Fresno-Area Hospitals Work To Improve Communication About Charity Care Policies
In response to a series of national lawsuits targeting hospitals' charity care policies, several providers in the Fresno area are making an effort to better publicize financial aid programs for uninsured and underinsured patients, the Fresno Bee reports. Some 40 class-action lawsuits questioning not-for-profit hospitals' billing and collection practices have been filed in more than 20 states. In addition, the Senate and Assembly will soon consider two bills (AB 232 and SB 379) designed to prevent hospitals from overcharging self-pay patients. In response, Kaweah Delta Hospital in Visalia, Community Medical Centers and Saint Agnes Medical Center in Fresno are working to publicize their charity care policies.
Minty Dillon, director of patient accounting and managed care at Kaweah, said the hospital always has offered special payment programs for uninsured patients but is now making a particular effort to ensure that eligible patients are aware of the programs. The hospital has trained staff members to offer assistance to customers who might need help enrolling in the programs and to call patients to discuss payment options before they are billed.
Community, which operates three hospitals in the Fresno-Clover area, revised its charity care policies last month and wrote a four-page guide for patient financial services. Among other things, the guide outlines income levels for qualifying for three levels of assistance ranging from discounts to no-cost care. Last year, Community provided more than $24 million in charity care.
Saint Agnes is adding new signs in its facility to make patients more aware of financial assistance programs (Correa, Fresno Bee, 8/15).