ACA regs to prevent overcharging uninsured still not final

The Obama administration is in no hurry to enact Affordable Care Act-related rules intended to prevent hospitals from potentially overcharging patients, according to Time Magazine.

The U.S. Treasury has yet to finalize regulations that would jeopardize non-profit hospitals' tax exemptions if they charge uninsured patients more than the average amount Medicare or commercial insurers pay for healthcare services.

"Then Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, or current Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, could have written the regulations with his staff the day after the law was signed (in 2010), and there is nothing John Boehner or Ted Cruz could have done about it," the article observed. "After posting the rules in the Federal Register and a brief comment period, the regulations would have taken effect."

However, the Treasury has yet to finalize the rules because the American Hospital Association is lobbying against the proposed rules, which were drafted only last year. The article also suggested that the Obama administration delayed implemention of the rules because it needed the support of hospitals as the ACA rolled out this year and in 2014.

The issue has become a contentious one in recent years, as it has become apparent many hospitals charge uninsured patients for services at rates far higher than public or commercial payers, based on chargemasters that are rarely used for those with coverage. And some hospitals and hospital systems have routinely sued patients who don't pay their bills, sometimes for nominal sums.

In the meantime, hospitals may continue to bill uninsured patients at their full chargemaster rates. "Without the (regulations), the hospitals have nothing to comply with," the article said. "So there are still no restraints on hospital bill collections or chargemaster charges for the neediest patients."

To learn more:
- read the article

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