In the early 1970s, the American Hospital Association drafted a Patient Bill of Rights so people would know what they could reasonably expect when they were hospitalized. Since then, a number of similar measures have been developed. These are designed to:
In 2010, a Patient Bill of Rights was created when the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed and made into a law. The bill was designed to give patient protections in dealing with health insurance companies.
Here are some of the protections that apply to health plans under the ACA law:
Still, there are exceptions to some of these rights. The rules apply to plans issued or renewed on or after September 23, 2010. You’ll need to check your plan’s materials or ask your employer or benefits person to find out if your health plan is grandfathered.
Besides the grandfathered plans, there are other ways insurance companies can bypass some of the rules, so you’ll still have to check with each plan to find out exactly what they do and don’t do.
If you have concerns about your insurance, it’s sometimes helpful to start with customer service or a case manager at your health insurance company. For information on handling insurance claims, see Managing Your Health Insurance. If you would like to read more, you can visit www.healthcare.gov.
The Patient Bill of Rights described so far has focused on health insurance coverage, but there are others for different settings, like these:
Certain US states have their own versions of a bill of rights for patients. Insurance plans sometimes have lists of rights for subscribers.
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American Hospital Association (AHA). The patient care partnership. 2019. Accessed at https://www.aha.org/other-resources/patient-care-partnership on February 26, 2019.
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Patient’s bill of rights. 2019. Accessed at https://www.cms.gov/CCIIO/Programs-and-Initiatives/Health-Insurance-Market-Reforms/Patients-Bill-of-Rights.html on February 26, 2019.
Encyclopedia of Bioethics. A patient’s bill of rights. 2004. Accessed at https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/patients-bill-rights on February 26, 2019.
HealthCare.gov. Health coverage rights and protections. Accessed at https://www.healthcare.gov/health-care-law-protections/ on February 26, 2019.
National Institutes of Health (NIH). Patient bill of rights. 2017. Accessed at https://www.cc.nih.gov/participate/patientinfo/legal/bill_of_rights.html on February 26, 2019.
Along with the American Cancer Society, other sources of information and support include:
US Department of Health and Human Services
This site explains patient rights with regard to health insurance under the Affordable Care Act
American Hospital Association
Toll-free number: 1-800-242-2626 (this is the customer service/publication order line)
AHA’s Patient Care Partnership brochure teaches patients about rights and responsibilities in regard to their hospital stay. (It comes in English, Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.) The brochure is sold in bulk orders only and there’s a fee for non-members. You can read it online for free, in any of the languages, at www.aha.org/aha/issues/Communicating-With-Patients/pt-care-partnership.html.
National Library of Medicine
This site has information on patient rights along with many links to other sources of related information
Medicare Rights Center (for those with Medicare)
Toll-free number: 1-800-333-4114
This service can help you understand your rights and benefits, work through the Medicare system, and get quality care. They have newsletters, fact sheets, and a place to submit questions. They can also help you find programs that help reduce your costs for prescription drugs and medical care, and guide you through the appeals process if Medicare denies coverage for drugs or care you need
*Inclusion on this list does not imply endorsement by the American Cancer Society.
Last Revised: May 13, 2019