A revised Johnson County Healthcare Center financial aid policy approved by the hospital board last month will expand eligibility for financial assistance while also increasing patient accountability.

“The intent of the revisions is to better align with industry standards and trends,” Laurie Hansen, the healthcare center’s director of administration, wrote in an email to the Bulletin. “Our primary objectives are to expand eligibility for financial assistance … and increase patient accountability.”

The biggest change to the policy, which applies to Johnson County residents who receive care at the hospital or family medical center, is an increase in financial assistance for customers at or below the federal poverty level, Hansen said.

Under the new policy, customers who are at 275% of the federal poverty level or lower are eligible to have some portion of their account balance written off. Previously, only those at 120% of the federal poverty level or lower received financial assistance from the healthcare center.

The revised policy also adds an interest-free $50-per-month payment plan for college students, Hansen said. The payment plan can be applied until students graduate as long as they are taking at least 12 credit hours per semester.

With increased eligibility, the healthcare center is also requiring more regular check-ins to ensure that patients have not fallen out of the eligibility criteria, Hansen said. According to the new policy, patients must reapply every 90 days for financial assistance and must certify that all information provided to the healthcare center is accurate and true.

A newly created hospital internal committee will review the applications, Hansen said. The healthcare center will notify patients about whether they have been approved or denied for financial assistance within 30 days of application submission. If the patient’s application is denied, the healthcare center will provide the reason why, Hansen said.

Patients on Social Security or disability income may apply yearly for financial assistance rather than every three months, Hansen said.

A summary of the newly revised financial assistance policy will be published on www.jchealthcare.com for community review, according to the policy.

Stephen Dow covers a variety of beats for the Buffalo Bulletin including the Johnson County Commissioners and JCSD #1. Stephen is a Billings native who joined the Bulletin in 2016.

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