See this article by Breez CEO Nick McLaughlin as it originally appeared in MedCity News.
Local governments around the country are using Covid relief funds to eliminate medical debt for their communities. But Covid relief funds are not a long-term solution. Provide training to your teams on how to communicate with patients to make it clear that financial assistance is available and encourage those who may qualify to apply.
But using Covid funds to pay off existing medical debt – while helpful in the short-run – does not address the root cause of the problem.
The Affordable Care Act mandates nonprofit hospitals to provide financial assistance programs. These programs, when used effectively, can significantly mitigate the burden of medical debt for patients grappling with healthcare affordability. However, these programs often go underused, leading unpaid hospital bills to become the primary contributor to medical debt.
A considerable number of individuals who find themselves in debt due to hospital care might have qualified for such financial assistance. Unfortunately, lack of knowledge about these programs or difficulty navigating the application process often stands in their way.
Drawing from my experience as a former debt collector, I can attest that the vast majority of patients I was collecting from likely met the eligibility criteria for hospital financial assistance. By my estimation, 50 to 70 percent of hospital debt in collections would qualify. This is based on a comparison of average incomes nationwide and average hospital Financial Assistance Policy eligibility criteria.
If we want to deliver affordable access to care, we need to make sustainable change. We need simplified standards for financial assistance and a streamlined process for getting it into the hands of patients who need it. Legislation on the local level to address medical debt has been gaining momentum in recent years, but there is so much more hospitals can do.