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|Dealing with Hospital Bills||
Last updated: July 2007
In the past several years, the way some hospitals have collected their bills has led to a lot of complaints and lawsuits. Illinois has responded by passing the Fair Patient Billing Act ("The Act") to make sure that hospitals use fair billing and collection methods. The Act provides patients with certain rights and makes hospitals meet certain requirements.
No. It does not apply to hospitals that offer free medical services.
It does apply to all other hospitals licensed to receive patients and preform medical services for a fee in Illinois.
Any hospital bill that you receive must include:
For patients who don't have insurance, the bill must also have information on how you can apply for financial assistance (charity care).
Non-profit hospitals are not required to pay state or federal taxes. In return for this tax-exemption, hospitals are required to provide free treatment to low-income patients or to reduce the bill for patients slightly above the low-income category. Financial assistance (sometimes called “charity care”) is available to the patient at any time after treatment. Most hospitals use a form application and require patients to produce certain documents to verify their financial circumstances.
When you are admitted to the hospital, or soon after, the hospital must provide you with written notice that:
To receive the protections of this Act, you must do your best to provide the hospital with the information they request as well as any other documents they may need to determine whether or not you qualify for financial assistance or a payment plan. You must provide this information within 30 days of the hospital's request.
If there is a major change in your financial situation that may affect a payment plan or your qualification for financial assistance, you must notify the hospital within 30 days of the change.
Under the Fair Patient Billing Act, all hospitals must provide a way for you to ask questions about your bill. They can use a toll-free telephone number, an address where you can mail your questions, a hospital employee that handles billing matters, a website, or an e-mail address.
Also, your bill must include a telephone number where you can ask questions about the bill. You can also use this telephone number to challenge the bill, if you think any part of it is wrong.
If you contact the hospital by phone, they must respond to you no later then 2 business days from the date of your phone call.
If you contact the hospital by mail, they must respond to you no later than 10 business days from the date they receive your letter.
If you don't have insurance the hospital cannot try to collect payment from you until you've had the opportunity to:
Yes. If you cannot pay a bill in one payment, the hospital must offer you a reasonable payment plan. A "reasonable" payment plan means one that takes into consideration your income and assets, the amount owed, and past payments.
The hospital must give you at least 60 days from the day you are released from the hospital to submit an application for financial assistance. But, there is no time limit on submitting an application for financial assistance. If your income is very low and you show this to the hospital in your application for financial assistance, the hospital is required to cancel your bill. If your income is above federal poverty levels, the hospital may reduce your bill and discuss a payment plan with you. Once you have worked out a payment plan with the hospital, you are responsible for making the payments you agreed to. If you fail to make an agreed payment, the hospital can take collection action against you.
If your application for government-sponsored health-care is denied, the hospital is allowed to take collection action against you. You can still attempt to work out a payment plan with the hospital.
If you have shown that you do not have the income or assets to pay the amount owed, and you have met your responsibilities under the Act, then the hospital cannot take legal action against you to collect the bill.
Yes. The hospital must give you 30 days, following the date of the first bill, to ask for a reasonable payment plan. The hospital cannot give your bill to a collection agency or attorney before the 30 days are up.
If you don't agree to a reasonable payment plan, then the hospital can start a collection action against you.
If you think that your rights have been violated, then you should talk to a lawyer right away. Search the "Helpful Organizations" section below to find free legal help.
You can also file a complaint with the Office of the Illinois Attorney General. Click on the title below to learn how to file a complaint:
For a list of organizations in your area that may be able to help you, enter your zip code.
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