PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson Healthcare hospital has implemented a new sliding fee scale for charity care that is helping more families pay for their health care.
“This is currently one of the most generous plans in the state,” said Amy Yaley, spokeswoman for Jefferson Healthcare. “For the people that we are providing health care for, we are definitely making an impact on their financial burden.”
The hospital increased its charity care sliding scale in October and has seen a significant increase in the number of patients eligible for 100 percent charity care, she said.
In October 2016, 100 percent charity care was offered to 17 families, she said. This October that number climbed to 51.
With the new scale, 100 percent charity care is offered to families that are up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
That means four-person families earning less than $49,200 annually who lack other means of paying for health care would receive care for free.
There is a 75 percent reduction for families falling between 200 percent and 300 percent of the federal poverty level. It’s a 50 percent reduction for families earning between 300 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level.
Families earning more than 400 percent of the federal poverty level would not see a reduction.
“By changing the scale we’re able to increase the amount of people we’re able to help,” Yaley said. “With that, we feel very good that we’re making decisions that are impactful to our patients and helpful for their health care, so they can get and stay connected with their health care needs.”
The decision was made following the recommendation of a patient financial experience task force.
The task force plans to work on educating the community about available financial options and continue to train Jefferson Healthcare staff to improve the financial counseling process.
The task force — which includes Jefferson Healthcare employees, commissioners, community members and patients — looked at existing policies and procedures when proposing the change.
The committee’s goals were to decrease the percentage of inactive self-pay accounts, achieve staff core competencies of billing procedures and financial programs, increase the number of patients working with financial counselors and decrease the number of patients sent to collections.
Another goal was to decrease the number of patients who do not seek health care due to financial reasons.
Yaley said it’s too early to know if anyone has received care they wouldn’t have otherwise because of the sliding scale, but it has already helped those who did receive care.
“We feel good we are making impactful decisions to assist our patients to navigate their way in the health care system,” she said. “We want the process to be as approachable as possible to reduce the barriers for our patients.”
For more information, call Jefferson Healthcare at 360-385-2200.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].