The California Assembly passed a first-of-its kind bill that would prevent hospitals from charging low- and middle-income uninsured patients higher prices for medical care.
The bill, which is opposed by the California Healthcare Association, would require hospitals to offer reduced rates to uninsured patients earning up to 400% of the federal poverty level, or about $37,000 for an individual and $75,000 for a family of four. Hospitals can charge the uninsured up to the highest of Medicare, Medi-Cal or workers' compensation rates.
Nationwide, debate over how much the uninsured are charged -- and the aggressive actions some hospitals have taken to collect unpaid bills -- has prompted voluntary changes in hospital policies and a string of class-action lawsuits against nearly 400 hospitals. Prices charged to the uninsured are high because they don't have insurers or government programs to negotiate discounts for them.
The bill, which was already passed by the Senate, could reach Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's desk within a week.