst said states should adopt legislation to guarantee not-for-profit hospitals provide care to the uninsured and underinsured. "We need more of the hospital industry to step up to the plate and show leadership on this issue. The problem is getting worse," said Susan Sherry, the group's deputy director. Formerly the Boston office of Families USA, Community Catalyst became an independent organization in 1997. Read the report. -- by Patrick Reilly
Hospitals not upfront about free care, group says
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