As you may know, UNC Health Care has undertaken an initiative to improve access for patients who face financial difficulties. We began this effort in response to concerns raised by the community about how we meet the needs of our patients. Some of the underlying issues we addressed result from the irrational and sometimes immoral system of health care financing we operate under. Some of the issues stem from our own flawed policies and practices regarding financial support and assistance.
I want to take this opportunity to share with you directly the important improvements we've made to our existing policies and the new initiatives we've created to assure access to our health care system and improve our financial assistance programs. It is only through your collective efforts that we will ensure these changes take hold through the institution.
A detailed summary of our recent changes has been published in a community white paper that is available to you, and all citizens, at www.unchealthcare.org. I encourage you to read it to learn more about our progress.
As we have worked over the past several years to improve the operation of our health care system, we made some mistakes. For example, we have not done a satisfactory job of letting some of our patients know that financial assistance is available. We also made some billing errors in which patients were served collection notices before they received bills. We regret these errors. They were not acceptable, and I want you to know that we have corrected these problems.
I am pleased with the changes that have been made so far and am enthusiastic about additional improvements to come. The overarching goal of all of these changes is to better serve our patients a goal that I know you can appreciate.
As all of these improvements take hold, our patients will experience a system of care that is easier to navigate and understand. Through recent policy changes, we now:
¢ Employ additional financial counselors and offer a toll free help line for patients seeking financial assistance;
¢ Automatically review catastrophic patient cases with medical bills in excess of $15,000, with the goal of minimizing the patient's obligation;
¢ Offer patients long-term, interest-free payment plans and up-front comprehensive financial counseling;
¢ No longer routinely forward patient cases of uncollected debt to the state attorney general's office for collection;
¢ No longer apply the State Employee Debt Collection Act (SEDCA) requirements to collecting debts from UNC Health Care employees;
¢ Follow improved patient discharge policies to ensure proper care for frail and vulnerable patients after they leave our premises;
¢ Include community participation in the management and oversight of they system, having invited an additional local citizen to join our board of directors and to serve on internal committees that address the needs of the most vulnerable residents. The Rev. Robert E. Seymour, Jr., pastor emeritus of Chapel Hill's Binkley Baptist Church and founder of the Chapel Hill Senior Center, provides the community a voice that addresses the needs of the uninsured, the underserved and other vulnerable populations.
We believe these improvements will go a long way toward helping our patients access financial assistance and support. But we only want to make sure that people who can afford to pay do so. Otherwise, we will not be able to provide care to the growing number of people who need our financial assistance.
I want to thank you for everything you do to better the lives of our patients. Keep up the great work and remember this renewed commitment to our patients each and every time you interact with a sick child, expectant mother or elderly person. The change we have made help to fully align our services with the mission of UNC Health Care. Just as you do every day, the UNC Health Care System is committed to putting the needs of our patients at the forefront of our efforts.
I appreciate your continued diligence in meeting the high standards we've set for our health care system and for ourselves. You truly make our health care system a caring place to work.