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A Providence hospital in Washington state. Photo: Francis Dean/Corbis via Getty Images

Some hospital systems are temporarily pausing bills for any patients who receive care related to the new coronavirus.

Why it matters: Receiving costly medical bills could discourage people from seeking care even as the outbreak worsens. However, it's unclear what patients' financial obligations will look like once the pandemic simmers.

What's happening: Aurora Advocate Health, a large not-for-profit system with 28 hospitals across Illinois and Wisconsin, was the first to "refrain from sending patient bills related to coronavirus" in the near term, although that was not a commitment to waive charges indefinitely.

  • Providence St. Joseph Health, based on the West Coast and one of the largest hospital systems in the country, told Axios on March 12 that it is "implementing a temporary hold on all inpatient and outpatient COVID-19-related billing. This gives us the necessary time to align with insurers, testing and lab partners, and our state and federal governments involved in providing various elements of COVID-19 health care."
  • CommonSpirit Health, a 142-hospital system that is the product of Dignity Health and Catholic Health Initiatives merging, said on March 17 that it also would suspend sending any bills "related to the testing and treatment of COVID-19."

Yes, but: This is not yet an industry-wide standard. The American Hospital Association submitted this statement:

"Any individual who believes they need screening or treatment for COVID-19 should seek appropriate medical care, and concerns about cost should not prevent patients from seeking care. Hospitals commit to working with insurers for any patient who receives out-of-network care. We ask the federal government to assist hospitals in covering the costs of care for the uninsured, consistent with programs implemented after other previous emergencies or natural disasters."

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - World

Skripal poisoning suspects linked to Czech blast, as country expels 18 Russians

Combined images released by British police in 2018 of Alexander Petrov (L) and Ruslan Boshirov, who are suspected of carrying out an attack in the in the southern English city of Salisbury using Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent, and also the2014 Czech depot explosion. Photo: Metropolitan Police via Getty Images

Czech police on Saturday connected two Russian men suspected of carrying out a poisoning attack in Salisbury, England, with a deadly ammunition depot explosion southeast of the capital, Prague, per Reuters.

Driving the news: Czech officials announced Saturday they're expelling 18 Russian diplomats they accuse of being involved in the blast in Vrbětice, AP notes. Czech police said later they're searching for two men carrying several passports — including two with the names Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov.

Indianapolis mass shooting suspect legally bought 2 guns, police say

Marion County Forensic Services vehicles are parked at the site of a mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Friday. Photo: Jeff Dean/AFP via Getty Images

The suspected gunman in this week's mass shooting at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis legally purchased two "assault rifles" believed to have been used in the attack, police said late Saturday.

Of note: The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department's statement that Brandon Scott Hole, 19, bought the rifles last July and September comes a day after the FBI told news outlets that a "shotgun was seized" from the suspect in March 2020 after his mother raised concerns about his mental health.

U.S. and China agree to take joint climate action

US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry waves as he arrives at the Elysee Presidential Palace on March 10, 2021 in Paris. Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images

Despite an increasingly tense relationship, the U.S. and China agreed Saturday to work together to tackle global climate change, including by "raising ambition" for emissions cuts during the 2020s — a key goal of the Biden administration.

Why it matters: The joint communique released Saturday evening commits the world's two largest emitters of greenhouse gases to work together to keep the most ambitious temperature target contained in the Paris Climate Agreement viable by potentially taking additional emissions cuts prior to 2030.