Case study: Chicago hospitals offer price cuts to uninsured

Across the U.S., state legislatures are mandating that non-profit hospitals offer price breaks to the uninsured, and attorney generals are moving against hospitals they feel are being too aggressive in their pricing and collections practices. Perhaps influenced by this trend, the notion that uninsured patents shouldn't pay "sticker price" is gradually becoming standard operating procedure for non-profits.

One example of this can be found in Chicago, where several hospitals have a policy of offering large price breaks to anyone who doesn't have health coverage. What's more, several will give discounts to anyone who asks. Examples include Loyola University Medical Center, which lowers prices by 40 percent for the uninsured, and Rush University Medical Center, which will cut its prices by 50 percent for uninsured patients, no matter what their income or assets may be.

This goes beyond the requirements of an Illinois law, going effect in April, that makes substantial discounts mandatory. City dwellers get that discount if they make up to 600 percent of the federal poverty level, and rural residents if they make up to 300 percent.

The question is, will hospitals change their tune if economic conditions remain poor and more white-collar uninsured patients end up at their doors? And if they keep discounting, how will it affect their bottom line? This year we'll probably find out.

To learn more about this trend:
- read this Chicago Tribune piece

Related Articles:
St. Louis hospitals give uninsured discounts
SC court says uninsured not guaranteed discounts
MN hospitals extend uninsured discounts