Hospitals get indigent-care funds despite ignoring charity care laws

Hospitals throughout New York are regularly and often systematically violating state charity care guidelines and laws while helping themselves to the cash pool to cover their indigent care costs, reported The New York Times.

According to a report issued by the Community Service Society of New York (CSSNY), 66 percent of the state's hospitals either violate state laws, violate state Department of Health guidelines or impose extra barriers to obtaining financial assistance. Meanwhile, those facilities helped themselves to nearly half of the more than $1 billion available in the state's Indigent Care Pool each year.

"The entire system is corrupted, and it isn't working for patients," Elisabeth R. Benjamin, the CSS's vice president of health initiatives, told the Times.

Twenty hospitals don't post charity guidelines or applications within the walls of their facilities or on their websites--blatant violations of state law. They collected more than $87 million from the pool, notes to the report.

At the same time, hospitals are often aggressively pursuing patient debts, usually at charges far higher than those negotiated by insurers. New York-Presbyterian Weill/Cornell charged one uninsured patient $105,000 to remove a benign tumor from her adrenal gland and for treatments related to a stroke, noted the Times.

Moreover, the report showed that many hospitals had filed liens against patients' homes or seized bank accounts without providing them an opportunity to apply for charity care, or referred their accounts to collection agencies, ruining their credit in the process.

To learn more:
- read the New York Times article
- chck out the CSSNY report (.pdf)