More than half of all U.S. hospitals have medical bill forgiveness programs, but many patients don’t know about them. These medical debt relief programs, also called charity care, forgive or decrease hospital bills for people who can’t afford to pay their hospital bills.
That hospital bill for $15,000. It could become $150, or even $0.
Who qualifies for medical debt relief?
Each hospital runs its own medical bill forgiveness 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.
These examples show who might qualify for a discount. Every hospital policy is different. Your hospital may be more or less generous. See if you qualify.
Household of 1 making $46,000
Household of 2 making $63,000
Household of 3 making $80,000
Household of 4 making $97,000
* On average in 2024, households under 212% of the Federal Poverty Level will qualify for free care, and families under 311% will qualify for discounted care. These averages are derived from Dollar For’s national database of hospital financial assistance policies.
Can I get free help applying for hospital debt forgiveness?
Dollar For helps patients check if they are eligible for charity care, prepare and submit applications, and get those medical bills forgiven.
We don’t pay your bills — we get the hospital to forgive them. Our services are completely free – no strings attached.
What are other names for hospital debt forgiveness programs?
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 even if the bill is “forgiven.”
That’s why we also talk about medical bill forgiveness with words like “charity care” or “financial assistance.” Your bill can be relieved, waived, written off, eliminated, or reduced by the hospital.
How can I apply to have my medical debt forgiven?
Dollar For can help for free. Use our quick assessment tool to see if you are likely to qualify for debt forgiveness at your hospital. You’ll then have a choice to either apply on your own with tips from Dollar For, or have us apply on your behalf. Either way — it’s free.
Are hospitals legally required to offer medical bill forgiveness?
Internal Revenue Service code 501(r) requires nonprofit hospitals to:
- Have a medical bill forgiveness policy that tells who qualifies and how to apply
- Post the hospital relief policy information on their website, signs in the hospital, and bills
- Give patients at least 240 days (about 8 months) to apply after they get a bill
- Give patients a chance to fix incomplete applications
- Pause sending a bill to collections while they are reviewing the financial assistance application
- Send the patient a letter with the final medical bill forgiveness decision and reason
Some states have laws that require all hospitals to offer financial assistance. These laws can change the rules for nonprofit and for-profit hospitals. Check out our state charity care law summaries for more.
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