Monday, February 27, 2012

Amended Hospital Payment Assistance Act passes unanimously out of committee

An amended version of Senate Bill 12-134, the Hospital Payment Assistance Act, passed unanimously out of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Thursday. The measure, sponsored by Sen. Irene Aguilar and actively supported by the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, gives working families important information about hospital discount policies and charity care, and a chance to responsibly pay their medical bills. Details are in a revised fact sheet. The Colorado Hospital Association (CHA) announced support of the bill in a statement released Thursday.

"As presented today by Sen. Aguilar, the proposed amendments to Senate Bill 134 recognize that hospitals should be permitted to maintain charity care policies that reflect the unique needs of the communities they serve and the financial realities of health care reform. As previously stated, CHA and its members believe the bill language governing hospital charity care policies should directly align with current and expected federal requirements. Sen. Aguilar has shown exemplary leadership in working with CHA to address and mitigate related concerns," the statement said.

The bill as amended, increases transparency about hospital charity care and discount policies, offers patients with incomes of less than 250 percent of the federal poverty level a discount on hospital bills equivalent to the lowest negotiated rate paid by a private insurance company, and requires hospitals to offer people reasonable payment plans before initiating collections actions.

The bill will be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee on March 2. The bill as introduced had a fiscal impact, but that impact is expected to have been eliminated by the amendment adopted Thursday. Following the Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, the bill will move to the Senate floor.
Follow developments with the bill between editions of Health Law and Policy Update at CCLP's Hospital Payment Assistance Program action center.

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