View Full Version : Hospitals Gouging Poor, Uninsured.....

Gregory Morrow
July 10th 03, 05:40 PM
Stop Gouging Poor Or Lose Free Water, Alderman Tells Hospitals


July 9, 2003

BY FRAN SPIELMAN City Hall Reporter

Chicago hospitals were warned Tuesday to stop "gouging" uninsured,
working-poor patients or risk some of the perks that City Hall provides,
including free water.

"Hospitals need to know these are possibilities. I would hope we wouldn't
have to get to that," said Ald. Danny Solis (25th), the City Council's
president pro tem and Mayor Daley's closest Hispanic supporter.

Solis threatened to cut off the free water spigot after a nearly five-hour
hearing that included a steady stream of horror stories from poor patients.

They told of being charged four and five times the rates paid by insured
patients, then being mercilessly badgered by collection agencies when they
couldn't afford to pay their outstanding bills.

"That part of it was almost as bad as the illness they had when they went to
the hospital," said Health Committee Chairman Ed Smith (28th), who presided
over Tuesday's hearing.

But, Smith said he's not prepared to use the ultimate lever--free water
service--based on "one-sided" testimony from patients. He wants to hold
another hearing to give hospitals a full-blown opportunity to have their

Hospitals that did testify Tuesday attempted to turn the spotlight on
"charity care" they provide to poor patients.

They also claimed that federal regulations don't allow them to offer
discounted rates.

Chicago hospitals, churches, synagogues, universities and other non-profit
institutions are currently excused from paying city water bills.

Solis said his next step is to send a "letter of inquiry" to Chicago
hospitals asking them to answer 10 detailed questions about the racial,
ethnic and ZIP code breakdown of their "uninsured, self-pay patients" and
the rates those patients are charged.