At the Margins

Alternative funding for care should prompt system change

by Robin Brand and Sophia Duke-Mosier

It's a message that revenue cycle leaders and staff are all too familiar with: Health care costs are rising. Yet while these increasing costs represent a dismal state for health care, they have encouraged individuals and organizations to come up with creative ways to work outside the existing system and fund care—but should providers be taking the lead on alternative funding?

Read our latest research on reworking charity care here

'GoFundMe health care' on the rise

At the individual level, patients are turning towards websites such as GoFundMe and other forms of crowdsourcing to pay for their bills. According to TIME, almost 250,000 campaigns—and nearly one third of all donations made on the site—are for health care costs. Though the platform was not originally meant for health care costs, so-called "GoFundMe health care" has become the norm.

One provider's administrative burden turns into a flat fee clinic for Pittsburg patients

Family physician Timothy Wong recently opened an iHealth Clinic, which he considers to be a "micro-practice" because, in order to save on costs, he not only founded the clinic but serves as its sole employee. Wong doesn't accept health insurance and charges patients a flat fee of $35. Wong was inspired to start his own direct pay practice after experiencing the toll administrative burden had on patient outcomes at Indiana Regional Medical Center in Indiana County.

Read more about iHealth Clinic here.

Eradicating medical debt since 2014

Two former debt collections executives, Craig Antico and Jerry Ashton, together created a platform, called "RIP Medical Debt," for donors to purchase medical debt without tax implications for either recipients or donors. The platform highlights areas with the highest need, called "hotspots," including Arizona, Florida, Indiana, and Nebraska. If donors don't see a campaign in their area, they can also propose their own campaign to start eliminating debt for patients in need. To date, RIP Medical Debt has forgiven more than $900 million in debt.

Read more about RIP Medical Debt here.

The bottom line

While these alternative funding options are certainly helpful, providers must take the lead to reduce the patients' financial burden.

The first step? Modernizing charity care and financial assistance policies. Health care costs are such that assistance must cover more than just the indigent; it must extend well into the middle class.

What patients want along their financial journey

Follow the patient financial journey, from pre-care through billing and collections. Learn a patient's questions and fears that arise at each step, and what tools and support your revenue cycle program must proactively provide.

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