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Harris/Swain hospital program helps patients with bills

With patient out-of-pocket costs skyrocketing, hospitals struggle to get reimbursed for their services. Harris Regional Hospital in Sylva and Swain Community Hospital participate in a program called MedAssist to help patients in need of financial assistance to pay their hospital bills and doctor visits. Both Harris Regional Hospital and Swain Community Hospital each have one MedAssist employee to help patients as needed.

“MedAssist locally works with self-pay patients at Harris Regional Hospital, Swain Community Hospital, Harris Regional Medical Park at Franklin, and Haywood Community Hospitals,” said Laura Selby, Communications Director for Harris and Swain Hospitals. “They usually meet patients face-to-face as bedside assistance and ask them screening questions to see if they qualify for MedAssist programs.”

More than one-third of the total U.S. population is considered uninsured or underinsured. Founded on a mission to treat patients with compassion, dignity, and respect, MedAssist was established to meet a growing hospital need to help these patients through the process of applying for government medical assistance.

If a patient qualifies, then the program assists them in navigating bill payments. The assistance program is not new, however, during COVID19, the program has expanded to address the changing needs in the community. 

“The service has been offered to self-pay patients for about 5 – 6 years. Due to COVID, they have digitized their outreach through email, phone calls, and texting,” said Selby. “They usually send these after meeting with patients and tell them about the digital outreach to make sure patients know it is them.”

Text messages sent by the company explain that MedAssist is intended to assist patients in obtaining financial assistance to help pay hospital and physician bills. Patients don’t pay additional fees to participate in the program and can determine eligibility during a free online pre-screening. 

Harris Regional Hospital and Swain Community Hospital is committed to providing Financial Assistance for Covered Services to uninsured patients who are unable to pay based on their individual financial situation. Eligibility is generally determined by measuring a patient’s gross family income against the Federal Poverty Guidelines, as described in the Policy Guidelines below.

Financial Assistance does not apply to amounts that are covered by insurance or other funding sources.

The financial assistance policy for both facilities provide free or discounted emergency and other medically necessary care to patients who do not have insurance and who qualify for assistance under its Financial Assistance Policy. Certain exclusions apply, including, for example, elective services, balances covered by other funding sources, and failure to cooperate in securing alternative funding sources.

Patients are expected to obtain and maintain health insurance coverage if affordable coverage is available to them. To be eligible for Financial Assistance, the patient is expected to have applied for and complied with all processes related to seeking assistance from other insurers and/or programs (including all potentially applicable governmental programs) as requested by Harris Regional Hospital and Swain Community Hospital staff.  

Patients who qualify for assistance are eligible for income-based, sliding scale discounts for emergency and other medically necessary care. In general:

• Uninsured patients whose family income is equal to or less than 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines are generally eligible for free emergency and medically necessary care.

• Uninsured patients whose family income is between 200% and 300% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines generally receive a sliding scale discount ranging from 60% to 100% for emergency and other medically necessary care.

A patient who qualifies for assistance under the Financial Assistance Policy will not be charged more for emergency or medically necessary care than amounts generally billed to patients having insurance covering such care

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