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Report finds CA hospitals charging uninsured more on average for services than government

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San Francisco Chronicle: A study released Tuesday found the uninsured in California still pay more on average for services than government payers such as Medicare.

Researchers for the Rand Corp. and the University of Southern California found the state’s hospitals collect a higher percentage of their listed charges from the uninsured than they do from Medicare.

Uninsured people are typically billed the highest prices for hospital care – the so-called retail rate – because government and commercial payers negotiate steep discounts.

The study, to be published today in the Journal Health Affairs, analyzed data submitted from 2001 to 2005 by hospitals to a state agency.

From 2001-2002, hospitals collected 18 percent more of their charges from uninsured than from Medicare patients, a percentage that increased slightly to 20 percent of charges in 2004-2005.

Researchers concluded actual net prices paid by the uninsured increased during the study period because the uninsured paid the same or higher rates than Medicare from 2001 to 2005, a period in which Medicare increased what it pays to hospitals by about 13 percent.

A 2006 California law, requires hospitals to offer discounts to uninsured people who earn as much as 350 percent of the federal poverty level. The law went into effect Jan. 1, 2007.

As previously blogged the state unveiled a new Web site in January that helps consumers compare charity care policies at California hospitals. The Web site (Hospital Fair Pricing Program) enables residents to search for a hospital by name or location on the site to view its discount pricing policy and download an application. New York ( is the only other state to offer consumers a tool to compare charity care or discount payment policies.

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