No credit, no medical care

July 09, 2008 at 1:36 pm  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

It's been a battle the hospital has been trying to win. St. Charles Parish CEO Fred Martinez says the hospital goes before the council each year to borrow money just to offset the costs of the 30 percent of their visitors who don’t pay their hospital bills.

Don't worry, the hospital is covered even if the bills go on unpaid,  but there are plans underway to try and change this nationwide. The new idea could make it difficult for people to skip out on a bill in the future, and will possibly identify and distinguish them based on a credit score to determine the kind of care or treatment facility they can go to.

The project is called “MedFICO,” and it has been created by the same people who developed a credit system or a score that determines whether someone is eligible to  purchase things like homes, cars and furniture.  According to some early press reports, the intention of the MedFICO score  is to aid hospitals in assessing a patient's ability to pay their medical bills prior to receiving care.

But privacy advocates are worried that the credit system that is already riddled with human error might force someone to pay a higher cost for care or keep someone who needs care out of the loop based on the errors in the system. They also fear that a low score might impact the quality of the health care that a patient receive.

It's an idea that's in the early stages of  development that hopes to help hospitals all over the country crackdown on debts not collected after medical treatments are performed.
The hospital community has traditionally used the term “uncompensated care” to refer to bad debt and free care (or charity care). According to the American Hospital Association, the term uncompensated care excludes other unfunded costs of care such as the underpayment from Medicare and Medicaid. Free care is distinguished from bad debt in that it has been determined that the patient can’t pay the bill at all.

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