Some states and localities have special laws covering uninsured and underinsured patients. One such state is Illinois.

Not only does Illinois have an excellent hospital comparison and consumer health Web site, it also has a state law saying that “hospital charges to eligible uninsured cannot exceed the costs of the services plus 35 percent. This law also puts an annual cap on the amount of money hospitals can collect for services from eligible uninsured patients to no more than 25 percent of a patient’s family income.” Here’s a screenshot.

This, of course, addresses the question of whether uninsured people are charged the full price on a hospital’s chargemaster price list. Chargemasters have become known as the “MSRP” of health care, a list of notional prices that come into play when hospitals create their bills. Quite often the only people who are expected to pay the full chargemaster bill are uninsured people, or underinsured people, a theme of Steve Brill’s recent “Bitter Pill” piece in Time magazine.

Jeanne Pinder

Jeanne Pinder  is the founder and CEO of ClearHealthCosts. She worked at The New York Times for almost 25 years as a reporter, editor and human resources executive, then volunteered for a buyout and founded...