Boston – Millions of Americans can only access health care services with financial assistance from their medical providers, commonly known as free care.  As the economy worsens, more people without health care coverage will turn to this critical safety net.  However, lack of consistent government oversight and extreme variations in hospital free care policies hurt people already feeling the strain of paying more for insurance that covers less.

Community Catalyst’s new Free Care Compendium web resource summarizes free care laws and regulations in each of the 50 states.  It includes a national snapshot of trends across the states, recommendations for free care standards and best practices, fact sheets, and tools. 

Our analysis shows that although access to free or reduced-cost care can be the only thing standing between a family and financial ruin, the system is a confusing patchwork of voluntary hospital efforts and unspecific laws.  The amount and type of free care available – if any – depends heavily on where you live. 

Without clear and consistent state or federal guidelines, hospitals can push people into serious debt through egregious billing and collection practices.  Hospitals should not heal patients while bankrupting them, nor should busy Emergency Rooms be overburdened because people cannot access free and discount care services for non-urgent care.

This is a serious problem today, and the economic downturn will exacerbate the number of people impacted.

To read the compendium, please click here.

About Community Catalyst

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 care 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.