Senator Durbin Asks IRS to Issue Rule Limiting What Hospitals Can Charge Poor, Uninsured for Care

Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–December 20, 2013  Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) wrote to the Acting IRS Commissioner, Daniel Werfel, today asking him to complete the rulemaking process that would restrict what hospitals can charge for services to people without health care coverage and would prohibit hospitals from aggressive pursuit of medical debts from people who do not have the financial wherewithal to pay them.  The rule was required as one of the consumer protection provisions found in the Affordable Care Act.

“Three years after the passage of the law, it is unacceptable that the rule has not been finalized,” Durbin wrote. “Finalizing the rule will protect patients from unrealistic prices contained in hospital chargemasters and protect families from unrealistic debt collection efforts that that too often lead to bankruptcy.  I call on the IRS to finalize this rule as soon as possible.”

The Affordable Care Act imposed strict requirements on what non-profit hospitals can charge uninsured patients.  For emergency services, hospitals cannot charge an uninsured individual more than would be generally billed to patients that are covered by private insurance or Medicare.  For non-emergency services, hospitals must bill less than the gross cost for each individual service.  This provision also limits hospitals to pursuing collections to people who actually have the financial wherewithal to pay. The IRS has started the rulemaking process, but has yet to issue a final rule. Until they do, hospitals can continue charging the poor and uninsured unreasonable and unsustainable rates.

A copy of the letter is pasted below and attached.

December 20, 2013

Daniel I. Werfel
Acting Commissioner, Internal Revenue Service
1111 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20224-0002

Dear Commissioner Werfel:

I urge you to complete the rulemaking process for section 9007 of the Affordable Care Act restricting what hospitals can charge for services to people without health care coverage and prohibiting hospitals from aggressive pursuit of medical debts from people who do not have the financial wherewithal to pay them. 

The Affordable Care Act includes new requirements for non-profit hospital facilities to maintain or achieve 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.  Section 9007 of the law requires hospitals to perform a community health needs assessment every three years, create and publicize a financial assistance policy, limit the amount that can be charged an uninsured individual, and adopt billing and collections policies.

On June 14, 2010, the IRS issued a request for comments for Section 9007 of the Affordable Care Act (IRS Notice 2010-39).  However, since releasing this notice, the IRS has not taken concrete steps to finalize the rule.

Three years after the passage of the law, it is unacceptable that the rule has not been finalized. Finalizing the rule will protect patients from unrealistic prices contained in hospital chargemasters and protect families from unrealistic debt collection efforts that that too often lead to bankruptcy. 

I call on the IRS to finalize this rule as soon as possible. Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Richard J. Durbin

Source: durbin.senate.gov