Caring for the Indigent Patient Population
In our value-based American healthcare environment, it is pertinent to focus some attention on our indigent population, or otherwise known as “uninsured and/or low-income”. Approximately 10.2% of the U.S population (non-elderly between the ages of 0 to 64 years) is uninsured. Financial status of patients is integrally entwined with issues that directly affect patient health outcomes. Therefore it is our responsibility as healthcare providers to provide appropriate care for the uninsured or financially challenged patients.
Providers are faced with three main choices when caring for indigent populations, they can:
- Refer to public clinic or other government funded health system
- Skip a few tests or therapies as a way of cost containment
- Offer reduced fee service or waive the charges
This article will outline what the first option would entail for a provider, please check up on our weekly blog for full articles on choice #2 and #3, in coming weeks.
If you decide to take the first option and refer new indigent patients, there are 4 major resources that provide access to healthcare:
- Medicaid - Patients of all ages are eligible for this Government funded program, if their income is below a specified amount. U.S citizens and Permanent Residents qualify for this program.
- American Kidney Fund – This organization coordinates medical care for patients who are at risk for or have kidney disease. Through a host of programs such as Health Insurance Premium Program (HIPP), Safety Net program, prescription drug programs, and disaster relief and grants for children, AKF has been assisting people with kidney disease since 1971.
- Centers for Disease Control – Women at risk of breast or cervical cancer are eligible to receive free screening and other diagnostic services under this program of CDC. Patients at 250% below poverty level also qualify for these free services.
- Federally Qualified Health Centers – Federal government supported health centers are available throughout the country. To find health centers in your area, visit the hyperlinked website, scroll down to the bottom of the screen and specify your location in “find a health center”. These centers provide free or low cost medical care and preventive services for those who are uninsured or have low income. There are 1400 clinics in 11,000 locations and staffed with nurses, dentist, social workers, etc. to meet a variety of patient needs.
Patients who are uninsured or classified within a low-income group face other significant life challenges such as limited food supply, lack of support to care for self or their family, and transportation. These factors also determine the health status of an individual. Some of the resources that you could share with these patients include:
- Local church groups that provide food and transportation assistance. Through google search find one near you and connect with your patients
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a USDA sponsored program provides fresh groceries for those who quality. Visit the website or call 1-800-221-5689 for SNAP help 24-hours a day, 7 days a week, and find a center near you.
- Through the Feeding America website, find a Food Bank in your area. The organization supports 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs in all states of U.S. Food is available to anyone who needs it without obligation, regardless of circumstance and it is free and confidential.
Please check back here next week as we will discuss cost-effective treatment options to provide care for the indigent patient population.
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