U.Va. Healthcare Billing Policies Expand Financial Aid, Introduce Ombudsman – The Cavalier Daily
The University of Virginia Medical Center has faced considerable backlash in recent years for filing more than 30,000 lawsuits against former patients for unpaid medical bills from 2012 to 2018. In response, U.Va. Health announced further changes to billing policies and practices on April 19.
A 2019 survey by Kaiser Health News found that over a six-year period, ending in 2018, U.Va. Health has filed over 36,000 patient lawsuits, claiming more than $ 106 million. Many families with unpaid medical bills have had their wages and / or bank accounts seized and liens placed on their homes and assets, which has forced some families into bankruptcy.
The new changes are part of a series of billing policy updates since the initial controversy. In September 2019, U.Va. Health announced it would increase financial assistance, offer more discounts to uninsured patients and “reduce their dependence on the legal system.” Bills would be fully written off for people federally or below the federal poverty line who had less than $ 50,000 in assets. Lawsuits would only be brought in cases involving more than $ 1,000 and people who are over 400 percent of the federal poverty line. The policies came into effect on January 1, 2020.
In addition, the health system has set up an advisory board of 16 people to provide U.Va. Recommendations from health officials on billing and collection policies.
According to recent billing policies, U.Va. Health is creating a special ombudsman’s office that will review individual cases to help patients and their families better understand their payment options and find a fair payment solution if needed.
These new policies also expand the possibilities for financial assistance in the event of a medical emergency. Patients receiving emergency care may be eligible for a reduced bill if they do not have insurance or other means to pay, their care costs more than $ 10,000, or if the type of care given is eligible. to this type of help. Based on these policies, if the requisite conditions are met, patients and their families will owe no more than 25 percent of family income and assets. This policy will help ensure public access to emergency services.
U.Va. Health will also release all privileges and judgments for patients who are 400 percent or below the federal poverty line. For example, a household of five whose annual income is less than or equal to $ 124,160 will be released from all privileges and judgments. Medical financial aid to U.Va. Health is determined by a sliding scale that takes into account the following factors – insurance, wealth, income and household size.
According to the U.Va. A health care financial assistance policy, Patient Financial Services will help uninsured and underinsured patients, free of charge, obtain government and non-government financial assistance to help cover their necessary medical care costs.
The 36,000 lawsuits filed by the health care system included some for amounts as low as $ 13.91 and up to $ 1 million. In addition, U.Va. Health seized paychecks from former patients in order to pay unpaid medical bills. Many of the seized paychecks came from low-wage employers like Walmart.
The healthcare system also seized more than $ 22 million in state tax refunds owed to patients with unpaid bills. Each year, approximately 100 of these lawsuits were against U.Va. Health workers, which often included property privileges that stretched across the country to southern Georgia.
Meanwhile, U.Va. Health had one of the most restrictive eligibility guidelines for financial aid to patients of any major hospital systems in Virginia. This was one of the main factors contributing to the huge amount of lawsuits filed against former patients whose bills were unpaid. Most of these families had no way to fund their medical bills, forcing the University to take action and foreclose payments and assets. KHN reporter Jay Hancock mentionned that these aggressive practices have generated $ 12 million in revenue per year.
The new billing policies and practices were announced in hopes of better covering medical costs through the health care system.
Eric Swensen, Public Information Officer for U.Va. Health commented on these changes, noting U.Va. Health’s commitment to providing high quality and compassionate care to all members of the community.
“U.Va. Health has conducted an in-depth national study and comparison of billing and collection practices in other academic medical centers and health systems to help inform our new policies, ”said Swensen. “U.Va. Health is committed to fair billing and collection practices and to helping patients proactively access financial resources to help cover the cost of their medically necessary care.
U.Va. Health offers free and confidential financial assistance services that can help patients understand their medical bill, find out what is covered by insurance, apply for financial assistance when needed, and set up a payment plan. Questions from staff or patients regarding potential financial assistance eligibility or pending requests should be directed to the Financial Audit Customer Service Unit at 866-320-9659 or 434-924-8718 or by e-mail to [email protected]