“The steps that we’re taking help both patients that have insurance but also helps patients who do not have insurance,” Levine said at a Monday press conference held at Ballad Health’s corporate office. “I think if you go around the country, you could probably count on one hand — if any — the number of health systems who’ve actually reduced their pricing.”
In September 2019, Ballad announced an average 17% price reduction for all physician practices and urgent care and increased the discount for people who are uninsured to 77%.
Ballad will now increase discounts for uninsured patients at all Ballad physician practices, urgent cares, diagnostics and hospitals to 85%. New steps now also include assisting patients with insurance who have incomes up to 450% of the federal poverty level and high deductibles and copays.
Qualifying families could now be eligible to receive care at no cost to them, even if they are insured and have deductibles or copays.
“If you are a family of four, and you make $57-58,000 a year, you’re eligible to have all of your health care costs written off,” Levine said.
Beginning April 1, Ballad will also implement “presumptive eligibility” for patients eligible for free care or discounts under Ballad Health’s expanded charity policy. This, according to Ballad, will “reduce barriers to receiving charity care, such as producing hard-to-find paperwork.” This aims to reduce the number of patient bills labeled as bad debt or referred for collections.
Ahead of Monday’s press conference, Levine said these changes are “a result of Ballad Health’s board of directors and leadership listening to the concerns of our patients” and “recognizing the hardship that has been imposed by insurers shifting higher costs to patients through unaffordable premiums and deductibles.”
Levine said these recent steps, however, are not a long-term solution to the “affordability crisis” in health care. He said it isn’t reasonable to expect patients and rural hospitals to absorb all costs, which he said contributes to why many rural and non-urban hospital systems have experienced hospital closures in comparison to urban systems where more privately insured patients go.
Levine said Ballad hopes to work with insurance companies and federal policymakers to come up with a more sustainable solution for hospitals, which he said is still unclear.
“If the goal is for us to absorb the cost of these deductibles, then basically, we’re trying to take the burden off of the patient that’s been placed on them by the insurance company,” he said.
“A long-term solution to this isn’t just to shift those costs to the hospitals. Rural hospitals won’t survive,” he later continued. “If every hospital in the country is going to now take responsibility for the deductibles, you’re going to have a lot of those hospitals that are going to accelerate their demise.’
For more information on these and other Ballad policy changes, visit www.balladhealth.org.