A measure to guarantee low-income hospital patients get free or subsidized medical treatment is being considered by Oregon legislators. Nonprofit hospitals would be required under HB 3320 to ensure that patients get all charity care benefits to which they are entitled.
However, politicians are worried that the system is failing patients and leaving them with overwhelming medical debt even though hospitals are already mandated to provide charity care to those who cannot pay for their treatment.
The Providence hospital system was accused by the New York Times last year of persistently contacting and pressuring low-income patients to pay bills that should have been covered by financial aid.
An online application and appeals process would be made available, and hospitals would be obligated to screen patients with charges of $500 or more to determine eligibility, return payments to patients who are later determined to be eligible, and offer refunds.
Rep. Lisa Reynolds (D-WA), the bill’s primary author and a physician, said in an interview that the legislation ” It really spells out how they have to check for eligibility for free or reduced care at the front end of things before bills are sent out.”
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The Senate will soon vote on House Bill 3320, which was approved by a wide margin (54-4) in the House on Tuesday (April 18). Contrast Oregon Health Plan, the state’s Medicaid program that covers roughly 1.5 million people, with charity care.
The measure has the backing of the Oregon Hospital and Health Care Association. The organization stated that in 2021, Oregon hospitals spent $292 million on free or low-cost medical treatments for the needy.
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