Intermountain believes that no one should go without needed care because they fear the cost. In addition to providing high quality care at affordable rates, Intermountain has charitable assistance programs and billing policies that help patients focus on getting well rather than worrying about how they will pay for care.
1. Charity care policy. Intermountain offers financial assistance on a sliding scale to families and individuals with incomes up to 500% of the federal poverty level. At 2010 poverty levels, a family of four with an income of less than $100,000 per year may be eligible for some level of assistance, depending on the size of the bill and the family’s debt load.
2. Low interest rate. For patients who need to make payments on their bill, Intermountain’s interest rate is 8% — significantly less than typical rates for unsecured loans. Patients with a demonstrated financial need can set up a zero-interest payment plan. Patients who are willing and able to have their monthly payments automatically debited from their account can qualify for a reduced interest rate of 4%.
3. Uninsured discounts. Uninsured hospital patients who do not qualify for other assistance programs (such as Medicaid, CHIP, etc.) receive an automatic 25% discount on their bill. These patients may also receive an additional 15% off their bill if full payment is made before service is provided (total discount: 40%), or an additional 5% off their bill if full payment is made within 30 days after service is provided (total discount: 30%).
4. Collections practices. Intermountain does not use the courts to collect an unpaid medical bill unless there is evidence of fraud.
5. Assistance policy widely publicized. Intermountain informs patients and the community that charitable financial assistance is available through a variety of means, including:
a. Signs in facilities.
b. Brochures in facilities.
c. Counselors in facilities.
d. Information about charity care on billing statements.
e. Information about charitable assistance on the outside of billing envelopes.
f. Intermountain website.
g. Information in Intermountain publications.
6. Financial policies help patients. Intermountain’s assistance policies help prevent bankruptcies. While Utah has one of the highest personal bankruptcy rates in the nation, the principal cause of bankruptcies isn’t healthcare costs — nor do Intermountain’s practices contribute significantly to bankruptcies. A law firm specializing in bankruptcy conducted a number of studies of Utah bankruptcies and concluded: “Intermountain is not a contributing factor in causing individuals to file for bankruptcy in Utah” (Source: Holland & Hart, 2008). This finding is consistent with the findings of a 2006 study commissioned by United Way of Salt Lake that found the billing and collections practices of Utah hospitals are not a significant factor in bankruptcies.
Currently, Intermountain is studying ways to improve registration, admissions, discharge, and collections processes system-wide.
The project goals are to:
- Improve the patient experience in the areas of registration, admissions, discharge, and collections, and ensure that our processes are consistent and fair for all patients.
- Enhance compliance with our charity care policy by offering comprehensive financial assistance and affordable financing options that are clearly communicated and documented for patients who qualify and comply in a timely manner.
- Ensure that patients who are able to pay do pay their fair share, such that healthcare is as affordable as possible for all who do pay (both employers and individuals). We don’t think it’s fair for patients and employers who do pay their medical bills to be burdened with additional costs to cover the expenses of other people who have the means to pay but refuse to pay.