There is a law prohibiting hospitals from detaining patients who are unable to pay their hospital bills, including doctorâ€™s fees and other charges.
This is provided for in Republic Act No.Â 9439 entitled â€œAn Act prohibiting the detention of patients in hospitals and medical clinics on grounds of nonpayment of hospital bills or medical expensesâ€
The law is very short and the pertinent provisions states:
Patients who have fully or partially recovered and who already wish to leave the hospital or medical clinic but are financially incapable to settle, in part or in full, their hospitalization expenses, including professional fees and medicines, shall be allowed to leave the hospital or medical clinic.
They have theÂ right to demand the issuance of the corresponding medical certificate and other pertinent papers required for the release of the patient from the hospital or medical clinic upon the execution of a promissory note covering the unpaid obligation.
The promissory note shall be secured by either a mortgage or by a guarantee of a co-maker, who will be jointly and severally liable with the patient for the unpaid obligation.
In the case of a deceased patient, the corresponding death certificate and other documents required for interment and other purposes shall be released to any of his surviving relatives requesting for the same.
This law seems to relieve patients from the burdens of huge medical bills.
However, there is a caveat in the law.
Those who were confined in private hospital rooms cannot avail of the benefits against hospital detention in case of nonpayment of bills.
Thus if one is confined in a private room in a hospital, he or she cannot avail the benefits against this anti-hospital detention law.
The rationale of this is that if one was confined in a private room, it means the patient could afford to pay the bills.
But this is not what happened to a client of mine.
Her father was confined in a private hospital.
Due to mounting hospital bills, they had to transfer to a less expensive government hospital.
They specifically applied for a ward room due to depleted finances.
But the hospital told them that there was no available ward room.
So they were placed in a private room instead.
When the patient could not pay the bills, they were prevented from being discharged owing to the fact that since they were confined in a private room, the anti-detention law cannot be availed of.
Fortunately, the patient was able to obtain a copy of their application specifically for award room thus enabling them to argue that their private room confinement was not their choice.
So there is a loophole for hospitals.
Hospitals will tell the patientÂ their ward is full and not available, so the patent will be confined in a private room.
Second, if one looks at the implementing rules, even a ward type room is considered a private room.
Thus even those in a ward type room but considered by law as private, cannot avail of the benefits of the anti hospital detention law.
DOH Administrative Order No. 2008-001 defines a private room as â€œsingle occupancy or ward type room divided by either permanent or semi permanent partition (except curtains) not to exceed for patients per room who are admitted for diagnosis, treatment and other forms of health care maintenance.â€
So even in a ward type room of four patients per room can be considered private room
Thus a patient confined in this type of room still cannot avail of the anti hospital detention law.
You can expect hospitals to construct their hospital ward rooms to accommodate four patients per room, so this will be considered private room confinement.
Suppose one is confined in a intensive care unit, even if they are four in a room, it can be deemed private room confinement, thus nixing the eligibility for benefits of the law.
So even if there ostensibly appears a law that grants relief for non-payment of hospital bills, the type of room confinement determines eligibility.