DENVER (KDVR) — Data analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that one in 10 Americans owe at least $250 in medical debt. A new law taking effect Thursday in Colorado looks to provide some relief from high medical bills.
The new law sets up a screening process for Coloradans who need help paying for medical treatment. But in order to get the most out of it, experts say you have to let providers know you want it.
Starting Sept. 1 every hospital in the state is required to screen and provide discounted care to Coloradans who are uninsured or have a single income of around $2,830 a month.
“[If] you don’t have health insurance, the hospital is legally required to screen you to see if you are eligible for help with your hospital bill. So that’s going to be discounts like hospital care established under the new law as well as other programs like Medicaid,” Julia Char Gilbert of the Colorado Center on Law and Policy said.
If you have insurance but you still cannot afford your bill, you can receive help too, but you will need to request it.
“If you have health insurance, you can qualify for these discounts as well but you need to ask the hospital to screen you in order to set the process,” Gilbert said.
Experts said the process to be screened is not hard and designed to be used by anyone regardless of immigration status.
“So the hospital will tell you based on the answer to those screening questions what types of health they think you might qualify for. If the hospital says they think you probably will not qualify for hospital discounted care or another program like Medicaid, you can still go ahead and apply for that program or for those discounts to get an official determination to see whether you can get help for those bills,” Gilbert said.
The law passed last year and was set to take effect in June this year but lawmakers made a move to change the implementation date to September to give hospitals more time to get in compliance.
Experts said the law is about giving patients rights and preventing bills from going to collections.
“If you had made 36 monthly payments on your monthly payment plan and there is still a remaining balance that is unpaid, the hospital has to forgive the remaining amount and consider the bill paid in full,” Gilbert said.
If hospitals refuse to screen you or aren’t offering discounts, the new law also sets up a process for patients to file a complaint and let the state know about it.