Discounted Hospital Care
If you are an uninsured California resident with low or moderate income and you need hospital care, you should shop around for a hospital that will offer you the Fair Price discount.
All hospitals offer discounts of 25-30% for up-front cash payments; the Fair Price discount is much larger, typically 65-85% below the Chargemaster rate.
Different hospitals use different eligibility rules for the Fair Price discount, so if your income is too high to get the Fair Price discount at a local hospital, you may be eligible for the discount at another hospital further away.
How to find a hospital that will give you the Fair Price Discount:
Figure out whether you are uninsured or underinsured. To be eligible for a Fair Price discount, you must fit into one of these two categories.
- Use our FPL calculator to estimate your household FPL.
- Go to the California Hospital Fair Pricing website.
- At the left of the screen, in the box that says Search Fair Pricing, click on "Distance" and select "500 miles" from the drop down menu.
- Enter the name of your city in "From Location."
- Click "Search."
Scroll down until you see your search results. This list will show every hospital within 500 miles of you, with the highest FPL number you can have and be eligible for a Fair Price discount at that hospital.
- For example, if your FPL number is 400, look at the hospitals on your list that have an FPL number of 400 or higher. These are the hospitals that should give you a Fair Price discount.
- Click on the name of whichever hospital you prefer to go to its "Hospital Details" page. Factors you might consider include location and quality of care, as well as cost.
- Scroll down until you see the hospital's Financial Assistance Policy and Application documents.
Print the Financial Assistance application and fill it out.
- If there is anything on the application you don't understand, call the person listed as the Contact in the Hospital General Information section on the website, and ask them to explain it to you. If you can't find anyone at the hospital who can explain it to you, advocates at your local Health Consumer Center may be able to help you. If there is no Health Consumer Center in your county, you can contact the IOU Project at Health Access for information and assistance.
- Mail or fax your application to the hospital. If you mail your application, send it Certified Mail and keep the receipt. If you fax it, keep a fax receipt to show you sent it. Keep a photocopy of your application and all supporting documents.
- If your application for a Fair Pricing Act discount is denied and you wish to appeal, your local Health Consumer Center may be able to assist you.
Which bills are covered?
The Hospital Fair Pricing Act only covers bills from hospitals, but a second law passed in 2010 (AB 1503) extends the Fair Price discount rules to bills from emergency room doctors, including surgeons and anesthesiologists, who bill separately.
AB 1503 as enacted:
- Limits the price that an Emergency Room physician can charge an uninsured or underinsured person of low or moderate income (defined as 3.5 times the federal poverty level) to an amount roughly equal to 50 percent of the usual price;
- Requires emergency doctors to notify uninsured patients in their bills that a discount is available, and to provide their discount payment policy and application upon request;
- Provides uninsured and underinsured California residents with the same consumer protections against aggressive collections by Emergency Room physicians as by hospitals.
While these laws apply only to bills from hospitals and emergency room doctors, many other medical care providers will give a discount or forgive the bill if you cannot pay it, so you should ask. If you have been given a Fair Price discount or free care from a hospital, be sure to say this when asking for a discount from other providers.