A consumer called our helpline about a large bill with Hartford Hospital. Her bill for two hospital stays is about $270,000 and she is uninsured. Her income of about $49,000 doesn’t make her rich but it is over the limit for any of the hospital financial assistance programs. She was making payments on one of the bills but then they all went into collections. The collection agency wants to attach her home. She considered taking out a second mortgage but even that wouldn’t cover the bill. The hospital did offer her a 53% discount if she paid it all right now, in cash. That means she would have to come up with about $126,900.
I called Hartford Hospital because I wanted to be sure the consumer had been screened for all the financial assistance programs and see if the hospital would give her a discount. She had been screened for all of their programs and they had given her a 20% discount on her bill. They were not willing to give a larger discount and seemed to be patting themselves on the back for the discount they did give her.
If her income was under 250% of the federal poverty level ($27,075 for one person) and she had been denied for the SAGA medical program for being over income, the hospital would have charged her “cost”, which is what it costs them to provide the medical care and is generally about half of charges. Since she does not fit this criteria, they can charge her more. If she had health insurance, the insurance company would negotiate a lower rate. She is being charged even more than an insurance company would pay.
I suggested that she call Congressman Chris Murphy’s office to see if they could intervene on her behalf. I also suggested that she contact a local newspaper to see if they would be willing to tell her story. She liked the suggestions and will be contacting her Congressman and the newspaper. I will follow up with her to see what happens.