Charity Care 101
What is charity care?
The Affordable Care Act requires nonprofit hospitals to offer free or reduced-price care to lower-income patients. Patients can apply through their hospital to these financial assistance programs. Eligibility for charity care at a hospital is usually based on income level, household size, and the age of the bill. Each hospital sets its own policy and rules. Learn more about charity care.
Do for-profit hospitals offer charity care?
Many for-profit hospitals also offer some sort of financial assistance. It’s worth checking online to see what they offer or calling to ask. The hospital gets to make its own rules in that case, so the application process might be a bit more complicated. If the hospital does have a financial assistance policy, Dollar For can help you apply.
Does charity care help if my bill is in collections?
Nonprofit hospitals must consider applications for all bills less than 240 days old, even if the bill has already been sent to collections. Some hospitals will consider applications for bills older than 240 days.
Can I still qualify for charity care if I have already paid my bill?
If a patient qualifies for charity care, the law requires nonprofit hospitals to refund any payments made towards that bill. Dollar For can help you fight for a refund.
Does charity care help patients with insurance?
Each hospital sets its own guidelines for if or how they provide financial assistance to insured patients. Many, but not all, will waive debt not covered by insurance companies. Dollar For will help anyone regardless of insurance status.
I have separate bills from a doctor who treated me at the hospital. Are these covered?
Doctors and others who work at hospitals sometimes bill patients separately. Unfortunately, the charity care rules only apply to nonprofit hospitals. Connected practitioners will not automatically forgive your bills if you qualify for hospital charity care.
We recommend that you start by getting charity care approval from the hospital. Then give copies of the approval letter to the doctors and other practitioners. They might adjust your bill to meet what the hospital offers you. For example, if the hospital forgave 100% of your bill, then they would too. If the hospital forgave 50%, then they could cut your bill in half to match that decision.
Requesting help from Dollar For
How can I get help from Dollar For with my medical bills?
Dollar For can help you check if your hospital bill is eligible for charity care, prepare and submit your applications, and help you crush that bill. Our services are completely free–no strings attached.
Dollar For doesn’t pay off your bills. We help you apply for your hospital’s financial assistance program. We will do our best to help you get that bill waived, but ultimately, it is the hospital’s decision if a patient will receive financial assistance. Learn what to expect when you get help from Dollar For.
How will Dollar For communicate with me during the charity care process?
Dollar For is a small team working hard to help a lot of people. You can also use our contact form to ask us a question anytime.
We are not able to answer or return phone calls. As we work through the application process with you, we will send emails and text messages to keep you updated and check in with you using the contact information you provide when you check to see if your bill qualifies for charity care.
If you don’t have an email address, our screening tool has the option to let us know that. You will still have to provide a mobile number so that we have some way to get in touch with you. However, we encourage you to provide your email to us. A lot of hospitals communicate by email, and we want to make it easy for you to get this bill waived.
I filled out the eligibility screener and it said I’m eligible. Now what?
When you finished the eligibility screener, you should have received an email and a text to our Full Service Questionnaire. You must fill out that entire form so that Dollar For has all the information we need to apply to the hospital on your behalf.
This will include information about your bill, your income, and your expenses. You’ll also have to upload proof of income documents. Hospitals want proof that the financial information you have told them is true. By showing them your pay stubs, tax forms, and bank statements, you are showing them that you really are eligible for financial assistance. They probably won’t approve your application if you don’t provide this info.
Can I still get help if I don’t give Dollar For my financial information?
Yes! When you use our screening tool, you’ll have the option to choose to apply on your own. We’ll send you instructions and reminders to work through the process, and will answer your questions anytime you need help.
I am helping someone else fill out these forms. Do I need to do anything special?
When you fill out the Full Service Questionnaire, please use the patient’s name and contact information wherever it asks for it. On the last page, you’ll have an option to provide your contact information. Please only do this if you want all communication from Dollar For and the hospital to go to you. Otherwise, you can leave that section blank and we will communicate with the patient through the process.
What if I need help with more than one bill?
If all of your bills are from the same hospital location, you will be able to list up to 4 bills in the same questionnaire. You can email us if you have more than 4 bills at that location.
Please only list bills that you receive from the actual hospital, not doctors or others at the hospital who might also be billing you.
If your bills are at different locations, you will need to check if you are eligible and complete a questionnaire for each location. Remember, each hospital has its own policy for who qualifies and how to apply.
What if several members of my family have bills from the same location?
If several members of your family have bills from the same hospital, you will need to fill out the form for each patient who was billed.
I’m not sure of my exact bill amount. What should I do?
If you haven’t yet received the bill, it’s ok to make an estimate. You can update us later when you know the actual amount you owe.
When you list bill amounts, please share the amount you owe after insurance, Medicaid, health shares, or any other payers have contributed. We want to know how much you personally owe to the hospital.
I live with a lot of people. Who should I list in my household?
Most hospitals consider everyone listed on the tax returns as part of the household. For example, if you are married with 3 kids, you would include all five members of your household. If you live with roommates or other adult members of your family but don’t list them on your tax returns, they would not count in your household. Read our household definitions for more examples.
What documents do I have to provide to get approved for charity care?
Most hospitals require a copy of your most recent tax returns and the 3 most recent pay stubs for every working member of your household. You can download your most recent tax returns or a copy of your non-filing determination letter from the IRS here.
Many hospitals also require your 3 most recent bank statements. They ask for these so that they can check if the income you have shared on the application matches the deposits in your account. Don’t worry, they won’t be looking at how or where you have spent your money.
If you aren’t currently working, you’ll need to provide unemployment or social security benefit letters. If you don’t have any formal sources of income, we recommend you write a letter that explains how you are supporting yourself. This might include receiving several hundred dollars a month from a friend or family member, or living off your savings. No matter what it is, it’s ok, just be truthful and explain your situation.
I need a bit more time to get some documents. Can I still fill out the Dollar For questionnaire?
If there is something you need more time to get or if you are helping someone fill out this form over the phone, it’s ok to submit the form without all of the documents. Just check those “I confirm” boxes even if it’s not true.
Afterwards, please make sure to email your documents to firstname.lastname@example.org or use the upload link we provide in your confirmation email.
Keep in mind: The hospital will need all of these documents in order to approve your application. Make sure you get them to us as quickly as possible so that we can help you crush this bill.
I want to share more information about my situation. Where can I do that?
Our questionnaire has a place for you to share any special information you think we should know about your case.
We don’t need to know anything about your medical diagnosis or treatment, but it is helpful for us to know if you have had a major change to your finances recently. Be sure to highlight any recent job losses or changes.
I’ve submitted my questionnaire. Now what?
Congrats! You have submitted your Full Service Questionnaire to Dollar For. You will know you are done when you see the confirmation page. You’ll also get a text and an email confirming that we have received your questionnaire, including an upload link if you need to send us more documents.
Over the next 1-3 weeks, our team will get to work preparing your financial assistance application. Please be patient with us. We are a small team trying to help a lot of people. If your bill is over $15,000, we will send you a copy of the application to review before we submit it.
We’ll send another text and email when we have sent the application to the hospital. This will include instructions on what to expect next. The most important thing we ask is that you look out for communications from the hospital and stay in touch with us! Our goal is to help you crush that bill.
Dollar For told me they submitted my application to the hospital, but I haven’t heard anything. What do I do?
Most hospitals call, email, mail you a letter, or send a message through their online portal about 3 weeks after an application is submitted. Be on the lookout for those messages. They may look like bills but it’s important to see what they say.
If you don’t hear from the hospital within 3 weeks, we recommend you call the hospital’s financial assistance department or the phone number on your bill to check on your application. You can find more tips on making this call here.
You can expect one of these things to happen:
- You’ll get an approval letter and your bills are written off or reduced.
- The hospital might call, email, or send you a letter asking for more information or documents. If you would like help submitting them to the hospital, use the upload link we provided to send them to us.
- The hospital might send you a denial letter. If this happens, Dollar For might be able to help you appeal. Send us a copy of the letter and we’ll figure out what to do next.
No matter what you hear, please keep us informed. You can email us at email@example.com or respond to any of our earlier emails or texts to be in touch.