Hospital evaluates financial assistance programs

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Skyrocketing healthcare costs and an ever rising number uninsured and underinsured Hoosiers, led the Putnam County Hospital to roll out a cost cutting initiative for patients most in need of help this fall. Now, the Putnam County Hospital Board plans to evaluate the program's success.

To date there are more than 860,000 Hoosiers with no health insurance coverage, according to Hoosiers for a Commonsense Health Plan (HCHP), and that number is growing at twice the national average.

Indiana also has the highest per capita rate of medically bankrupt families, over 77,000, and 75 percent of those declaring bankruptcy for medical reasons had health insurance when they became ill.

Aware of the hardship that uninsured families face, officials at Putnam County Hospital say they are attempting to bring the sometimes astronomical cost of health care back down to Earth.

The program, which went into effect in late Aug. 2007, will save self-paying PCH patients 10 percent off of their hospital bill, if they pay within 10 days. Another measure will save uninsured or underinsured patients who qualify for assistance and additional 15 percent, meaning that some patients will see a total savings of 25 percent.

"We recognize that healthcare bills are high," said the hospital's chief accountant Roger Boruff. "It gives patients a good deal, particularly the uninsured who are hurt so much by health care costs."

Though many Putnam County residents may be unaware of the program, hospital accountants say that at least some of those savings are automatically reflected on hospital bills.

The program is ultimately designed to help patients, said Boruff, but he and PCH business office manager, Wilma Phipps, add that the program will save the non-profit community hospital money as well.

Patients have an incentive to pay quickly, according to Phipps, so there will be fewer administrative costs associated with repeat billing and many people can avoid having their bills go to collection, which also costs the hospital money.

Phipps also pointed out that several customers who applied for the hospital's new program have discovered that they also qualified for state services such as Medicaid.

Though the savings program is still in it's infancy, the Putnam County Hospital Board has requested that their chief financial officer crunch the numbers to see how effective the program has been, not only in lowering patient's bills, but in increased payments and lower administrative costs. Figures will be available at next month's board meeting.

For more information on the hospital's financial assistance program and other local assistance options contact the ClaimAid representative at (765) 658-2757.

Some documentation is required to qualify for the program:

* A copy of your most current federal tax forms.

* A copy of your three most recent pay stubs.

* A copy of your three most recent bank statements.

* A list of outstanding medical debts and pharmacy costs.

* The name and phone number for a Medicaid caseworker if applicable.

In other business:

* The board approved the purchase of new radiology equipment, to replace the 22-year-old equipment the hospital is currently using. Though the old equipment is currently experiencing now technical problems and by all reports is producing quality pictures, its age has made it impossible to get replacement parts and all repair groups refuse to work on the equiptement. The new equipment will cost a total of $121,000.

* Hospital administrator Dennis Wheatherford reported that the hospital is in the process of securing bids for a new hospital website and hosting service. He reported that he will be prepared to present quotes and recommendations at the February board meeting.

* The board approved the purchase $11,127 in new kitchen equipment.

* The board approved the purchase of $10,050 in training materials for the occupational health program.

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