Hospitals and health systems are helping government employees affected by the shutdown.

“These five health systems changed their billing procedures to accommodate patients financially affected by the partial government shutdown:

Norton Healthcare to waive ER copays, deductibles for government workers

CHI Franciscan waives copays, deductibles for federal employees affected by government shutdown

Hackensack Meridian drops ER copays, deductibles for government workers

Michigan system will waive ER deductibles, copays for furloughed federal workers

Ohio health system offers financial help to government workers amid shutdown” (A)

Assignment: Identify additional ways hospitals and health systems can proceed, then present them to hospitals in your community for implementation.

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross: “The 30 days of pay that some people will be out, there’s no real reason why they shouldn’t be able to get a loan against it, and we’ve seen a number of ads of financial institutions doing that,” (Ross reportedly worth $700 million.)

“Bergen County’s safety-net hospital and the Atlantic Health System, based in Morristown, said Wednesday that they are accepting job applications from furloughed federal workers and offering a variety of other assistance to the workers and their families.

Bergen New Bridge Medical Center announced Wednesday that furloughed workers can apply for temporary jobs at the Paramus health care facility, which will expedite their applications and have them working within two business days. Furloughed federal workers and their families also can eat for free at the medical center’s cafeteria and grab-and-go bar.

Atlantic Health is holding two job fairs — on Thursday and Jan. 31 — at its corporate headquarters in Morristown. Temporary and full-time jobs in clerical, clinical support, food service and nursing support positions are available.

The system is also holding a food drive to benefit local food banks.

And Atlantic Health is waiving co-pays in its emergency departments and at the offices of physicians in the Atlantic Medical Group,… The system includes Morristown Medical Center, Overlook Medical Center in Summit, Newton Medical Center, Chilton Medical Center in Pompton Plains and Hackettstown Medical Center…

On Wednesday afternoon, St. Joseph’s Health announced that it would waive deductibles and co-pays for furloughed federal employees and their dependents who receive care in the emergency department of St. Joseph’s University Medical Center in Paterson and St. Joseph’s Wayne Medical Center.” (B)

“A month into the longest government shutdown in history, RWJBarnabas Health announced it will waive co-pays, deductibles and additional eligible patient care balances for care provided to furloughed federal employees and their dependents during the government shutdown.

Effective immediately, the offer applies to all inpatient, outpatient, emergency and ambulatory-based care provided by RWJBarnabas Health facilities including its hospitals, ambulatory facilities and owned physician practices. The health system said it will also defer any payments those workers are obligated to make to the health system until their wages are reinstated.

“Affordability is a key factor in whether families can access care, and we believe that our action today can help alleviate some of the pressures these furloughed federal workers are currently facing,” said Barry Ostrowsky, president and CEO of RWJBarnabas Health, in statement.

It is among the largest in a patchwork effort among healthcare providers and other private businesses to provide relief for government workers who have already missed one paycheck and are due to miss a second paycheck in a few days due to the partial shutdown. More than 800,000 workers nationwide have been impacted.

Other New Jersey hospitals including Hackensack Meridian Health, a 17-hospital health system, and Cape Regional Health System announced similar offers to waive expenses for care during the shutdown, the Press of Atlantic City reported…

 “Health care coverage for members of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Federal Employee Program remains in place and active during the government shutdown,” Blue Cross Blue Shield Association Senior Vice President of Government Programs William Breskin said in a statement. “We remain committed to the health and wellbeing of our members and want them to know that they will continue to have full access to their health care coverage during this time.”

Meanwhile, drug discount program GoodRx announced it would offer federal employees affected by the shutdown free membership to its premium prescription savings program, GoodRx Gold, which offers more than 1,000 common medications for less than $10 at pharmacies such as CVS, Kroger, Albertsons, Safeway and Vons.

Still, experts have warned that the longer the shutdown drags on, the more trouble federal workers will have covering basic health necessities with an increasing number of people finding themselves facing extenuating circumstances.” (C)

“The average emergency room co-pay is between $50 and $150, depending on insurance plan, and deductibles can be thousands of dollars.

Officials at Inspira announced that furloughed patients with government IDs will not have to pay out-of-pocket costs at network emergency rooms in Bridgeton, Elmer, Vineland and Woodbury, or at the network’s 11 urgent care offices.

Inspira hospital-based physicians who provide emergency, radiology, pathology and anesthesia services are also waiving the charges related to these visits…

Cape Regional’s hospital in Cape May Court House and its urgent care centers in Marmora, Cape May Court House and Wildwood will waive co-pays and deductibles for workers. Hospital officials said patients should bring with them their government issued IDs and insurance cards, and should notify staff upon arrival.

CompleteCare Health Network announced Wednesday that it will cover out-of-pocket costs incurred by government workers and their families. Patients should bring ID and insurance cards to visits.

Furloughed employees and covered family members can get waived fees for emergency care at any of Hackensack Meridian’s 44 New Jersey urgent care centers and 17 hospitals, including Southern Ocean Medical Center in Stafford Township.”  (D)

“Federal employees on furlough during the 31-day (and counting) partial government shutdown can get primary care appointments within 24 hours with Cooper University Health Care, the South Jersey health system announced Tuesday.

Cooper has set up a dedicated phone number – 856-536-1300 – that furloughed employees can call to set up a primary care appointment. The offer also extends to the employee’s immediate family members.”  (E)

“Temple and Penn universities’ dental schools are offering free dental care to furloughed government workers.

Dentist residents, dental students, and faculty of the Kornberg School of Dentistry will see patients with urgent dental needs weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the school’s North Broad Street location. Appointments can be made by calling 215-707-2900. Walk-ins are accepted until 3 p.m.

Penn Dental Medicine is similarly providing emergency dental care to furloughed federal employees weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 240 S 40th St.

Federal employees must bring identification to confirm their employment and contact information for their primary dentist, if they have one. Temple will send records of any dental services provided to workers’ regular dentist…

Health benefits for federal workers remain intact even though they’re not getting paid, but workers may be reluctant to follow through on medical appointments that could lead to a big bill if they know there’s no paycheck coming to cover it.”  (F)

“The longest-ever U.S. government shutdown is posing new risks to the Affordable Care Act and some health services, prompting alarm from insurers, providers and congressional Democrats who say the impasse could harm consumers and undermine the stability of the individual insurance market.

Ongoing staffing shortages at the Internal Revenue Service could lead to higher premiums for some consumers who need tax credits to help pay their health-insurance premiums, Democrats say. The IRS is required to review applications from some consumers who need to sign up for coverage outside of the enrollment window and those who need an extension on filing taxes. Delays could also put their tax credits at risk, Democrats say.

The shutdown means the Indian Health Service hasn’t been able to continue paying tribal health clinics and programs, and some clinics may have to close or curtail operations.

And insurers say rule-making delays from the shutdown have left them scrambling to make key decisions about future participation in the ACA’s health-insurance exchanges. The insurers need that guidance to know how to design plans for 2020, but the rule release was delayed by months…

While the main agencies overseeing Medicaid, Medicare and the ACA remain open, employees at Health and Human Services and its agencies have been furloughed. The partial shutdown has also furloughed staff at other agencies such as the Treasury Department who are involved with implementing or setting policy related to the ACA.

As a result, some consumers who need their health-insurance applications reviewed by the IRS could experience delays in getting tax credits that reduce their premiums. Democrats are also worried the credits could be at risk for more people as the shutdown drags on.

Insurers have also been frustrated. HHS delayed releasing a proposal that outlines information carriers need when designing plans or deciding whether to participate next year in the ACA exchanges…

And the shutdown is taking a toll on health clinics that serve American Indians because grants to contractors are going unpaid. National tribal organizations in a Jan. 10 letter to Mr. Trump and top congressional leaders warned that the partial shutdown “breaks the treaty and trust obligations to tribal governments.”

Tribal governments are cutting health services and seven clinics will have to close if the shutdown continues, they said.

The situation has alarmed some lawmakers because other services, such food-distribution programs to reservations run by the Agriculture Department, are also in jeopardy because of the shutdown.”  (G)

“Dozens of health organizations, including the Association of American Medical Colleges, New York City Health + Hospitals and National Alliance on Mental Illness, warned in a letter to the president last week that that basic health protections are being endangered. The FDA isn’t working on new drug and device applications, which could delay “life-saving innovations,” they said.

“A prolonged shutdown will continue to put the health and safety of the nation’s residents at risk. It is vital that Congress and the President work to reopen the government as soon as possible to minimize the effects of the impasse,” the groups wrote.

The shutdown could also hurt payer and provider bottom lines and harm patient health. If furloughed employees can’t afford their bills, health systems and payers may see a hit to their bottom lines and potentially diminished patient health if they delay necessary care.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners is asking insurers to work with federal workers who are facing financial hardships during the shutdown. That includes people who aren’t able to pay their insurance premiums promptly.

“The NAIC encourages insurance companies to exercise judicious efforts to assist these policyholders and work with them to make sure that their insurance policy does not lapse,” the group said in a statement. “Affected policyholders who are unable to make timely premium payments due to the federal government shutdown should contact their insurance company as soon as possible.”

These issues could be exacerbated as the shutdown is happening in the middle of flu season.

Another area affected by the shutdown is rural hospitals. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, D-N. M., on Wednesday spoke out about the Department of Agriculture not providing a needed loan to Pecos Valley Medical Center because of the shutdown.” (H)

“Federal government employees and contracted employees currently affected by the longest-running government shutdown in U.S. history are putting off doctor’s appointments, asking for help through online fundraisers and considering new career paths as medical bills mount..

Although President Donald Trump has signed a bill that will guarantee back pay for furloughed federal workers, roughly 800,000 federal employees and potentially millions of contractors affected by the partial government shutdown are set to miss their second paycheck. That lack of income means there is no money for medical bills in the moment, and these government workers are quickly joining the ranks of Americans for whom healthcare is a significant financial burden. One in six Americans carry medical debt on their credit reports, totaling $81 billion in bills owed, according to a 2018 Health Affairs study. In a country where health care spending continues to increase, more than a quarter of Americans between the ages of 18 and 64 reported having trouble paying their medical bills, according to a 2016 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the New York Times. Among those surveyed, about 20% of people who had problems making medical bills had previously declared personal bankruptcy. Financial constraints also push many Americans to delay medical care. According to an Earnin poll in 2018, 54% of Americans delayed getting treatment because they could not afford it.” (I)

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