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Weinberg Bill Would Prevent Hospitals From Overcharging Uninsured Patients

TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senator Loretta Weinberg, which would limit the amount hospitals may charge certain uninsured patients for inpatient and outpatient care was unanimously approved today by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee.

“I understand that our hospitals are struggling, which is evident by the increasing number of hospital closures throughout the State,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen, who serves as Vice Chair of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens panel. “However, we cannot allow hospitals to make up for their financial losses by charging uninsured patients excessively high rates for care – especially when many of these men and women are the least able to pay. This bill is an issue of fairness and parity.”

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.

“This bill would eliminate some of the burdens uninsured residents face when they go to the hospital for treatment. We have to make sure that affordable medical care is within reach for all New Jerseyans, and by capping hospital fees, we would guarantee that uninsured patients would be able to receive the medical care they need, without breaking the bank,” Senator Weinberg said.

This measure now heads to the full Senate for approval.


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