Sutter Health Hospitals Set Discounts for Uninsured Patients
SACRAMENTO, Calif. June 9, 2006 – Sutter Health has expanded its model policies related to providing accessible and affordable health care services by extending substantial financial discounts to all uninsured patients regardless of their financial status. The expanded policies are being adopted by all 24 Northern California hospitals affiliated with the not-for-profit Sutter Health network of doctors and hospitals.
Sutter Health's newest policy extends discounts to uninsured patients who do not qualify for full or partial charity care. Under the newest policy, these patients are entitled to discounts based on the discounted reimbursement each Sutter hospital receives from commercial health plans. Discounts for uninsured patients are set by each hospital at a point between the average and lowest discounts from billed charges for all commercial fee-for-service health plans.
"As a result of this policy, no uninsured patient will be billed at full hospital rates," said Cyndi Kettmann, Senior Vice President, Public Affairs. "Taken together, we believe we may offer the most generous and fair discounts and collections policies in the industry."
Sutter-affiliated hospitals, which have always provided free charity care to low-income patients, enhanced their policies in early 2004 by expanding eligibility for free care and by offering discounts to low-income uninsured patients who don't qualify for free care. Patients with annual family incomes of below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Income Guideline (below $40,000 for a family of four in 2006) pay nothing for hospital care under Sutter's charity care policy.
Sutter Health's partial charity care discount, which applies to uninsured patients with family incomes between 201 and 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Income Guideline ($40,000 to $80,000 per year for a family of four), limits the patient's payment to the equivalent of Medicare reimbursement plus 20 percent. Health care providers typically receive less reimbursement from Medicare than from commercial health plans.
"We're seeing increasing numbers of patients who earn too much to qualify for government-subsidized health care or charity care but who still aren't covered by health insurance," said Kettmann. "These individuals can fall within the cracks of our nation's ailing health care system, and large unexpected medical bills can present a considerable financial hardship for many. We're pleased to be able to do our part in offering some relief and peace of mind for these patients."
Sutter Health hospitals also provide catastrophic protection to low-income uninsured patients by limiting their payment liability to 30 percent of their annual household income. In addition, standardized collection practices across the Sutter Health network prohibit wage and bank garnishments and bench warrants.
As a result of the expanded charity care policy implemented throughout the Sutter Health system in early 2004, Sutter's combined annual charity care write-offs have more than doubled, growing from $109 million in 2003 to $226 million in 2005.
Sutter Health Charity Care and Discount Policies at a Glance
Sutter Health-affiliated hospitals have always maintained charity care policies to assist low income patients. In 2003, Sutter-affiliated hospitals came together to develop a more consistent approach to charity care. In February 2004, Sutter Health affiliates adopted common, systemwide charity care and partial charity care policies. In March 2006, Sutter Health expanded its policies permitting affiliated hospitals to extend substantial financial discounts to all uninsured patients regardless of financial status.
Patient’s Annual Income Level
(family of four)
|Charity Care (2/04)||Below $40,000 (Less than 200% of 2006 FPIG)||Full charity care (free hospital care)|
|Partial Charity Care|
|$40,000 to $80,000 (200% to 400% of 2006 FPIG)||Partial charity care (discount equal to Medicare plus 20%)|
|Discounts for non-low-income patients without health insurance|
|Above $80,000||Discounts for uninsured patients are set by the hospital at an amount between the average and lowest discounts from billed charges for all commercial fee-for-service health plans.|