To Lower Costs, Hospitals Try Free Basic Care for Uninsured

  1. by [color=#004276]erik eckholm
    published: october 25, 2006

    austin, tex.-unable to afford health insurance, dee dee dodd had for years been mixing occasional doctor visits with clumsy efforts to self-manage her insulin-dependent [color=#004276]diabetes, getting sicker all the while.
    in one 18-month period, ms. dodd, 38, was rushed almost monthly to the emergency room, spent weeks in the intensive care unit and accumulated more than $191,000 in unpaid bills.

    that is when nurses at the seton family of hospitals tagged her as a "frequent flier," a repeat visitor whose ailments-and expenses-might be curbed with more regular care. the hospital began offering her free primary care through its charity program.

    with the number of uninsured people in the united states reaching a record 46.6 million last year, up by 7 million from 2000, seton is one of a small number of hospital systems around the country to have done the math and acted on it. officials decided that for many patients with chronic diseases, it would be cheaper to provide free preventive care than to absorb the high cost of repeated emergencies.

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  3. by   oramar
    Good for them, someone has to at least address the problem.
  4. by   pickledpepperRN
    Once upon a time there were many such programs.
    We had no insurance when I was pregnant, both times. A hospital run by a religious group had a maternity clinic. We were examined by interns and residents who could bring the OB-GYN in if they suspected an abnormality (HTN, DM, or other).
    We paid monthly up to the seventh month. Then, like insurance, our L&D was paid for. I was fortunate to have no complications but in the event of a C-Section or need for NICU it would have been covered.
    Then well baby care was available at a lower cost, better care, and longer wait than most offices.

    Many hospitals had clinics where patients could be treated by interns and residents at a much lower than usual cost. My hospital had one for families with an income of less than $1,000.00 a month. As a full time LVN working 80 hours every two weeks I made less than half that. Even with DH working we qualified.

    Of course we were not for profit then.