Illinois would become at least the third state to require hospitals to offer discounts to uninsured patients under a bill that passed the state Senate on Thursday. The state House is expected to consider the plan in the next few weeks. The legislation would require hospitals to provide free care to uninsured patients who earn no more than the federal poverty level and to provide care at cost to uninsured patients with incomes of up to twice the poverty level. It also would bar collections lawsuits within 70 days of care. Illinois Hospital Association spokesman Danny Chun said it's unclear whether hospitals would lose income under the bill, because 90% of hospitals in the state already give free or discounted care.
In recent months hospital associations in several states, including Illinois, have established voluntary guidelines for offering free or discounted care to uninsured patients. Connecticut requires hospitals to provide care at cost to patients who earn no more than 250% of the poverty level. Massachusetts requires hospitals to provide free care to patients who earn up to 400% of the poverty level; hospitals there are reimbursed by a state free-care pool. -- by Mary Chris Jaklevic