Following the lead of other hospital associations, the Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania issued guidelines for charity care, financial aid and collection practices. The guidelines come amid a wave of class-action lawsuits against not-for-profit organizations over their treatment of uninsured patients. HAP laid out five key principles, including: concern over bill payment should never prevent anyone from receiving emergency care, and debt collection by hospital staff and outside agents should be monitored carefully to ensure their practices reflect the hospital's mission and values. HAP also offered tips for updating financial aid policies, developing plans to communicate the policies and identifying staff to administer them. Read HAP's guidelines.
Meanwhile, 588-bed Baystate Medical Center, Springfield, Mass., was accused of overly aggressive billing and collection tactics against uninsured patients in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Boston. The hospital became the first hospital in Massachusetts and the 40th hospital organization nationwide sued in a series of class-action lawsuits by Mississippi plaintiffs' attorney Richard Scruggs and others on behalf of uninsured patients. A spokeswoman for the consortium of attorneys said more lawsuits were expected to be filed within the next week. A list of hospitals involved in the cases is located under the "Legal" section of modernhealthcare.com. -- -- by Cinda Becker and Mary Chris Jaklevic