Hospitals Begin Subsidizing Exchange Premiums via Third Parties

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media , May 28, 2014

A collaboration between a Wisconsin United Way chapter and the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics uses a hospital financial gift to help defray the cost of health insurance for some potential enrollees. It could be a model for others.

Months before HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius gave the okay this month for third-party non-profit foundations to pay premiums on behalf of exchange enrollees, a few organizations were already imagining creative ways to do just that.

One—a collaboration between Wisconsin's United Way of Dane County in Madison and the 471-bed University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics—is not only up and running, it's perhaps the best known.

Others, like the South Florida Hospital & Healthcare Association, a trade group for 45 hospitals in Broward, Dade, Palm Beach and Monroe counties, hope to have a program underway soon.

"We have a task force that's been looking at aggregating our funds in part because of our legislators' obstinence" [to expand Medicaid], says Linda Quick, SFHHA president. Of the one million people left without coverage by that decision, Quick says, "600,000 are in our counties, so we have a disproportionate share."

"Our goal is to have [the payment program] up and operational when the next enrollment period starts, Oct. 1," Quick says.

UW and HealthConnect
As of March 31, United Way's HealthConnect program has used the bulk of a $2 million gift from one hospital, UW Health, to help 630 households— about 750 people—with health exchange plan subsidies. The amount ranges from $27.61 to $675 per month for the rest of the year, says Sandy Erickson, United Way Health Initiatives director.

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