More Hospitals Beginning to Demand Payment Upfront Before Administering Patient Treatments

Hospitals are changing the way they operate — no pun intended — and it’s putting some patients’ health at risk.

It used to be common practice for hospitals and other medical facilities to calculate costs and send bills to patients after they’d completed the important part, i.e. treating the patient.

That’s less true today than it used to be, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Collecting payment in advance is more and more common at medical centers, and while that saves hospitals time and money collecting on bills later, it means that some patients don’t get the care they need when they need it, because they can’t come up with the cash up front.

“Those who can’t come up with the sums have been forced to put off procedures,” the Journal reported Thursday in an article titled “Hospitals Are Refusing to Do Surgeries Unless You Pay In Full First.”

The newspaper also noted that patients are sometimes overcharged, which puts them in the position of having to “fight” a large corporate entity to get a refund of the overpayment.

“Among the procedures that hospitals and surgery centers are seeking prepayments for are knee replacements, CT scans and births,” the Journal reported.

The report also noted that federal law requires hospitals to provide medical treatment in emergency situations. Of course, what a hospital considers an emergency may differ from how the term might be defined by someone experiencing severe pain.

“We need those patients who are able to pay to do so,” Leslie Taylor, a spokeswoman for University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, which owns one general hospital in Arkansas, told the Journal.

That hospital has in the past rescheduled some patients’ procedures until after they pay up, although they say they only do so with the approval of doctors.

Health care consulting company Kodiak Solutions told the Journal that 23 percent of patient bills are now being paid before treatment is provided, up from 20 percent only two years ago.

That may not seem like a huge increase, but considering that about half of American adults say they don’t have more than $500 available to pay for sudden medical issues, according to the Journal, it’s a trend that could cause serious problems for many.

The Journal spotlighted two cases of people affected by pay-in-advance policies, both of which had happy endings.

The first was that of Heather Miconi, whose daughter needed adenoid and tonsil surgery to help her breathe — not an emergency, but obviously important.

Miconi already works three jobs and has a high-deductible insurance policy, so she needed $2,000 to pay for the procedure in advance. She had to start a GoFundMe to raise the funds.

The good news in Miconi’s case is that the fundraiser has already brought in nearly $10,000. Miconi wrote on the site that she’ll use the extra to pay down medical bills that have been accumulating interest since her daughter’s 2021 hospitalization.

“This has lifted a huge burden from our lives and I am forever grateful,” she wrote.

The other example cited by the Journal was that of Blake Young, who needed a heart screening last November. He paid $3,600 in advance, only to find out later that he’d been overcharged by almost 200 percent, and the hospital owed him $2,546.

It took Young over six months to get his money back, and he had to involve the Better Business Bureau to do it.

The hospital, CHI Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga, Tennessee, did eventually offer Young an apology — and, eventually, a check.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.


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