What is charity care?

That hospital bill for $15,000. It could become $150, or even $0.

More than half of all U.S. hospitals are nonprofits. Nonprofit hospitals must have charity care programs to keep their tax-exempt status. These programs, also called financial assistance, decrease medical bills for low and middle-income patients.

Who qualifies for charity care?

IRS code 501(r) requires hospitals to:

  • Have a policy that explains who qualifies and how to apply;

  • Post the policy on their website, flyers, billing statements, and signs in the hospital;

  • Give patients at least 240 days to apply after they receive a bill, and a reasonable chance to fix incomplete applications;

  • Pause sending a bill to collections while they are reviewing the financial assistance application; and

  • Send the patient a letter with the final charity care decision and reason.

Each hospital runs its own charity care program. They get to decide how patients must apply and who qualifies. Hospitals typically consider the patient’s income, the number of people in the household, and the bill’s age when deciding who qualifies. Some hospitals also look at the patient’s insurance status, county or state residency, and the size of the bill.

How does Dollar For help?

Dollar For helps patients check if they are eligible for charity care, prepare and submit applications, and eliminate medical bills. Our services are completely free – no strings attached. Learn what to expect when you get help from Dollar For.


Dollar For believes a medical crisis shouldn’t become a financial crisis.  If you go to the hospital for medical care, you have done nothing wrong, so there is nothing to “forgive.” 

That’s why we talk about charity care as a financial assistance program.  Your bill can be waived, written off, eliminated, or reduced by the hospital.  But it doesn’t need to be forgiven.



That’s awesome.  We can help.  Our step-by-step guide gives detailed instructions on how to check if you are eligible and apply for charity care. Learn how to find a hospital’s policy and check for eligibility.

Want help along the way? Use our quick assessment tool to see if you are likely to qualify for financial assistance at your hospital, then request the self-advocacy option.  We’ll send you emails and texts with instructions and reminders, and answer any questions you may have.

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