Today HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson released a letter
to the president of the American Hospital Association, Richard Davidson, in which Thompson wrote:
[H]ospitals can provide discounts to uninsured and underinsured patients who cannot afford their hospital bills and to Medicare beneficiaries who cannot afford their Medicare cost-sharing obligations. Nothing in the Medicare program rules or regulations prohibit such discounts. In addition, the Office of Inspector General informs me that hospitals have the ability to offer discounts to uninsured and underinsured individuals and cost-sharing waivers to financially needy Medicare beneficiaries.
Thompson went on to write: "To be sure that there will be no further confusion on this matter, at my direction, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Office of Inspector General have prepared summaries of our policy that hospitals can use to assist the uninsured and underinsured." I'm looking for those summaries and will provide a link as soon as they show up on the HHS web site.