In 1946, Congress passed a law that gave hospitals, nursing homes and other health facilities grants and loans for construction and modernization. In return, they agreed to provide a reasonable volume of services to persons unable to pay and to make their services available to all persons residing in the facility’s area. The program stopped providing funds in 1997, but about 150 health care facilities nationwide are still obligated to provide free or reduced-cost care.
Since 1980, more than $6 billion in uncompensated services have been provided to eligible patients through Hill-Burton.
You are eligible to apply for Hill-Burton free care if your income is at or below the current HHS Poverty Guidelines. You may be eligible for Hill-Burton reduced-cost care if your income is as much as two times (triple for nursing home care) the HHS Poverty Guidelines.
Care at a Hill-Burton obligated facility is not automatically free or reduced-cost. You must apply at the admissions or business office at the obligated facility and be found eligible to receive free or reduced-cost care. You may apply before or after you receive care — you may even apply after a bill has been sent to a collection agency.
Some Hill-Burton facilities may use different eligibility standards and procedures.
Hill-Burton facilities must post a sign in their admissions and business offices and emergency room that says: NOTICE - Medical Care for Those Who Cannot Afford to Pay, and they must provide you with a written Individual Notice that lists the types of services eligible for Hill-Burton free or reduced-cost care, what income level qualifies for free or reduced-cost care and how long the facility may take in determining an applicant's eligibility.
Only facility costs are covered, not your private doctors' bills. Facilities may require you to provide documentation that verifies your eligibility, such as proof of income.
Hill-Burton facilities must provide a specific amount of free or reduced cost care each year, but can stop once they have given that amount. Obligated facilities publish an Allocation Plan in the local newspaper each year. The Allocation Plan includes the income criteria and the types of services it intends to provide at no cost or below cost. It also specifies the amount of free or reduced cost services it will provide for the year.
When you apply for Hill-Burton care, the obligated facility must provide you with a written statement that tells you what free or reduced-cost care services you will get or why you have been denied.
The facility may deny your request if
You may file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services if you believe you have been unfairly denied Hill-Burton free or reduced-cost care. Your complaint must be in writing and can be a letter that simply states the facts and dates concerning the complaint. You may call your local legal aid services for help in filing a complaint. Send complaints to:
Director, Division of Poison Control and Healthcare Facilities
5600 Fishers Lane
Rockville, MD 20857
(1-800-492-0359 in Maryland)
The following is a H R S A flash movie. The movie contains a link to http://findahealthcenter.hrsa.gov/ where you can search for health centers by location.