Consumer Billing and Debt Safeguards Under Obamacare / Affordable Care Act

Like it or not, the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land now and it’s time to start really understanding what the Act provides consumers. While you might have had a visceral reaction to the law, a review of the 974 page compilation of patient protection under the Act brings some favorable safeguards and protections to all.

Under the Affordable Care Act aggressive debt collection or front line debt collection to receive medical care should diminish greatly or stop in public hospitals. The Act requires that nonprofit or charitable hospitals “not engage in extraordinary collection actions before the organization has made reasonable efforts to determine whether the individual is eligible for assistance.” The access to health care may include free or discounted care based on the eligibility of financial assistance.

Hospitals will be required to provide emergency medical care “to individuals regardless of their eligibility under the financial assistance policy.”

And for those that meet the hospitals financial assistance policies, a big bonus. The hospital may no longer bill those patients, maximum rates. The Act “limits amounts charged for emergency or other medically necessary care provided to individuals eligible for assistance under the financial assistance policy to not more than the amounts generally billed to individuals who have insurance covering such care.”

Trauma centers must also make allowances for those that need care by having “policies in place to assist patients who cannot pay for part or all of the care they receive, including a sliding fee scale, and to ensure fair billing and collection practices.”

In addition the government may allow funding for projects including those on financial literacy, preventing the final exploitation of elders, and providing counseling on financial assistance and insurance.

In addition to protections for consumers, the new Act provides some rather attractive incentives for some new doctors. It provides need-based financial assistance in the form of traineeships and fellowships to medical students, interns, residents, practicing physicians, or other medical personnel, who are participants in any such program, and who plan to specialize or work in family medicine, general internal medicine, or general pediatrics for medical students, interns, residents, or practicing physicians. Additional financial assistance is available for those who plan to teach or conduct research in a family medicine, general internal medicine, or general pediatrics training. Similar plans are available for dentists and dental hygienists

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The Act provides student loan funds to increase the supply of health care workers. For example, there is a pediatric specialty loan repayment program under which the eligible individual agrees to be employed full-time for a specified period (which shall not be less than 2 years) in providing pediatric medical subspecialty, pediatric surgical specialty, or child and adolescent mental and behavioral health care, including substance abuse prevention and treatment services. Student loan payments for both public and private student loans may be made on the principal and interest of undergraduate, graduate, or graduate medical education loans of professionals of not more than $35,000 a year for each year of agreed upon service.

Student loans may be paid for dentists in a program of general, pediatric, or public health dentistry where individuals agree to serve full-time as faculty members and the program of general, pediatric or public health dentistry agrees to pay the principal and interest on the outstanding student loans of the individuals. Upon completion by an individual of each of the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth years of service, the program shall pay an amount equal to 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 percent, respectively, of the individual’s student loan balance as cal- culated based on principal and interest owed at the initiation of the agreement.

Nursing students are not forgotten under the Act and are eligible for student loan perks as well. – Source


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Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.
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