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Weinberg Bill To Prevent Hospitals From Overcharging Uninsured Patients Gets Final Legislative Approval

TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senator Loretta Weinberg which would limit the amount hospitals may charge certain uninsured patients for inpatient and outpatient care, received unanimous final legislative approval today from the full Senate.

“These are tough financial times – a lot of people are struggling,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen, who serves as Vice Chair of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. “I also realize that our hospitals are also having trouble making ends meet, which is being manifested in the form of hospital closures throughout the State. What we can’t allow though is for these hospitals to make up for their financial losses by overcharging uninsured patients.”

Senator Weinberg’s bill, S-1797, would cap hospital bills for uninsured patients at no more than 15% above the Federal Medicare charge. The bill also calls upon the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a sliding fee scale, based on family income, which would be used to determine reasonable costs for hospital services.

In order to qualify for these set fees, residents’ income would have to be less than 500% of the Federal poverty level, which is currently $21,200 for a family of 4 (500% of which is $106,000), said Senator Weinberg.

“While families earning over $100,000 a year don’t sound like they’re living in the ‘poor house,’ one exceptionally high medical bill could definitely put them in a bad position,” said Senator Weinberg.

This bill comes as a recommendation from the Commission on Rationalizing Health Care Resources, which held public hearings throughout the State on health care delivery and equity for the medically underserved, Senator Weinberg said.

“Affordable health care must be within reach for all New Jerseyans, and this legislation would put us on track to allow the uninsured to get the care they need,” said Senator Weinberg.

This measure now heads to the Governor’s desk, where his signature would make it state law.

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