New rules set forth by the U.S. Department of Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service are placing tougher demands on tax-exempt hospitals to ensure protection of patient rights. The rules clarify and facilitate implementation of regulations already in place under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that mandate charitable hospitals provide guidance on patient protections and help improve the health of communities.
The new laws require that charitable hospitals ensure transparency in their billing and collection policies. At the heart of this transparency is the protection of patients’ rights by the mandate that these hospitals limit charges to patients eligible for financial assistance, establish and disclose financial assistance policies, and abide by reasonable billing and collection requirements.
A further mandate is the requirement that charitable hospitals conduct and publish a community health needs assessment at least once every three years, which would describe how significant community health needs will be addressed. To do this, hospitals need to solicit input from the community, with particular focus on vulnerable populations. Hospitals that fail to comply could be fined $50,000 and/or have their tax exempt status revoked.