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HMPRG's Janna Simon (Stansell) Quoted in AP Article on Uninsured Patients Suing Swedish Covenant Hospital

Health & Medicine Policy Research Group (HMPRG)
November 29, 2012

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CHICAGO(AP) — A lawsuit filed Thursday claims a nonprofit hospital in northwest Chicago failed to provide charity care to two low-income, uninsured patients, reopening a longstanding controversy in Illinois over whether hospitals aredoing enough charitable work to qualify for lucrative tax exemptions.

Swedish Covenant Hospital repeatedly lost one patient's financial assistance application and threatened to send her bill to acollection agency, according to the lawsuit. The hospital incorrectly told another patient she was ineligible for assistance and demanded cash from her, the complaint alleges.

Thepractices amount to "bureaucratic barriers" that prevent eligible patients from getting free care, according to the lawsuit, and the hospital has a policy of attempting to collect from "even the poorest of patients"through bill collectors and wage garnishment.

The hospital gets about $8 million in annual tax breaks and owes the community amore reliable charity care system, the plaintiffs' attorney Alan Alop of the legal services group LAF said ata press conference Thursday in Chicago. The lawsuit claims unfair practicesunder the Illinois consumer fraud law and seeks $50,000 in punitive damages anda change in hospital policy.

SwedishCovenant spokeswoman Leigh Ginther said Thursday she couldn't comment on the lawsuit, but she said every patient who is identified as uninsured isgiven an application for charity care and a personal explanation of the process.

"Itis the patient's responsibility to return the completed paperwork,"Ginther said. The hospital reported $6.2 million in charity care expenses last year, nearly 3 percent of its net revenue.

Nearly 2 million Illinois residents are uninsured, or about 15 percent. The state constitution, court decisions and state law require Illinois hospitals that receive tax exemptions to provide charity care, but until this year the definition of charity wasn't clear.

The lawsuit comes as Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is writing new standards on hospitalcharity care as required by a law passed earlier this year.

A Chicago-based advocacy group, the Fair Care Coalition, wants Madigan to recommend that a standard, universal financial assistance application be used by all Illinois hospitals. The group also wants a thorough reporting mechanism so the public can check that hospitals are obeying the law, said Janna Simon of the coalition.

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CHICAGO(AP) — A lawsuit filed Thursday claims a nonprofit hospital innorthwest Chicago failed to provide charity care to two low-income,uninsured patients, reopening a longstanding controversy in Illinoisover whether hospitals are doing enough charitable work to qualify forlucrative tax exemptions.

Swedish Covenant Hospitalrepeatedly lost one patient's financial assistance application andthreatened to send her bill to a collection agency, according to thelawsuit. The hospital incorrectly told another patient she wasineligible for assistance and demanded cash from her, the complaintalleges.

Thepractices amount to "bureaucratic barriers" that prevent eligiblepatients from getting free care, according to the lawsuit, and thehospital has a policy of attempting to collect from "even the poorest ofpatients" through bill collectors and wage garnishment.

Thehospital gets about $8 million in annual tax breaks and owes thecommunity a more reliable charity care system, the plaintiffs' attorney Alan Alopof the legal services group LAF said at a press conference Thursday inChicago. The lawsuit claims unfair practices under the Illinois consumerfraud law and seeks $50,000 in punitive damages and a change inhospital policy.

Swedish Covenant spokeswoman Leigh Ginthersaid Thursday she couldn't comment on the lawsuit, but she said everypatient who is identified as uninsured is given an application forcharity care and a personal explanation of the process.

"Itis the patient's responsibility to return the completed paperwork,"Ginther said. The hospital reported $6.2 million in charity careexpenses last year, nearly 3 percent of its net revenue.

Nearly2 million Illinois residents are uninsured, or about 15 percent. Thestate constitution, court decisions and state law require Illinois hospitals that receive tax exemptions to provide charity care, but until this year the definition of charity wasn't clear.

The lawsuit comes as Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is writing new standards on hospital charity care as required by a law passed earlier this year.

A Chicago-based advocacy group, the Fair Care Coalition,wants Madigan to recommend that a standard, universal financialassistance application be used by all Illinois hospitals. The group alsowants a thorough reporting mechanism so the public can check thathospitals are obeying the law, said Janna Simon of the coalition.



Read more: http://www.newstimes.com/news/article/Uninsured-patients-sue-Chicago-nonprofit-hospital-4077774.php#ixzz2De8IseLh

HICAGO(AP) — A lawsuit filed Thursday claims a nonprofit hospital innorthwest Chicago failed to provide charity care to two low-income,uninsured patients, reopening a longstanding controversy in Illinoisover whether hospitals are doing enough charitable work to qualify forlucrative tax exemptions.

Swedish Covenant Hospitalrepeatedly lost one patient's financial assistance application andthreatened to send her bill to a collection agency, according to thelawsuit. The hospital incorrectly told another patient she wasineligible for assistance and demanded cash from her, the complaintalleges.

Thepractices amount to "bureaucratic barriers" that prevent eligiblepatients from getting free care, according to the lawsuit, and thehospital has a policy of attempting to collect from "even the poorest ofpatients" through bill collectors and wage garnishment.

Thehospital gets about $8 million in annual tax breaks and owes thecommunity a more reliable charity care system, the plaintiffs' attorney Alan Alopof the legal services group LAF said at a press conference Thursday inChicago. The lawsuit claims unfair practices under the Illinois consumerfraud law and seeks $50,000 in punitive damages and a change inhospital policy.

Swedish Covenant spokeswoman Leigh Ginthersaid Thursday she couldn't comment on the lawsuit, but she said everypatient who is identified as uninsured is given an application forcharity care and a personal explanation of the process.

"Itis the patient's responsibility to return the completed paperwork,"Ginther said. The hospital reported $6.2 million in charity careexpenses last year, nearly 3 percent of its net revenue.

Nearly2 million Illinois residents are uninsured, or about 15 percent. Thestate constitution, court decisions and state law require Illinois hospitals that receive tax exemptions to provide charity care, but until this year the definition of charity wasn't clear.

The lawsuit comes as Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is writing new standards on hospital charity care as required by a law passed earlier this year.

A Chicago-based advocacy group, the Fair Care Coalition,wants Madigan to recommend that a standard, universal financialassistance application be used by all Illinois hospitals. The group alsowants a thorough reporting mechanism so the public can check thathospitals are obeying the law, said Janna Simon of the coalition.



Read more: http://www.newstimes.com/news/article/Uninsured-patients-sue-Chicago-nonprofit-hospital-4077774.php#ixzz2De7x00DV