Hospitals encourage patients to apply, but charity care won't cover everything

Hospitals encourage patients to apply, but charity care won't cover everything

URBANA — Thousands of patients have received charity care as patients of Carle doctors, now that Carle Physician Group is part of the not-for-profit Carle Foundation.

But last fall, Patricia Brown went to a Carle convenient care center and was turned away because she owed Carle thousands of dollars in unpaid bills, she said.

"They said because I had medical bills and I didn't have insurance, that I couldn't get service there," she said.

Brown, 63, of Urbana, said she was directed to a hospital emergency room, and wound up being treated for pneumonia at Provena Covenant Medical Center.

Uninsured since she retired, she says, she just can't afford health insurance on her own because it's too expensive.

So she prays to stay healthy and takes vitamins, and gets some care through Frances Nelson Health Center in Champaign. But she'd also like to get back to Carle to see the doctor who was treating her high blood pressure, she says.

Does she qualify for charity care at Carle? Brown said she applied and received a 25 percent discount on her medical bills, but she still can't get an appointment with her doctor. She called to check Wednesday, and was told she still owes $8,600.

Champaign County Health Care Consumers is working with her to help her reapply for a larger discount, she says.

Carle spokeswoman Jennifer Hendricks says that's exactly what Carle would encourage and why the process is in place.

"Under our community care discount program, anyone who lives in our service area and who is approved is accepted for that medically necessary care," she says.

Between July 1 and Dec. 31 of last year, 5,950 patients at a Carle Physician Group or Carle Foundation Physician Services facility received free or discounted care.

Another 2,300 patients received free or discounted care through Carle Foundation Hospital in those six months.

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Marti Wilkinson wrote on September 05, 2011 at 12:09 am

This is what happens when we allow 'for profit' medicine and insurance companies to call the shots for patient care.