LEGAL AIDE PROGRAM FOR UNINSURED - Mitch Perry04/28/04
There are approximately 44 million uninsured people in the U.S. and for many of them a trip to the emergency room for health care became a financial nightmare for years afterwards.....
In recent months, however, there has been more scrutiny at the price differential that Hospitals charge the uninsured, versus what they charge Insurance Companies.
In February, Health & Human Services Secretary Tommy Tompson wrote a letter to the 5,000 member American Hospital Association, urging them to cut charges for uninsured patients, rejecting their arguments that they are constrained by federal rules.
Today in Tampa, a new legal aide group announced their establishment in Florida to provide guidance and help to uninsured patients who face enormous bills.
Entitled Consejo De Latinos Unidos, or The Council of United Latinos, is led by their
Executive Director KB Forbes (roll tape#1 o.q. " egregious and immoral behavior')
Back in January, the Florida Hospital Association agreed to a legislative proposal backed by governor Bush that would require them to provide a minimum discount of 30 percent to SOME of the state's uninsured.
But K.B. Forbes, is NOT impressed (roll tape#2 o.q."vast sums of money")
Consejo has been helping the uninsured in California for several years, and calls itself a national organization.....It's biggest victory was an agreement negotiated between them and Tenat Healthcare last year....It requires the chain to grant its uninsured patients discounts that are within a few percentage points of those negotiated by insurers.
Tenat also settled several lawsuits filed by Consejo on behalf of uninsured patients who had accused Tenat of price gouging.
Consejo De Latinos Unidos will never be accused of being top heavy...Joining Forbes today in announcing the Florida Chapter of the advocacy group was South Florida Civil Rights Attorney Matthew Dietz ...He says this is an issue of economic Justice(roll tape#4 o.q."and someone to ask")
Remy Rodriguez is Consejo's 3rd staff member....who will be the group's Legal Services Coordinator ..She says despite the group's title, they will open to help Any Floridian who needs it (roll tape#5 o.q."we see a lot of Hispanics")
Executive Director KB Forbes says if a hospital sues a patient for an unreasonable amount, they will defend them...If a hospital or their collection agency violates the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, they will take legal action against the hopoital....And if a Hospital refuses to provide a patient with a UB-92 copy of their medical bill, they will file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights of the US Department of Health and human Services ...Forbes describes the UB-92 Form (roll tape# 5 o.q."their price gouging them")
Before he became a health care activist, KB Forbes worked in conservative politics, where he has worked for former Republican Presidential candidates Steve Forbes and Pat Buchanon. ..And he has been accused by Rich Rasmussen of the Florida Hospital Association of being funded by insurance companies and political groups....Forbes denied those charges today....
To contact Consejo De Latinos Unidos, you can call 1-800-474-7576, or go the web at www.consejohelp.org