California became the second state to pass a law protecting uninsured and underinsured patients from aggressive hospital billing and collection practices. The new law, signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, bars hospitals from charging self-pay patients more than what government programs charge for medical care. The law covers families earning less 350% of the federal poverty level, or $58,100 a year for a family of three. The hospital industry's current voluntary guidelines cover patients earning up to 300% of the poverty level. New York passed a similar law in April. Schwarzenegger also signed a law potentially giving some hospitals more time to retrofit or replace hundreds of unsafe buildings to meet new seismic-safety requirements by 2013. The law will allow the state to grant two-year extensions under certain conditions, including unforeseen construction delays. Schwarzenegger also reversed his previous stance and signed a prescription-drug law that will provide discounts of 40% to 60% on brand-name and generic medications to about 5.4 million uninsured Californians who earn less than 300% of the federal poverty level. Schwarzenegger previously said he preferred a voluntary approach over a policy that would require companies to provide discounts.
New Calif. law governs hospital prices for uninsured
Send us a letter
Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.