CHICAGO -- Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn joined with two uninsured patients to call on Resurrection Health Care to end its discriminatory billing practices and draconian measures in collecting overdue debt from the uninsured patients.
Charity care -- free health services -- at the eight Resurrection hospitals has declined dramatically, plummeting by 59% from June 2001 to June 2003. Citing from a recent report, Quinn said charity care has fallen to a staggering 0.6% of its gross charges compared to all other Cook County hospitals that average about 1.3% charity care.
“Discriminatory pricing is an economic injustice that affects millions of Illinois consumers who do not have health insurance,” Quinn said, adding that the problem disproportionately impacts minorities and immigrants and often leads to wage garnishing, liens and unrelenting claims for payment.
Quinn was joined by two uninsured patients who experienced first-hand the extreme practices of Resurrection Hospitals in collecting overdue debt.
In one example, a patient who was hit with two major illnesses visited two resurrection hospitals resulting in hospital bills totaling $50,000. The patient was denied Charity Care although her household income was $1,700 a month. The second patient was brought to the emergency room for a diabetic episode and was billed for over $3,000. With an income of $1,200 a month, a Resurrection hospital pressured the patient to make payments that equaled her weekly take home pay.
Resurrection Health Care is the second-largest healthcare system on the Northwest Side of Chicago, and has $1.2 billion in annual revenue. Resurrection hospitals are Westlake Hospital, Holy Family Medical Center, St. Joseph Hospital, St. Francis Hospital of Evanston, St. Mary of Nazareth Hospital, St. Elizabeth Hospital, Resurrection Medical Center and Our Lady of the Resurrection Medical Center.
At the National Lieutenant Governors’ Association conference last summer, Quinn won passage of a resolution that brought attention to the issue of hospitals charging uninsured patients more than what is charged to insured patients.
As a nonprofit and property tax-exempt hospital, Resurrection has a legal obligation to provide Charity Care to patients who lack health insurance and the funds to cover the escalating out-of-pocket costs.
“Hospitals have long-enjoyed the benefits of being off the property tax rolls,” Quinn said. “If hospitals receive this tax exemption, they have a legal duty to give back to their community in the form of charity care.”
Illinois courts have found that a hospital charging no fees to patients unable to pay and sliding-scale fees according to ability to pay is exempt from property taxation. A hospital that does not waive fees and pursues collection against those who are unable to pay cannot seek a charitable exemption from property taxes.