With the country still crawling out of the Great Recession, non-profit hospitals have had to pick up more than their share of indigent health care over the last few years. When folks need help with their medical care, indigent health programs are one of the resources that we always point out. But many hospitals are strapped for help now, too, and we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the long waits that some patients are having to go through when they apply for indigent care:
This past July, Deborah Mills went to the emergency room at Beaufort Memorial Hospital with a severe case of bronchitis.
A few months later, she returned for treatment of carotid-artery disease.
Both times, she says, she filled out the requisite paperwork to apply for indigent care, which would heavily subsidize her bill, if not cover it completely.
But about 10 months after that first visit, she says she’s still waiting to hear if she qualified. And she recently was contacted by a collection agency questioning the status of a $13,800 bill she says she can’t afford.
“I’ve got no insurance and no income,” said Mills, 58. “I’m basically living off unemployment (checks).” She did say the collection agency has been polite and patient, willing to wait on the hospital’s decision.
Her indigent-care application is one of 1,438 currently awaiting review at the hospital, according to Jeff White, its chief financial officer. That backlog is growing, he said.
Have you ever applied for indigent care at a hospital? Tell us about it in our discussion forum!
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