LARRY DENT - "Help For The Uninsured"

Help for the uninsured: Third-party pay method will improve care access

Larry W. Dent
Roane Family Health Care

Thank you for your editorial concerning the levels of uninsured in West Virginia. Roane County Family Health Care is a federally qualified health center that has provided primary medical care to our area for 24 years.

Nineteen percent of our 7,000 patients are without insurance. We do approximately 6,000 patient visits annually for people without insurance. Our collection rate is 44 percent in that category.

A part of the unseen tragedy is that patients who pay from private resources get no discounted rates and must pay the full cost of the medical service. We offer payment plans but that is little help to a struggling low-wage earner.

- advertisement -One of the methods of helping the uninsured is to make available to primary medical facilities like ours the ability to sell the private pay patient account to a third party at 50 cents on the dollar, then establish a payment plan with lower payments based on the patient's ability to pay.

This system is used extensively in business and known as factoring, but none of the commercial agencies will handle private pay patient accounts this way.

I have proposed to both the state and federal lawmakers that a fund established for this purpose would allow private pay patients with no insurance to pay an affordable amount each month on their bill while allowing the medical establishment that provides the service to cash the account or visit out to improve cash flow, and consequently medical services.

My idea has been soundly rejected in all quadrants as being unworkable but I know that given the opportunity people will pay their bills to their doctors, and that we, as medical providers, do not want to be bankers.

My projections clearly indicate that a fund created for this purpose would be a true revolving fund in approximately five years and greatly reduce the cost of providing true health insurance to a group of people who are now uninsured.

I would appreciate the opportunity to show that there are workable alternatives to the growing cost of medical services and further that the medical provider cannot, in the future, be the only ones to absorb these costs.

Dent is CEO of Roane County Family Health Care in Spencer.