While non-profit hospitals are legally obligated to provide financial assistance to eligible patients, the process can often be seen as burdensome and complicated. Hospital facilities may have different financial assistance policies and application requirements. Additionally, not all hospitals assist individuals one-on-one throughout the application process. Many patients turn to community-based organizations to understand the eligibility requirements and application process. Although non-profit hospitals are required to “widely publicize” their financial assistance policies, many community-based organizations have taken the lead in educating community members on their rights.

Unfortunately, many eligible patients do not realize that they may qualify for financial assistance. Uninsured patients and underinsured patients with insurance but high levels of out-of-pocket costs should be offered the opportunity to be screened for health coverage eligibility and financial assistance options. It is also critical that hospitals establish a simple, streamlined application process that reduces administrative burdens on patients.

Four Principles

To learn more about each of our four principle recommendations, download the report, which also includes a Sample Hospital Financial Assistance Application.

Principle 1: Simplify documentation requirements
Principle 2: Ensure equitable access to applications and hospital support staff
Principle 3: Incorporate reasonable timelines
Principle 4: Implement a regular review process


These principles were co-designed with our medical debt partners from more than a dozen organizations across nine states. Community Catalyst’s co-design process actively collaborates with advocates from our partner organizations, integrating feedback to ensure the final product meets the needs of the communities they serve. This process leverages the expertise and lived experience of community-based advocates. Co-designing ensures that the people who are affected by a design decision have a say in the development of solutions, leading to outcomes that are more beneficial, efficient and user-friendly.


We would like to thank our partners from ABC for Health, Casa de Salud, Catalyst Miami, Citizens Action Wisconsin, the Colorado Center on Law and Poverty, Colorado Center for Health Progress, Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, Community Service Society of New York, Consumers for Affordable Healthcare, Dollar For, Enlace Chicago, Florida Health Justice Project, Georgia Watch, the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Legal Council for Health Justice, Maine Access Immigrant Network, Mano a Mano Family Resource Center, Mujeres Latinas en Acción, New Mainers Public Health Initiative, New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, Pennsylvania Health Access Network, Southwest Suburban Immigrant Project, and SOWEGA Rising, for their contribution to these principles.