MEMPHIS, Tennessee (WMC) – There may be a cure for Mid-Southerners drowning in medical debt. Chances are, the hospital you are visiting has a policy that could pay off most, if not all, of your medical bills. You just have to ask.
One of those patients is Allen Myers. He woke up one morning in March and felt very sick. His girlfriend rushed him to the emergency room at Baptist Memorial Hospital.
“I ended up throwing up blood,” Myers told investigators. “I found out that I had a tumor in my stomach that was bleeding. I had lost a lot of blood by then.
Doctors transferred Myers to the intensive care unit and two hours later Myers says someone from the hospital demanded payment.
“Someone came over and got my debit card,” Myers said. “They were like ‘you have to pay something.’ And I’m fine here.
“How much did they charge you?” Asked the investigators.
“$ 300,” he said.
This accusation was only the beginning. The tumor in his stomach was benign, but during his week-long hospital stay he had CT scans, blood transfusions, and even surgery.
“Do you feel lucky to be alive?” The investigators asked
“I do. I do. I am very grateful and grateful,” Myers said.
Then the bills started coming in. Not only did Myers owe the Baptist Hospital, but he also owed the outpatient service providers there. Myers had no insurance, so his bills were low, but he had a mountain of debt to climb.
The amount he still owes is over $ 27,000.
Myers said he couldn’t pay the bill, but luckily help is available.
Baptist is a non-profit hospital, so the federal government requires it to have a financial aid policy that provides free or discounted medical care to people based on their income.
Baptist policy states that the hospital will forgo some, if not all, of a patient’s medical bills based on what they earn.
To find out if he qualified, Myers called Baptist and almost immediately their employee told him about the financial aid policy and transferred him to someone who could help him.
That’s why patients should immediately contact the medical care providers they need, said Mandy Pellegrin, policy director at Nashville-based think tank The Sycamore Institute.
“If you end up with a bill that you can’t afford, don’t just sit on it,” she said.
The Sycamore Institute studies medical policy in Tennessee. According to his calculations, one in five Tennessians has medical debt, most of them residents of color.
The impact of living with this debt is significant.
“Once you have medical debt on your credit report, it can affect your ability to get a loan, to get a mortgage,” Pellegrin said. “It can also cause all kinds of stress which is bad for your health. So what the research shows is that people with medical debt, and debt in general, tend to have poorer health outcomes than those with good credit scores.
While nonprofit hospitals are required to have financial aid policies, like Baptist Memorial and Methodist LeBonheur, other local hospitals have them as well.
St. Francis, a for-profit hospital, and Regional One, a government-run public hospital, also have income-based financial assistance policies.
We used Baptist’s Hospital Rebate Summary and Federal Poverty Guidelines Income Range to see if Allen Myers was eligible for financial assistance with Baptist.
Myers earned about $ 41,000, or 325% of the federal poverty guideline. Baptist’s discount chart shows that this percentage qualifies Myers for an 85% discount.
There are other ways to get help with your medical bills, according to Rob Watkins of the Tennessee Justice Center, who advocates for patients with medical debt.
“What we’re finding is that a lot of people may be eligible for public health benefits and not know it,” Watkins said. He talks about public health benefits like Tenncare or Medicaid.
Watkins points out that many hospitals also have financial advisors who are meant to help you pay your bills so that the hospital, in turn, gets paid as well.
“Our experience has been that they are going to want to help you,” he said.
To find out if you are eligible for financial assistance, find the police in your hospital. Then find the table of decreasing discounts. Finally, use the Federal Poverty Directive and match your income with the Poverty Percentage Tool to locate your remission.
See the Poverty Percentage Tool below.
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