Medical debt soars for consumers with hospital credit cards : Shots

Many hospitals are now partnering with financing companies to offer payment plans when patients and their families can’t afford their bills. The catch: the plans can come with interest that significantly increases a patient’s debt.

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Many hospitals are now partnering with financing companies to offer payment plans when patients and their families can’t afford their bills. The catch: the plans can come with interest that significantly increases a patient’s debt.

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Patients at North Carolina-based Atrium Health get what looks like an enticing pitch when they go to the nonprofit hospital system’s website: a payment plan from lender AccessOne. The plans offer “easy ways to make monthly payments” on medical bills, the website says. You don’t need good credit to get a loan. Everyone is approved. Nothing is reported to credit agencies.

In Minnesota, Allina Health encourages its patients to sign up for an account with MedCredit Financial Services to “consolidate your health expenses.” In Southern California, Chino Valley Medical Center, part of the Prime Healthcare chain, touts “promotional financing options with the CareCredit credit card to help you get the care you need, when you need it.”

As Americans are overwhelmed with medical bills, patient financing is now a multibillion-dollar business, with private equity and big banks lined up to cash in when patients and their families can’t pay for care. By one estimate from research firm IBISWorld, profit margins top 29% in the patient financing industry, seven times what is considered a solid hospital margin.

Hospitals and other providers, which historically put their patients in interest-free payment plans, have welcomed the financing, signing contracts with lenders and enrolling patients in financing plans with rosy promises about convenient bills and easy payments.

For patients, the payment plans often mean something more ominous: yet more debt.

Millions of people are paying interest on these plans, on top of what they owe for medical or dental care, an investigation by KHN and NPR shows. Even with lower rates than a traditional credit card, the interest can add hundreds, even thousands of dollars to medical bills and ratchet up financial strains when patients are most vulnerable.

Robin Milcowitz, a Florida woman who found herself enrolled in an AccessOne loan at a Tampa hospital in 2018 after having a hysterectomy for ovarian cancer, said she was appalled by the financing

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Mistaken identity leads to big hospital bill mix-up : Shots

In 2013, Grace E. Elliott spent a night in a hospital in Florida for a kidney infection that was treated with antibiotics. Eight years later, she got a large bill from the health system that bought the hospital. This bill was for an unrelated surgical procedure she didn’t need and never received. It was a case of mistaken identity, she knew, but proving that wasn’t easy.

Shelby Knowles for KHN


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Shelby Knowles for KHN


In 2013, Grace E. Elliott spent a night in a hospital in Florida for a kidney infection that was treated with antibiotics. Eight years later, she got a large bill from the health system that bought the hospital. This bill was for an unrelated surgical procedure she didn’t need and never received. It was a case of mistaken identity, she knew, but proving that wasn’t easy.

Shelby Knowles for KHN

Earlier this year, Grace Elizabeth Elliott got a mysterious hospital bill for medical care she had never received.

She soon discovered how far a clerical error can reach — even across a continent — and how frustrating it can be to fix.

During a college break in 2013, Elliott, then 22, began to feel faint and feverish while visiting her parents in Venice, Fla., which is about an hour south of Tampa. Her mother, a nurse, drove her to a facility that locals knew simply as Venice Hospital.

In the emergency department, Elliott was diagnosed with a kidney infection and held overnight before being discharged with a prescription for antibiotics, a common treatment for the illness.

“My hospital bill was about $100, which I remember because that was a lot of money for me as an undergrad,” said Elliott, now 31.

She recovered and eventually moved to California to teach preschool. Venice Regional Medical Center was bought by Community Health Systems, based in Franklin, Tenn., in 2014 and eventually renamed ShorePoint Health Venice.

The kidney infection and overnight stay in the E.R. would have been little more than a memory for Elliott.

Then another bill came.

The Patients: Grace E. Elliott, 31, a preschool teacher living with her husband in San Francisco, and Grace A. Elliott, 81, a retiree in Venice, Fla.

Medical Services: For Grace E., an emergency department visit and overnight stay, plus antibiotics to treat a kidney infection in 2013. For Grace A., a shoulder replacement and rehabilitation services

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Hartford Health care is growing throughout Connecticut. Its urgent care facilities have reduced expenses than hospital emergency rooms. – Hartford Courant

As Hartford Healthcare extends its access across Connecticut, the selection of its urgent treatment facilities that offer you individuals an option to pricey crisis rooms is expanding, much too.

The 28 centers are much afield from Hartford, stretching north to Enfield, south to Branford and West Haven, and east to New London and Norwich. In January, Hartford Health care opened an urgent treatment centre in Milford, its 1st on Connecticut’s shoreline.

“It’s a extra purposeful move to disrupt ourselves,” reported James P. Cardon, Hartford HealthCare’s govt vice president and chief medical integration officer.

Urgent care centers address ailments and injuries that aren’t lifetime-threatening, provide X-rays and offer you COVID-19 analysis and tests. Patients may walk in or reserve a place and pre-sign up on the web. Hartford Health care describes its GoHealth Urgent Care centers as an “on-desire buyer-centric care system that serves as the digital and actual physical front door” to its health and fitness treatment procedure.

“We acknowledged years ago that we necessary to offer new ways to each boost access for urgent care outside the house of the most important treatment business even though at the similar time give superior choices for those who would have long gone to the more pricey crisis office for that care,” explained Jeffrey A. Flaks, president and main government officer of Hartford Health care.

Spencer Perlman, taking care of companion and director of wellness treatment analysis at Veda Partners in Bethesda, Md., claimed the industry has focused on urgent care for a although.

“No question receiving care in the emergency area is the most high priced position you can receive it,” he claimed.

By retaining overhead decrease than at an crisis space, urgent care centers can be rewarding for the company, Perlman mentioned. Urgent care centers enhance profitability since they never need the identical stage of staffing and sorts of products that need to be on hand in emergency rooms, he claimed.

Hartford Health care in 2020 posted $274.7 million in running revenue for its Hartford Healthcare Health-related Group, which incorporates urgent care facilities, key treatment, surgical treatment and specialty drugs. It was down from $330 million in 2019 before COVID-19. Its 2020 earnings accounted for about 6.5% of

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Hit with $7,146 for two hospital bills, a family sought health care in Mexico : Shots

Claudia and Jesús Fierro of Yuma, Ariz., review their medical bills. They pay $1,000 a month for health insurance yet still owed more than $7,000 after two episodes of care at the local hospital.

Lisa Hornak for Kaiser Health News


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Claudia and Jesús Fierro of Yuma, Ariz., review their medical bills. They pay $1,000 a month for health insurance yet still owed more than $7,000 after two episodes of care at the local hospital.

Lisa Hornak for Kaiser Health News

The Fierro family of Yuma, Ariz., had a string of bad medical luck that started in December 2020.

That’s when Jesús Fierro Sr. was admitted to the hospital with a serious case of COVID-19. He spent 18 days at Yuma Regional Medical Center, where he lost 60 pounds. He came home weak and dependent on an oxygen tank.

Then, in June 2021, his wife, Claudia Fierro, fainted while waiting for a table at the local Olive Garden restaurant. She felt dizzy one minute and was in an ambulance on her way to the same medical center the next. She was told her magnesium levels were low and was sent home within 24 hours.

The family has health insurance through Jesús Sr.’s job, but it didn’t protect the Fierros from owing thousands of dollars. So when their son Jesús Fierro Jr. dislocated his shoulder, the Fierros — who hadn’t yet paid the bills for their own care — opted out of U.S. health care and headed south to the U.S.-Mexico border.

And no other bills came for at least one member of the family.

The patients: Jesús Fierro Sr., 48; Claudia Fierro, 51; and Jesús Fierro Jr., 17. The family has Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas health insurance through Jesús Sr.’s employment with NOV, formerly National Oilwell Varco, an American multinational oil company based in Houston.

Medical services: For Jesús Sr., 18 days of inpatient care for a severe case of COVID-19. For Claudia, fewer than 24 hours of emergency care after fainting. For Jesús Jr., a walk-in appointment for a dislocated shoulder.

Total bills: Jesús Sr. was charged $3,894.86. The total bill was $107,905.80 for COVID-19 treatment. Claudia was charged $3,252.74, including $202.36 for treatment from an out-of-network physician. The total bill was $13,429.50 for less than one day of treatment. Jesús Jr. was charged $5 (70 pesos)

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Hospital offers parents $45,843-a-month installment plan for baby’s NICU stay : Shots

Baby Dorian Bennett arrived two months early and needed neonatal intensive care. Despite having insurance, mom Bisi Bennett and her husband faced a bill of more than $550,000 and were offered an installment payment plan of $45,843 per month for 12 months.

Zack Wittman for Kaiser Health News


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Zack Wittman for Kaiser Health News


Baby Dorian Bennett arrived two months early and needed neonatal intensive care. Despite having insurance, mom Bisi Bennett and her husband faced a bill of more than $550,000 and were offered an installment payment plan of $45,843 per month for 12 months.

Zack Wittman for Kaiser Health News

Close to midnight on Nov. 12, 2020, Bisi Bennett was sitting on the couch in her pajamas and feeling uncomfortable. She was about seven months pregnant with her first child, Dorian, and the thought that she could be in labor didn’t even cross her mind.

Then, she felt a contraction so strong it knocked her off the couch. She shouted to her husband, Chris, and they ran to the car to start the 15-minute drive to AdventHealth hospital in Orlando, Fla. About halfway through the trip, Bennett gave birth to Dorian in her family’s Mitsubishi Outlander. Her husband kept one hand on his newborn son’s back and one hand on the wheel.

Born breech, meaning his head emerged last, Dorian wasn’t crying at first, and the terrified new parents feared something was wrong. Chris Bennett turned on the SUV’s flashers and flagged down a passing emergency vehicle. The EMS team escorted the family to the hospital.

“He was still connected to me with the umbilical cord when they rolled the two of us together into the hospital,” Bisi says. “They cut the cord, and the last thing I heard was, ‘He has a pulse,’ before they wheeled me away.”

“I just cried tears of relief,” she says.

Dorian stayed in the neonatal intensive care unit until Jan. 7, 2021 — almost two full months. While Dorian was in the hospital, Bisi wasn’t worried about the cost. She works in the insurance industry and had carefully chosen AdventHealth Orlando because the hospital was close to her house and in her insurance network.

Then the bills came.

The Patient: Dorian Bennett, an infant born two months premature. He has health insurance through his mother’s employer, AssuredPartners, where she works as a licensed property insurance agent.

Medical

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Hospital at home: How healthcare orgs can set plans up for accomplishment

Whilst telehealth is normally imagined of in the context of synchronous video visits, in fact, virtual care encompasses a extensive assortment of chances to link people with professional medical treatment over and above brick-and-mortar facilities.  

1 this sort of enlargement entails the provision of superior care outdoors of in-person settings, occasionally identified as “healthcare facility at home.”   

Many major health care organizations, which includes Kaiser and Mayo, have place forth efforts in this course via advocacy and pilot programs. Other health and fitness methods, such as Intermountain and Ascension, have produced identical moves.  

But some authorities say that to optimize patient care, healthcare facility-at-house applications really should do their ideal to check out clients holistically and to recognize digital treatment, not as an increase-on to in-individual products and services, but as a unique modality that requires its very own strategic investments.  

“As with everything with health care, as we are hoping to make changes, it’s tempting to consider and bolt this onto current healthcare procedures,” Jeff Fuller, vice president of analytics options at CipherHealth, explained in an job interview with Healthcare IT Information.   

“But I think when it will come to clinic at home, it really is so distinctive and one of a kind that you need to apply it meticulously,” he said.  

Fuller observed that healthcare facility-at-household treatment isn’t really merely a way to enhance the number of beds offered. 

Rather, he claimed, “You’re delivering a far more individualized strategy that, in some methods, could have new results.”  

He pointed out that many clients could choose staying at home to being in a facility. At that issue, he said, the issue gets to be just one of scale.   

“Will not have a method that is centered on offer sides – ‘Oh, we are entire, so we have to do healthcare facility at property,'” he stated. “That would be a nightmare.”  

Fuller mentioned that deciding upon the suitable sufferers for at-household care involves involving the individuals and care crew in the final decision-creating method.   

He also stressed the significance of keeping in speak to with individuals exterior a medical center placing, which he says CipherHealth allows through automated outreach applications. 

“The context that you capture in these styles of communications is further than a medical transaction,” he mentioned. “It really is having to the root of patient habits and attitudes about their health and fitness.”  

Dr. John Frownfelter, main

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