Hospitals step up enrollment efforts
Many healthcare providers are seeing financial benefits from Obamacare insurance expansion across the country, while those that haven’t are redoubling their efforts to sign up the most challenging of their uninsured patients, said panelists at the Healthcare Financial Management Association’s 2014 Annual National Institute.
The Level 1 trauma center at Cooper University Hospital in Camden, N.J., a city with a 40% poverty rate, often receives the victims of violent crime. “The biggest challenge was to convince people we were doing something good for them” by encouraging them to get insurance, said John Bucci, Cooper’s director of patient accounts. “There are a lot of people who walk in and they’re not ready to cooperate.”
Cooper set up kiosks throughout the hospital and offered a toll-free number for individuals to get more informa- tion about signing up for a private health plan. But many people balked when they realized they would have to pay premiums. “We didn’t really have a huge reaction to it,” Bucci said. Some patients who did sign up would pay a month or two of premiums and then stop.
The biggest boost for the hospital is New Jersey’s presumptive eligibility for its expanded Medicaid program, which allows patients to automatically qualify based on income. Already the number of selfpay patients has dropped 40% and charity care has decreased by a third.
The University of Florida Health Jacksonville hasn’t seen the expected enrollment response in private exchange plans and intends to continue its outreach, said Jason Hardwick, director of patient access and financial eligibility. Florida didn’t expand Medicaid to low- income adults. Next year, UF Health plans to partner with an independent foundation that will offer premium assistance to eligible individuals.
Cooper already is using that approach. “We’ve provided a lot of premium assistance,” Bucci said.
Life Point Hospitals, a publicly traded, Brentwood, Tenn.-based chain, reported in its first-quarter results that 22% of its self-pay patients had enrolled in Medicaid and 3% had enrolled in an exchange plan in the 20 states where it operates. Those numbers were above its expectations. Moreover, it said concerns about bad debt from highdeductible exchange plans have been unwarranted.
“Our average patient responsibility is $176,” said John Kerndl, Life Point’s chief financial officer of operations. “It’s been a pleasant surprise.”
“There are a lot of people who walk in and they’re not ready to cooperate.”