ACA International, a trade association for debt collectors, yesterday announced that it has mobilized its members in hopes of helping Congress avert what the association believes is a potentially devastating decision regarding health care reform and its impact on future patient care.

"This is an issue that goes right to the heart of the entire debate," Adam Peterman, ACA's government affairs director, said in a news release. "What we're talking about here is something that could end up hurting the very people it is supposed to help most – patients."

The U.S. Senate Finance Committee is considering raising the standards for non-profit health care providers, as it is often considered too easy for a provider to qualify as a non-profit, tax-exempt entity without providing any real benefit to the community, the ACA explained. Among the proposed changes would be serious restrictions on how non-profit health care providers can go about collecting payment from patients.

"The members of our association serve a critical role not only for non-profit health care providers, but also for patients facing massive amounts of medical debt," Peterman said. "We go out of our way when working with patients to ensure low-income individuals are provided with services that seek every possible avenue for outside payment assistance."

Peterman's chief concern is discussion on restricting the ability of non-profit hospitals to seek payment for services, including making it difficult for providers to outsource collection activity to third-party providers.

"While the concerns of the staff who have suggested such changes are in the right place, these changes would effectively hurt the very patients they seek to help," he said. "First, what many policy makers may not sufficiently understand is that our members working in the health care space actually specialize in first determining what Medicaid or charity care programs a patient may qualify for, and then take the next step and help them complete the paperwork necessary to receive such assistance."

If non-profit health care providers struggle to collect the funds owed for their services, the obvious conclusion is that less charity and non-profit care will be available as a result, according to the association.

"The last thing any of us want right now is to make it even more difficult for people in need to receive medical treatment in a timely and affordable fashion," Peterman said. "That's why the members of ACA International are working to ensure policy makers understand just how dangerous this aspect of the health care legislation can be if it isn't done right."

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