clinics institute new financial policy
Clearwater Valley Hospital and St. Mary’s Hospital and their satellite medical clinics are instituting a new financial policy to address the rising costs associated with providing medical care to uninsured and underinsured individuals. Last year, CVHC wrote off approximately $850,000 and SMHC approximately $450,000 in bad debt charges.
“Both hospitals have staff who work with individuals to make sure they take advantage of all the available programs such as Medicaid, CHIP A, CHIP B and others. We also assist people in obtaining that assistance. The vast majority of our patients work with us to set up payment schedules within their budgets and to enroll in assistance programs,” said Larry Kidd, Chief Financial Officer. “However, our bad debt continues to rise and, if we are to continue to serve everyone we have to be fiscally responsible.”
According to Kidd, bad debt is defined as ‘ability to pay, but refusal to pay.’ Both hospitals have a Benedictine Charity Care Program designed to help families in need. A family can apply to the program for assistance once all other avenues have been exhausted. Neither hospital receives any tax support from local or state sources.
“We recognize that the cost of medical insurance premiums is rising and that many of our patients are uninsured. We understand that these are rough economic times and we will continue to work with people to let them know what resources are available, but, in turn, they must work with us by applying to programs and, if they don’t qualify, then working with us to set up payment systems. We will never turn anyone away who is making an effort to pay for the services they have received.”
The features of the new collection policy include:
Insurance copayment at time of visit;
Payment at time of visit for self pay or uninsured or other arrangements must be made through business office;
Unpaid overdue bills may be taken to small claims court or given to collection agency;
Patient is responsible for insurance preauthorization. CVHC/SMHC staff will help in this process, but ultimately, the patient is responsible for any payments not made by the insurance company.
“We will never turn any child away who needs medical treatment, but we will be making every effort to make sure that child is enrolled in the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program or CHIP program, if their family qualifies,” said Kidd.
According to the FY 2004 BHS Social Accountability Reports, SMHC provided over $1.2 and CVHC over $1 million dollars in charity care, free and reduced pharmaceuticals, educational events, free health screenings and other items in the communities they serve.
“We consider ourselves partners with the people we serve,” said Kidd. “If we are to continue to provide medical care to the people of this area in this challenging health care climate, we need to partner with them to exhaust every resource and to have people work with us to identify financial options for their health care. We are always willing to help, but we need that to be a two way street.”