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Hospital provides own ‘stimulus’

By April 1, most Americans will have seen a tax break on their checks as result of the stimulus bill. But, perhaps more significantly, area patients will have two new changes in financial assistance programs available that same day, thanks to Harrison County Hospital in Corydon.
Jeff Davis, chief financial officer at HCH, said the policy changes were made to help offset economic woes for patients.
‘Times are tough,’ Davis said. ‘Even people that can pay need a little help.’
The expanded financial assistance policy will still be available to the uninsured, but the new policy will also help those patients who have insurance. Davis said the total amount of money from unpaid bills from insured patients, because of the volume, totaled more than that of uninsured patients in 2008.
‘That’s been the trend,’ he said.
After third-party or insurance payments have been received on a patient’s bill, assistance is available up to 100 percent on a gradual family-size and household-income scale. Davis said the majority of families in Harrison County would qualify for some level of assistance.
‘You would be surprised at the number of people that don’t know they qualify,’ he said.
The program is available for current accounts, past accounts up to one year old and future accounts for six months following. The policy will eliminate some of the bad debt owed to the hospital.
‘We’re just trying to help people afford the care they need,’ Davis said.
He said it is not uncommon to see a person go bankrupt from medical bills.
‘That’s sad in this country,’ Davis said.
Another program effective in April is the prompt-pay discount program. Patients will receive a 40-percent discount on an estimated bill if it is self-paid at the time of service or before. If the payment is made by methods other than self-pay, a 10-percent discount is still available. If a self-paid payment is made within 30 days of the first statement, a 20-percent discount will be issued with a 5-percent discount for payments other than self-pay. Obviously, the cost of service could be more or less than the estimation after it’s complete, at which point a refund or additional bill will be distributed.
‘People take advantage of most discounts,’ Davis said.
The new policies not only will help the patients, but the hospital will see the benefit of less money spent on collection fees. Davis said the total amount of uncompensated care has increased 400 percent since 2000, a total of $8 million. He said the hospital incurs a significant expense to try to collect the bad debt.
Davis said the lack of patients’ ability to pay has caused spending cuts and lay-offs in health care across the country.
‘We’ve not had any lay-offs, and we hope to keep it like that,’ he said.