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Hospitals to Patients: Pay Now

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NEW YORK, Jun 02, 2004 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- Swamped by bad debt expenses, more and more U.S. hospitals are pushing patients for part of their bill before discharging them, or even treating them.

Those debt expenses amount to billions of dollars in losses for U.S. hospitals each year, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

And they have been soaring due to increasing numbers of uninsured patients and changes in health insurance that push more costs directly onto patients.

Much of that debt is simply uncollectible.

HCA Inc., the nation's largest hospital chain, will begin asking patients at all its 191 hospitals this month to pay their co-payment before receiving non-emergency treatment.

If patients say they cannot afford it or don't have the money, the hospitals will ask for at least a down payment.

In 2002, the last year for which data is available, the total cost of unreimbursed care was $22.3 billion at 4,927 U.S. hospitals, according to the American Hospital Association.

Copyright 2004 by United Press International.

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