Friday, January 3, 2014

Obamacare Will Not Stop Hospitals Overcharging the Uninsured

In two recent posts I discussed out-of-control prices for hospital services, especially emergency-room care. In the first, I argued that sky-high hospital prices are the result of government interference. In the second, I cheered the fact that consumer-driven health plans are inducing hospitals (ever so gradually) to be more upfront with patients (at least, those coming in for scheduled surgeries) about how much they will have to pay out of pocket, and agreeing on payment plans before admission.

Obamacare promises to come to the rescue of uninsured patients who are charged outrageous prices by hospitals. Statutory language purports to limit hospital charges to uninsured patients in the ER to “not more than the lowest amounts charged to individuals who have insurance covering such care.” Hospitals that fail to adhere to this policy risk losing their non-profit status. (The relevant text is on page 739 of the enrolled version of the bill here.)

Hospitals take threats to their non-profit status very seriously. So, since the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, you might expect that the overcharging of uninsured patients has long since stopped. You would be wrong. Like everything else in Obamacare, this has malfunctioned.

Read the entire article at The Independent Institute's Beacon blog or John Goodman's Health Policy Blog.

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