HEALTH: Uninsured, underinsured patients still served 

Feb 14
2010

By Sarah Tompkins - sarah.tompkins@nwi.com

Local health care establishments reached out to help people get the medical treatment they needed last year, regardless of their ability to pay.

About 820,000 Hoosiers were uninsured last year, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, making it difficult for many to afford health care.

From the start of 2009 to the end of the year, NorthShore Health Centers in Porter County saw a 59 percent increase in patients, said Jan Wilson, NorthShore CEO.

"Many more people are out of work, many, many more people are on unemployment or have less payments," she said. "We don't let anybody walk away who's sick. We work it out somehow."

Wilson said the nonprofit health center made a community impact worth $8.5 million last year. NorthShore had about 75,000 visits in 2009. Wilson said the center works with patients on payment plans and offers large discounts on X-ray, lab work and other services.

"Your bill could get up to a couple hundred dollars when you left," Wilson said. "If you don't have any money, we can slide it down to $20 ... as long as you show proof of income, we can work with you."

Porter hospital in Valparaiso gave more than $38.5 million in uncompensated care to those who could not pay in 2009. The hospital has agreements with HealthLinc and NorthShore Health Centers to absorb the cost of diagnostic testing uninsured patients received, and it also offers 20 percent discounts to self-pay patients.

Porter offers financial counselors to help patients with alternate sources of funding, financial assistance or payment plans as well.

Martha Kozub, manager and nurse practitioner at St. Margaret Mercy's St. Catherine McAuley Clinic in Hammond, said the trend this past year changed from seeing more patients who were unemployed patients than part of the working poor.

"It's making a healthier community," Kozub said of the free services and educational programs the clinic offers.

This past year there was a 50 percent increase in patients, she said, and the clinic hired an additional nurse practitioner to help with the influx.

Kozub said the clinic offers free mammograms for women in their 50s and a $4 prescription program.

"There is a screening process prior to coming to the clinic," Kozub said. "That is why it takes a little longer for them to get in."

Methodist Hospitals expanded its financial advocates and staff to get more local, state and federal funding options for patients.

In 2009 the hospital provided $82 million in uncompensated care, including deeply discounted medical treatment. Uninsured patients who pay in cash receive a 30 percent discount. They get an additional 20 percent discount if they pay the full bill in one payment.

The hospital also offers free screenings several times a year.

"Methodist Hospitals is deeply ingrained in the communities we serve," said Ian McFadden, Methodist president and CEO. "Since 1923 it's been our mission to provide the highest quality of care to all of our patients regardless of their ability to pay."

In Crown Point, the St. Clare Health Clinic has grown so much that it is moving to a new building. The clinic is conducting a $4.5 million capital campaign to move operations to 1121 S. Indiana Ave. in Crown Point and expand from three to six exam rooms.

The clinic had about 5,500 total visits last year.

Get Driving Directions

Get Driving Directions

Get Driving Directions