In August, Skaggs Regional Medical Center’s emergency department recorded $1.3 million in bad debt, a trend hospital officials hope to curtail with a new payment policy that becomes effective Dec. 1.
Beginning Thursday, anyone needing a prescription from Skaggs’ emergency department will be required to pay the copay, if insured, or $40 toward the bill, if uninsured.
For patients who cannot pay at the time of service, Skaggs will hold the prescription for up to seven days. Patients can also apply through Skaggs business department for assistance.
“Over the last year, about one-third of the estimated 120 patients seen per day in the Skaggs emergency department have no health insurance,” said President and CEO William Mahoney. “In August, the emergency department reported $1.3 million in bad debt. This amount of bad debt is unsustainable for our operation. Our percentage of bad debt from the emergency room is considerably higher than the national and Missouri average.”
Media Relations Specialist Michelle Leroux said patients, with or without insurance, as well as those who can’t afford the $40, will still be treated in the emergency department.
“They won’t be denied care,” she said.
She said those who can’t pay will be given “a few pills,” if needed to get them by, until payment can be made or arrangements for assistance through the business department can be made. She said patients will also have the opportunity to set up an appointment with a family physician during their emergency room visit.
Leroux said a lot of patients without insurance let minor ailments go untreated for a period of time and then turn to the emergency room for help. She said treating a minor ailment in the emergency room is very costly.
The hope is people who might typically go to the emergency department will utilize urgent care or a family physician instead. Urgent care, located in Skaggs Outpatient Center, is open from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8 a.m.-4 p.m Saturday-Sunday.
“A lot of time people are using the emergency room when they could go to urgent care,” Leroux said.
She said the new policy is a step which will hopefully result in a decrease in bad debt at the emergency department.
“We are seeing an issue that needs to be addressed before it gets out of hand,” Leroux said. “We are just doing our best to stay on top of things.”