Community Catalyst Uses Class Action Settlement Funds to Support State Efforts to Improve Health Care for the Underinsured
Boston, MA – As hospitals face increasing scrutiny for egregious policies and practices, Community Catalyst today announced a set of grants awarded to advocate-led collaboratives in Massachusetts and Texas to increase health access and reduce medical debt to benefit the underinsured.
Many hospitals routinely engage in financial practices that push patients into debt by charging uninsured patients nearly three times the rate of insured patients for the same procedures or by selling patients’ bills to third-party lenders that charge up to 27% interest. Some patients penalized through such practices are later found to be eligible for financial assistance.
In addition, national media is examining the tax breaks received by nonprofit hospitals and insufficient regulation of the services they provide to their most vulnerable patients. The IRS recently released the redesigned Form 990, filed annually by nonprofit institutions, and a new “Schedule H” to be completed by hospitals with new requirements designed to promote greater transparency among nonprofit hospitals.
“As debate over health care heats up nationally, we are continuing our efforts to support heath care reform at the state level, where real changes are happening.” said Renée Markus Hodin, Project Director. “We’re proud to support local advocates who are working to change egregious hospital policies and practices that bankrupt their patient’s futures and deter them from seeking preventive, less-costly care. This kind of change is a key ingredient in creating a more transparent, accountable and fair health care system for everyone.”
The grants in Massachusetts and Texas are the second phase of a 15-state project funded by the settlement of a class action lawsuit against the Tenet Healthcare Corporation, a national for-profit hospital company. The suit alleged illegal billing and collection tactics against the uninsured and underinsured.
The grant program, an initiative of Community Catalyst’s Hospital Accountability Project, supports efforts to change hospital practices by reforming state and local policy. As part of the settlement with Tenet Healthcare Corporation, the court awarded Community Catalyst funds to provide grants in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas to attack the problems that gave rise to the original litigation. Advocacy groups in California, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee received grants in January 2008. The remaining nine state grants will be awarded later in 2008 and 2009.
Community Catalyst is a national non-profit advocacy organization dedicated to making quality, affordable health care accessible to everyone. Since 1997, Community Catalyst has worked to build consumer and community leadership to transform the American health system. With the belief that this transformation will happen when consumers are fully engaged and have an organized voice, Community Catalyst works in partnership with national, state and local consumer organizations, policymakers, and foundations, providing leadership and support to change the health care system so it serves everyone—especially vulnerable members of society. For more information, visit www.communitycatalyst.org.
New Community Catalyst Hospital Accountability Project Grant Recipients:
Massachusetts: The Massachusetts Project for Hospital Fair Debt Collection and Amelioration Guidelines will collaborate with local consumer groups and hospitals to develop and implement a model hospital policies and practices that improve health access, restructure medical debt and establish fair debt collection and credit counseling services. The Project is being led by Health Care For All, the premiere consumer health advocacy organization in Massachusetts.
Texas: The Texas Hospital Accountability Project seeks to improve health access and reduce medical debt in Texas for the underinsured, specifically for people living in Dallas, Houston, El Paso and Brownsville. The Texas collaborative will work to improve hospital financial assistance and collection practices. It will also advocate for insurance reforms as the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission reviews the policies and programs of the Department of Insurance. The Project is being led by Texas ACORN, a community organization of low to moderate income families.
For information about other Hospital Accountability Project Grant recipients, visit the Community Catalyst website.