OAKLAND - California Attorney General Rob Bonta today issued a consumer alert following reports that hospitals are failing to fulfill their obligations under state law to provide free or reduced-price healthcare to qualifying patients. Attorney General Bonta also sent letters to hospitals operating in California warning them that they must provide written notice to patients – in their native language – of the availability of “charity care” and how to apply. Californians who believe a hospital is violating the state’s charity care law can file a complaint with the California Department of Public Health here.
“When hospitals fail to inform patients of the availability of free or reduced-cost medical care, they force patients and their families to make impossible choices and confront financial hardship,” said Attorney General Bonta. “No family should ever have to think twice about getting their loved one’s necessary medical care because they’re afraid of high medical costs. Hospitals have a responsibility to inform Californians about their charity care options.”
The California Department of Justice has received complaints, particularly from rural and farm-working communities across the state, that hospitals are not providing charity care policy notices in a language that patients understand as required by state law. According to a 2021 survey from Gallup and West Health, around one-third of Americans have skipped medical treatment for a health problem because of the high cost of care. As patients continue to face high out-of-pocket costs, they have the right to know that charity care programs exist to help families avoid financial catastrophe.
In addition to letters sent to hospitals operating in California, Attorney General Bonta today issued a consumer alert in English, Spanish, Chinese (Traditional), Tagalog, Vietnamese, and Hindi/Punjabi informing Californians of their rights to free or reduced-price medical care:
Eligibility Requirements for Charity Care
Know Your Rights