Paying for healthcare |

Paying for healthcare

How to apply

To apply for financial assistance for services at Yampa Valley Medical Center, call 879-1322 and ask to speak to a patient financial counselor.

When it comes to paying for health care, a number of people in Northwest Colorado are caught between a rock and a hard place. They can’t afford health insurance but they earn too much to qualify for Medicaid.

Mike Nelson and Jessica Bock of Yampa Valley Medical Center have good news for this growing population. The Colorado Indigent Care Program (CICP) has expanded its coverage to services that are deemed medically necessary, not just urgent or emergent. And where CICP leaves off, Yampa Valley Medical Center steps up to help cover the cost.

“It’s part of our mission and it’s the right thing to do,” Nelson said. “Our financial assistance program keeps expanding and changing for the betterment of our patients.”

Bock has no difficulty calling to mind the patients she is assisting in her role as patient financial counselor. She talks about an older woman and her husband who were “on the verge of giving up” because they couldn’t afford the diagnostic tests and surgery the wife needed for a serious illness. Bock led the couple through the process of applying for financial aid and getting their care at Yampa Valley Medical Center.

On the other end of the age spectrum was the young child whom teachers had identified as needing significant health care. Bock worked with a team of school staff and physicians to get the family qualified for CICP funds.

Financial assistance at Yampa Valley Medical Center is not just for the uninsured, Nelson said. Some insured individuals and families face high deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses. CICP and YVMC programs can help with the balance that remains after insurance has paid its portion.

“We have a pretty big window for financial assistance, and 90 percent of patients who apply do qualify for some type of assistance,” Nelson said.

People whose earnings reach up to 250 percent beyond the federal poverty level are eligible for help from CICP, Nelson said. YVMC opens the window even wider, helping those who earn up to 325 percent of the poverty level.

Not all services provided at a hospital are billed by the hospital. Surgeons and anesthesiologists, for example, send separate statements that are not automatically covered by CICP and YVMC’s programs. However, most of the physicians who practice at YVMC do participate in CICP, Nelson said.

“With the recent influx of applications, it is evident that the word is getting out into the community about these programs,” Bock said. “Our hospital admissions staff has the information readily available to give anyone interested in pursuing the application process. But often, physicians’ offices refer their patients straight to me prior to even scheduling hospital services, which helps to ease any anxiety the patients may have.”

Bock is also available to assist with emerging trauma situations. Recently, a legal immigrant worker who did not speak English was seen in YVMC’s emergency department. He was diagnosed with bleeding in his brain and needed to be transferred to a Denver hospital. With the assistance of two translators, Bock not only got the patient qualified for CICP at our local hospital, but arranged the same coverage at the receiving hospital.

YVMC expects to provide up to $1.8 million of charitable care during fiscal year 2006, Nelson said.

Although it is better to be pre-approved for financial assistance, Yampa Valley Medical Center has not forgotten about past patients. Nelson encourages people to apply for funds that could be applied retroactively to hospital bill balances that date back several years.

Additionally, people who applied for but did not qualify for funds during the past should reapply, Nelson said, due to the recent expansion of the programs.

Bock is spending an increasing amount of time with people who are applying for financial assistance. The process requires work on the applicant’s part as well as Bock’s. But the potential benefits are well worth the effort.

“I recently helped someone who was in the depth of despair.” Bock said. “She was devastated and had lost hope. To be able to turn that around and get her the help and hope she needed was inspiring. This hospital wants to reach out and help people.”

Christine McKelvie is public relations director at Yampa Valley Medical Center.

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