By Tony Parra
Roosevelt General Hospital Administrator James D’Agostino said he was excited about the idea of discount program for uninsured or underinsured patients and on Nov. 1 it will be available to RGH patients.
The new discount program will offer bigger discounts and expand the financial guidelines to help more patients. D’Agostino he program offers 100 percent discounts for those patients who meet the Federal Register poverty guidelines for gross cash income for a family household unit.
For example, for a one person household has to make less than a $18,620 gross income to have their medical bill paid off by RGH. For a family of four, the gross income needs to be less than $37,700.
“What we’re looking to do is to put something in place for the non-insured and under-insured,” John Murray, RGH Business Office Manager, said.
Murray said the government allows the hospitals to decide what type of a discount program to offer. He said this allows hospital administrators to raise the poverty guidelines to accommodate the local economy. According to Murray, they can take into consideration the cost of living in California as compared to New Mexico.
In the old guidelines for the discount program, the gross income for a one-person household needed to be $9,310 or less and for a four-person household the gross income had to be $18,850 or less. Murray said the guidelines will apply for any service dates on Nov. 1 and after.
The new discount program has a sliding scale for family members who earn more than poverty guidelines to pay 100 percent of the medical bill: a one-person household making up to $20,948, RGH will pay 80 percent of the bill; a one-person household making up to $23,275, RGH will pay 60 percent of the bill; a one-person household making up to $25,603, RGH will pay 40 percent of the medical bill.
Murray said the Federal Register will change its poverty guidelines in February of 2005. He said the poverty guidelines will be made available to patients. However, if the patients don’t apply for the discount they will not receive it. He said they must provide information to the hospital such as tax income returns and check stubs.
Murray said even a one-person household which grosses $27,930 will get a bigger discount. He said it will be a 35 percent discount on their medical bill, however, the bill needs to be paid off by 30 days.
“The reason we ask for that is because it wouldn’t do us any good to offer the 35 percent,” Murray said. “In the old program, they were saving 20 percent.”
Murray said one of the reasons for the moves was because many patients were not paying their accounts which went into bad debt. So hospital officials are willing to sacrifice a bigger percentage chunk to increase the amount of patients making payments.
He said that even with the discounts, if a customer owes money and doesn’t pay the medical bill within 120 counts, the account will go to bad debt.
“This is a good thing,” D’Agostino said in an August board meeting. “We want to develop a program for the working class who can’t pay their bills. There are those who decide they can’t pay their medical bills and their accounts end up going to creditors. They end up never paying.”