MEDIA ADVISORY: New study answers the question: How charitable are North Carolina's hospitals?

MEDIA ADVISORY: New study answers the question: How charitable are North Carolina's hospitals?
With steps recommended by the NC Justice Center's Health Access Coalition, state hospitals could serve as models of openness and accountability

WHAT: A new report from the NC Justice Center's Health Access
Coalition on charity care policies in North Carolina
WHEN: Released Thursday, Feb. 11, at 10 a.m.
Advance copies for media members are available on request by emailing
jeff@ncjustice.org or alinker@ncjustice.org

RALEIGH (Feb. 11, 2010) -- Hospitals serve as critical safety-net providers for people seeking medical care. During 2008, North Carolina hospitals provided $694 million in free care.

To ensure health care access for working families harmed by the ongoing recession, a report released tomorrow says, transparency is key. Out of 112 hospitals, just 41 -- 36 percent -- post comprehensive charity care policies online. This can create confusion about income eligibility levels, asset limits, and catastrophic discounts.

The report, "How Charitable Are North Carolina's Hospitals?," by policy analyst Adam Linker, provides analysis of how state hospitals are doing in serving their most critical function: promoting public health for those in need. The report offers kudos for hospitals on the leading edge and recommendations for improvement for others throughout the system.

Some of the report's key points:

* Several hospitals and hospital systems deserve special recognition
for providing charity care levels that exceed the cost-of-living for
their region. These include: Novant Health, UNC Health Care,
University Health Systems of Eastern North Carolina, Iredell Memorial
Hospital, and Margaret R. Pardee Memorial Hospital.

* Every hospital in the state should post a comprehensive charity care
policy online.

* Hospitals should strive to provide free care to families earning
less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level, and provide some
discount to families earning less than 300 percent of the federal poverty level.

* Hospitals should consider benchmarking charity care policies to a
reasonable cost-of-living index like the Living Income Standard.

With steps like these, writes Linker, state hospitals "could serve as models of openness and accountability."

The report will be available online at www.ncjustice.org at 10 a.m. on Feb. 11. For an advance copy, e-mail either Adam Linker (alinker@ncjustice.org) or Jeff Shaw (jeff@ncjustice.org).

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Adam Linker, 919.861.2074; Jeff Shaw, director of communications, 503.551.3615.