UNC Health Care’s New Financial Assistance Policy

Recently, the UNC Heath Care Board of Directors approved new policies that will guide our provision of care to uninsured and indigent patients. Serving those who have no other place to go has been key to the mission of this institution for more than half a century, but these new policies are intended to enhance and streamline what we do.

First, all of the new policies deal with the UNC Health Care System as a whole. No longer will patients and families have to interact with separate financial assistance rules and personnel for hospitals, doctors and clinics.

Second, we are discounting our fees 25 percent across the board for those without health insurance. This is designed to parallel the discounts that most health health insurers have negotiated with us on behalf of their members.

Third, we are adding a co-payment requirement, of $10 per office visit and $20 per admission, for everyone. But no one will be turned away because of an inability to pay.

Fourth, we will provide free care, after the copayments, for patients in families below 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.

Fifth, we will expect for patients and families to work with our financial counsellors, and to comply with these policies and procedures. For non-emergent care, as determined by the patient's physician, if they do not comply, they will be turned away and asked to return at a later time.

Taken together, we believe these new policies are clear and readily understandable. They are also very consistent with our mission to serve the underserved. We want to do that in a compassionate and kind manner, while at the same time keeping faith with all the citizens of North Carolina, as good stewards of their tax dollars.

The Board adopted these policies after careful preparation, widespread discussion and comment, and detailed analysis. They will be implemented beginning this fall and winter. We continue to seek comment from all the parties at interest to these important matters.

In particular, we welcome insights about how other safety net” institutions, across the Nation, have dealt with these issues. We believe we have achieved the right balance between compassionate care giving and fiscal responsiblity, but we would like to know what others think.

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