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Ask the Experts: Hospital Charity Care

Q.  My husband had emergency surgery recently. We don’t have health insurance. The hospital staff told us we didn’t qualify for any financial help because we made too much money, but never asked what our income was. They want the bill paid now. What can we do?

A. Hospitals that receive federal funding are required to provide care to a percentage of their patients without health insurance coverage. Most offer so-called charity care until the hospital has reached its annual limit. Find out if the hospital gets federal funding. If so, it’s required to give you the application for charity care. Ask to talk to someone in the hospital’s business office, patient services department or social work department. You might also contact your state’s health department to see if your income qualifies you for charity care, and your state’s human services or social services agency to learn if your income qualifies you for other benefits. The federal government also suggests, at answers.usa.gov, that you ask the hospital to reduce its rates and work out a monthly payment plan.

Sid Kirchheimer writes about consumer and health issues.

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