WASHINGTON, June 22 (UPI) -- The U.S. Treasury Department Friday released proposed healthcare regulations that would protect patients from abusive collections practices.
The regulations, pertaining to a provision of President Barack Obama's landmark Affordable Care Act, also would help ensure access to financial assistance for patients of charitable hospitals, the Treasury Department said in a release.
"Under the rules issued today, charitable hospitals, as a condition of receiving tax-exemption, must establish billing and collections protections for patients eligible for financial assistance, and provide patients with the information needed to apply for such assistance," the release said.
"In recent months, we have heard concerns about aggressive hospital debt collection activities, including allowing debt collectors to pursue collections in emergency rooms," acting Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy Emily McMahon said.
"These practices jeopardize patient care, and our proposed rules will help ensure they don't happen in charitable hospitals. These rules also require charitable hospitals to establish and publicize financial assistance policies, and give hospitals the flexibility to establish programs that meet the needs of their communities."
Under the regulations, tax-exempt hospitals would be prohibited from engaging in certain collection methods such as reporting a debt to a credit agency or garnishing wages until they make "reasonable efforts to determine whether an individual is eligible for the financial assistance it offers."
Hospitals also may not charge individuals eligible for financial assistance more for medically necessary care than the amounts generally billed to insured individuals, the release said.
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