Balancing Margin and Mission: Hospitals Alter Billing and Collection Practices for Uninsured Patients

Publication Date: October 2005

Publisher: Center for Studying Health System Change

Author(s): Andrea Staiti; Robert E. Hurley; Peter J. Cunningham

Research Area: Health

Type: Brief


A barrage of publicity about aggressive hospital billing and collection practices and a spate of lawsuits alleging hospitals overcharged uninsured patients have put hospitals in a harsh national spotlight. In the wake of a campaign by hospital associations to encourage hospitals to create formal policies for billing uninsured patients, many hospitals have modified billing and collection practices for low-income, uninsured patients, according to the Center for Studying Health System Change’s (HSC) 2005 site visits to 12 nationally representative communities. Almost all of the hospitals interviewed that had adopted more generous charity care policies indicated expenses previously classified as bad debt have shifted to charity care write-offs. To date, these changes have had little impact on hospital bottom lines, and the impact on access to care for uninsured people remains unclear.