[O]ne of the little-noticed provisions of Obamacare, which was passed three years ago this week, requires that non-profit hospitals, as a condition of keeping their tax exempt status, must adhere to rules to be promulgated by the IRS that would, among other things, not allow them to send bill collectors or lawyers after patients except under certain conditions.
Those conditions include that the patients first be informed through aggressive outreach efforts of the availability of financial aid for patients unable to afford the bills and, more important, that for patients whose incomes are below certain levels, hospitals can only dun them or sue them for the discounted amounts they usually charge insurance companies, rather than the far higher chargemaster prices.
In theory, the IRS, which is a unit of the Obama Administration’s Treasury Department, could have promulgated those regulations at any time after March 23, 2010, the day Obamacare was signed into law. But the first draft of the rules was not issued until two and a half years later – last summer. And then the American Hospital Association’s lobbyists pushed back, calling the proposed rules “too prescriptive.” (To me, if anything, they seemed not prescriptive enough.) Since then, nothing has happened. No final rules have been published. That means that three years after the Obamacare signing ceremony in the White House there is still no protection from hospital lawyers and bill collectors for the patients least able to pay.
Yesterday, Brill talked about how the US healthcare system compares to the rest of the developed world. Before that, he discussed hospital profits and why our medical costs are so exorbitant. You can also go here, here and here to read the Dish’s coverage of his must-read Time cover-story, “Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us”. Ask Anything archive here.