Hospitals and charitable groups such as the United Way are exploring the possibility of paying the health insurance premiums of uninsured patients who come through hospital doors.
Such an approach would enhance access to care for the uninsured while helping hospitals get paid for care they will be providing regardless of whether the patients in question have health insurance.
Such a practice is not entirely new. A United Way organization in Wisconsin raised $2 million to help low-income residents purchase health insurance and hospital groups in New York and Florida are exploring a similar approach.
Health insurers oppose the idea, maintaining that hospitals selectively choosing whom to help will skew the pool of insured people toward those with greater health problems that incur greater costs to serve.
The federal government has not been clear about its perspective on the idea of anyone other than those seeking insurance paying their own premiums. While it requires insurers to accept premiums paid by selected federal programs, it issued an FAQ last year discouraging hospitals from taking the same approach. Regulations issued after that FAQ, however, did not fully clarify the federal position.
Learn more about the issue, how such payments work, and the perspectives of hospitals, insurers, charitable organizations, and the federal government, in this Kaiser Health News article.