Star Wars Wisdom Applies to Charity Care

Karen Minich-Pourshadi, for HealthLeaders Media , November 16, 2009

"Combining the credit scoring data to determine charity eligibility with a contract based patient liability estimator will equip our patient access team to have a meaningful dialog with patients regarding their specific patient responsibility beyond just co-pays," says Richelle Fleischer, administrative director at Riverside Regional Medical Center. "We expect this to have significant impact on our insured bad debt as we will know who has the ability to pay at the time of service, and who might need some type of assistance."

If your charity care losses aren't enough to get this technology in place, keep in mind that there are throngs of consumer directed health plan (CDHP) and high-deductible health plan (HDHP) members coming your way next year and beyond.

As businesses scramble to save money on their costs they are opting for these types of plans. It's estimated that eight million Americans are currently enrolled in a CDHP, up from 5.5 million in 2008, according to America's Health Insurance Plans, and another 8% of consumers are expected to adopt a CDHP by 2010, indicates a 2009 survey by Watson Wyatt and the National Business Group on Health.

"I would argue that if a hospital isn't doing this [addressing charity care] then they are not meeting their fiduciary duty. Whether it's to drive greater profitability or to meet their not-for-profit status, they cannot afford turn a blind eye to this," says Milton Silva-Craig, executive vice president of TransUnion's healthcare group.

But for those of you that are confident that this isn't a large enough issue to buy the technology or you think healthcare reform will help, I will offer you one additional kernel Return of the Jedi wisdom: It was the emperor's overconfidence which was his undoing. So, maybe you shouldn't put too much stock in the folks in Washington helping to cork the slow-leak in your bottom line; by the time they finish discussing the matter you may have a deluge you're dealing with.

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Karen Minich-Pourshadi is a Senior Editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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