Access to Health Care Q&A

In Texas, all non-profit hospitals are required to provide a certain amount of free health care to people who have no health insurance, or who cannot afford to pay for hospital care.

Do all hospitals have to provide charity care?

No. The law applies only to non-profit hospitals. For-profit hospitals are not included and public hospitals already are required to provide charity care. Under anti-dumping laws, all hospitals with emergency rooms must treat people who have emergency medical conditions, regardless of their ability to pay.

Who is eligible for charity care?

Anyone can apply, but hospitals have a right to ask financial questions to determine eligibility. The eligibility criteria are set by the hospital within the limits of the law and are based on a patient's ability to pay. Applicants are responsible for providing necessary financial information in a timely manner.

Can I be charged an application fee?

The application must be offered free of charge.

Do hospital charity programs apply only to emergency room care?

No. Hospitals also offer this program in clinics and non-emergency hospital admissions.

How long can I receive this care?

You can receive care as long as you still meet the hospital criteria.

Do hospital charity care programs take the place of health insurance, Medicare or Medicaid?

No. These programs are not a substitute for health insurance or for any government health assistance programs. Hospitals will usually accept insurance first (including Medicaid or Medicare) and provide care under this program only if you have no insurance and cannot afford to pay.

How do I know if my local hospital has a charity care program?

If your hospital is non-profit, information about the charity care program must be posted in the emergency room and general waiting areas, the business office, and other visible areas. If you are unsure whether a hospital offers charity care, ask an admissions clerk.

If I did not know about charity care when I was admitted, can I still apply for it later?

Yes. You can request financial assistance at any point—even after being billed by the hospital or a collection agency.

 

Revised: March 01 2012