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The Effect of the Affordable Care Act on Charity Screening

Significant changes in health insurance coverage are delivering a good and bad news report for providers. The good news is the continuing decline in the number of uninsured Americans. As of January 2015, the current uninsured rate is at an historic low of 12.9%.

Much of this decrease can be attributed to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), with 7.1 million people enrolled in a plan on the federal marketplace, as well as an estimated 2.4 million people who obtained insurance through state exchanges. Add to that young adults staying on their parents’ plans (3 million), another 10 million people who are covered through Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP), job-based coverage and plans outside of the marketplace, and the picture should seem rosy.

However, the bad news comes when these newly insured people begin using their benefits and are faced with deductibles, coinsurance and copays. Providers are seeing more patients with insurance coverage who find it challenging to handle these additional out-of-pocket expenses.

Compounding the challenge is the increase in high-deductible health plans (HDHP) and/or health savings accounts. The number of people with HDHPs has risen from 19.2 percent in 2008 to 33.4 percent in 2014, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Tackling the problem

Healthcare providers not only have a mandate to provide care, most also are deeply committed to providing charity care when it is needed. However, in order to remain solvent, providers must protect their financial well-being by actively seeking reimbursement and payment when it is available and applicable. But, how can organizations strike the right balance?

As a first step, having a system in place for assessment, enrollment and case management will not only help you maximize reimbursement by enrolling self-pay patients in Medicaid or qualifying them for internal charity care, it can also be used to document your facility’s charitable services. Key components to a well-orchestrated charity program include: 

  • Screen for financial assistance using the most up-to-date qualification guidelines for Medicaid and other financial aid and charity programs. Ensures patients who are eligible for charity care, Medicaid and other assistance programs receive needed financial support.
  • Determine a patient’s propensity to pay, so that you can evaluate payment risk, identify the most appropriate collection route and initiate targeted financial counseling discussions. Organizations can then maximize reimbursement dollars from Medicaid and other financial assistance programs and reduce uncompensated care and bad debt write-offs.
  • Verify patient identity to reduce fraud risk, claims denials and the rate of returned mail – expediting reimbursement. This process streamlines the financial assistance screening and enrollment process to increase staff productivity as well as patient satisfaction.

Through these strategies, organizations can more effectively identify patients eligible for charity, combatting ongoing patient financial responsibility challenges – or the bad news – while still capitalizing on the good news of more patients receiving coverage.

Learn more about charity care initiatives by registering for our upcoming webinar, “Financial Screening in the age of the Affordable Care Act,” on March 11, featuring Brandon Burnett discussing Kaiser Permanente’s experience and initiatives and Kim Berg from Experian Health.