As part of a White House initiative to reduce medical debt for consumers, the Department of Health and Human Services will ask more than 2,000 health care providers for data on their medical bill collection practices, lawsuits against patients, financial assistance, financial product offerings, and third-party contracting or debt buying practices, the White House announced today. Among other actions, HHS will publish the topline data and policy recommendations for the public, share potential violations with relevant enforcement agencies and weigh the information when making grants, the White House said.

AHA Executive Vice President Stacey Hughes said, “Hospitals and health systems hold themselves to the highest standards of quality and safety in clinical care while also striving to deliver a care experience that meets patients’ needs and expectations. This includes working with patients to help them understand their health care coverage and financial obligations for care. In the event of an unpaid bill, the IRS has prescribed an extensive series of steps and wait times that hospitals must adhere to before taking any collection actions, which is a last resort. 
 
“The AHA has been actively engaged in identifying and promoting best practices in patient billing for decades. The AHA updated our voluntary patient billing guidance in 2020 to better reflect a changing health care system in which patients are increasingly being asked to shoulder more of the cost of their care through copayments and deductibles.
 
“Hospitals and health systems do more than any other part of the health care field to support vulnerable patients: Our doors are always open, regardless of a patient’s ability to pay. In total, hospitals of all types have provided almost $745 billion in uncompensated care to patients since 2000 for which no payment was received for patients in need. The reality, however, is that the health care system must be adequately financed to ensure that hospitals and health systems are able to stay open and be there for their communities in times of need.
 
“We look forward to learning more about this new initiative from the Administration. Hospitals and health systems are committed to treating all people equitably, with dignity, respect and compassion.”

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