Consumer advocates call for hospitals to implement fair and transparent billing practices on the heels of a new Harvard report documenting medically-related bankruptcies

Boston, MA, February 2, 2005. Community Catalyst welcomes the release of “Illness And Injury As Contributors to Bankruptcy.” The report, by researchers from Harvard Law School and Harvard Medical School and published in Health Affairs, finds that almost half of all personal bankruptcies stem from medically related causes. 

This report confirms, in detail, what advocates have known since first monitoring hospital charity care practices.  “Middle class families can see the American Dream vanish with one trip to the hospital, especially if they are uninsured or underinsured,” said Betsy Stoll, Development and Policy Director of Community Catalyst, a national health consumer advocacy group working to secure quality affordable health access for everybody. “Hospitals need to have charity care policies that help people, not force them to mortgage their homes to pay their bills. Unfortunately, this may be the tip of the bankruptcy iceberg. More and more of the cost of health care is being shifted to individuals, and at the same time we’re witnessing efforts to weaken Medicaid. This means increased pressure on hospitals and the insured and uninsured alike.”

Recent lawsuits, Congressional hearings, and investigative reports have detailed many of the harsh billing and collection practices used by hospitals that leave families with no alternative but bankruptcy. In 2003, Community Catalyst released  “Not There When You Need It: The Search for Free Hospital Care”, and it continues to help local consumer groups press hospitals to change their collection practices and adopt fair billing principles. 

“We invite hospitals to join with us in pressing for policies that protect families from financial catastrophe, and in preserving a strong health care safety net. We have a common interest in making sure that everyone has the coverage they need,” said Stoll. “There are no winners in a medical bankruptcy.”

-For a copy of Community Catalyst’s report, “Not There When You Need It”, click here.

-For a copy of Community Catalyst’s Free Care Principles, click here.

About Community Catalyst
Since 1999 Community Catalyst has partnered with local health advocates, pressing hospitals to adopt community responsive charity care policies. For more information on charity care, including Community Catalyst’s Patient Financial Assistance Principles and its comprehensive report on hospital financial assistance, Not There When You Need It: The Search for Free Hospital Care, visit: