Health care systems like Sentara carry huge burden
When tragedy strikes, it doesnt stop to ask if you have health insurance. Just three weeks after Kathy Sievert was laid off from her accounting position, she stepped in front of a pickup truck and suffered traumatic injuries. She woke up the next morning with her bones surgically repaired, a $12,000 piece of titanium implanted in her leg and no health insurance.
When Cora Brown was diagnosed with colon cancer she too had no health insurance and very little money but through it all, she says, Sentara doctors, nurses and others have treated her with dignity and respect, while her unpaid medical bills continued to grow.
With 45 million Americans having no health insurance, and an increasing number of underinsured people, not-for-profit (or just hospitals) hospitals such as Sentara are left to shoulder the costs of caring for those in greatest need. But its not just the unemployed without medical coverage. Most uninsured people have jobs but earn too little to afford health insurance and yet too much to qualify for Medicaid.
Last year, Sentara gave more than $85 million back to this community, including free health care to the needy, medical education, and support of community health programs. That equals more than $230,000 for each day in 2004.
-How Sentara helps-
As a part of its mission to provide quality health care to patients regardless of their ability to pay, Sentara was one of the first health care systems in the country to offer an expanded uninsured assistance program.
"While federal charity guidelines qualify only those who are at or below the federal poverty level, Sentara recognizes that individuals and families at twice that income are still struggling to survive," said Robert Broermann, Sentara vice president and chief financial officer. "We've broadened our safety net to provide care at no cost to eligible patients at this income level."
Self-pay discount program
In addition to providing free care, Sentara offers steep discounts of up to 60 percent to patients whose income is between 200 and 600 percent of the federal poverty level.
Communication is essential to helping those who are in greatest need. Sentara actively seeks insight into each patients circumstances to identify those needing financial aid. Often, people are not even away they qualify for assistance from Medicaid, the State and Local Hospital Fund, or one of Sentaras programs. A dedicated team works with the patients to help them obtain and sort through documentation needed to qualify for various programs. "Some patients leave the hospital with health coverage they did not have before," says Broermann.
The big picture
"The growing numbers of people who cant afford health care coverage creates an enormous financial and social burden for our entire society that is escalating to public health crisis status," said Sentara CEO David Bernd. "Uninsured patients typically delay care because they realize they cant pay for treatment. What begins as a minor, easily treatable illness can quickly become more tragic and even deadly if left untreated," he continued. "Creating an accessible, affordable system of basic health coverage for all Americans should be a priority."
Sentara Healthcare, a premier not-for-profit health care provider in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina, is comprised of more than 70 sites of care including 6 acute care hospitals, a hospital for extended recovery, 2 outpatient care campuses, 7 nursing centers, 3 assisted living centers, and 25 primary care practices.
Sentara also offers a full range of award-winning health coverage plans, home health and hospice services, physical therapy and rehabilitation services, mobile diagnostic vans, and ground and air medical transport services, including Nightingale the regions only air ambulance service.
Sentara also was the first in the nation to pioneer and develop eICU, an electronic intensive care treatment system. Striving to improve the wellness of the community, Sentara continues to participate in national and international research trials as a means to increase the medical options available to patients well into the future.
Modern Healthcare magazine annually publishes a study highlighting the top 100 integrated health care networks across the nation. For the last eight years, Sentara Healthcare has consistently ranked among the nations top integrated health care networks as published in Modern Healthcare magazine, in 2005 ranking 3rd. Sentara is the only health care system to be ranked in the nations top 10 all eight years the survey has been conducted.