The American Hospital Association will ask the federal government to ease regulatory burdens that hospitals say hamper their efforts to provide financial support for needy patients, according to an AHA draft document obtained by Modern Healthcare. The document, scheduled to be released tomorrow, calls on HHS to develop a safe harbor protecting hospital programs from challenges under Medicare if they discount or waive charges for poor patients. The AHA said a process should be established by which hospitals can seek advisory opinions and guidance on discounting charges and waiving payments. In addition, HHS should work with hospitals and other stakeholders to address "regulatory impediments" to assisting indigent patients, the AHA said. Hospitals provided $21 billion in uncompensated or reduced-cost care in 2001, the AHA estimated. -- by Patrick Reilly
Hospital industry to seek guidance on free care
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