Just like every company that sells a product or service to consumers, hospitals should be able to tell consumers in advance what the cost of their medical services is going to be and the options available to pay for them.
Great Neck, NY (Vocus) May 6, 2010
In a move toward greater pricing transparency, the North Shore-LIJ Health System today announced the launch of a new online service to help consumers find out the cost of medical services in advance, learn whether they are eligible for financial assistance and how to get help with paying their hospital bills.
This user-friendly web site, accessible from North Shore-LIJ's home page (http://www.northshorelij.com/FinancialHelp), is designed to help patients thoroughly understand their hospital bills, and estimate the out-of-pocket cost of common inpatient and outpatient medical services provided at North Shore-LIJ facilities across the New York area, including 14 hospitals on Long Island, Queens and Staten Island. The new site also helps consumers determine their eligibility for financial assistance, establish affordable interest-free payment plans and arrange for convenient online payments.
"Just like every company that sells a product or service to consumers, hospitals should be able to tell consumers in advance what the cost of their medical services is going to be and the options available to pay for them,” said Michael Dowling, president and chief executive officer of North Shore-LIJ.
Making pricing information available to consumers is part of a continuing move toward greater public transparency by North Shore-LIJ, which was recently recognized by the National Quality Forum for its "ongoing commitment to providing high-quality, transparent, patient-centered healthcare." Among other efforts, North Shore-LIJ was the first non-profit health system in New York State to post its hospitals' infection rates on the health system's web site, and also posts hospital performance information collected by the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The health system has also distinguished itself as one of the most progressive in the nation when it comes to providing financial assistance to uninsured patients and others struggling to pay their hospital bills. North Shore-LIJ became one of the first in New York State to offer a financial assistance program in 2004. In fact, North Shore-LIJ's program – offering financial aid to families earning up to three times the federal poverty level (FPL) -- was the model for a 2007 state law requiring hospitals across the state to offer reduced-cost coverage for the uninsured. In 2008, North Shore-LIJ expanded eligibility to families with household incomes up to five times the FPL, which equates to $110,250 a year for a family of four.
"We have dedicated programs in place to help uninsured and underinsured patients reduce their out-of-pocket costs, and obtain clear and current information about the affordable payment plans we offer,” said Robert Shapiro, senior vice president and chief financial officer for North Shore-LIJ. In 2009, he said, the health system's cost of providing care to uninsured and underinsured patients was $122 million. "Our goal is to help families pay off their debt in a way that does not place undue hardship on them, enabling them to maintain secure financial footing,” Mr. Shapiro added.
To that end, North Shore-LIJ's new financial assistance web site was designed with the patient in mind. In addition to assistance available through North Shore-LIJ, the web site helps guide families on how to enroll in government-subsidized health plans such as Child Health Plus, Family Health Plus, the Prenatal Care Assistance Program, Medicaid and Medicare.
The web site also provides important information aimed at helping patients receive guidance on filling out enrollment applications, reading and understanding hospital bills, and estimating personal medical expenses.
The web site also allows patients to make a secure, online payment with a major credit card or electronic check. If a patient is unable to make a full payment, an online payment calculator is available to help figure out a minimum monthly payment.
If a patient has a problem with an existing account, they can contact a payment specialist online or call toll-free at 1-888-214-4065. Spanish-speaking representatives are available to counsel callers. For other non-English speaking callers, a translation service is provided.
About North Shore-LIJ Health System
The nation's third largest, non-profit, secular healthcare system, the North Shore-LIJ Health System cares for people of all ages throughout Long Island, Queens and Staten Island – a service area encompassing more than five million people. The winner of the National Quality Forum's 2010 National Quality Healthcare Award, the North Shore-LIJ Health System consists of 14 hospitals, 17 long-term care facilities, The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, three trauma centers, five home health agencies, a hospice network and dozens of outpatient centers. In addition, North Shore-LIJ is partnering with Hofstra University to develop a new medical school. North Shore-LIJ's owned facilities house about 5,000 beds, employ more than 9,500 nurses and have affiliations with more than 7,500 physicians. Its workforce of about 38,000 is the largest on Long Island and the ninth largest in New York City. For more information, go to http://www.northshorelij.com.
Elaine Wohl/Terry Lynam
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