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The "New Face" of Charitable Care

Read our 2015 Community Benefits Report.

Melissa ThompsonUntil just a couple of years ago, “regardless of their ability to pay” usually meant offering financial assistance to the uninsured and underinsured to help cover medical expenses. Now, increasingly, it means helping patients secure health insurance, “teaching” how to access care and offering financial assistance to help cover out-of-pocket expenses like deductibles, which often are thousands of dollars a year.

The shift, brought on by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and changes that made many more New Hampshire residents eligible for Medicaid, gives the eight specially trained counselors in Concord Hospital Financial Counseling the opportunity to help patients choose affordable health insurance – changing the lives of individual patients and opening the door to care that improves the overall health of the community.

Patient Melissa Thompson was grateful.

Melissa, who is 23, was born at Concord Hospital and, like others in her family, trusts Concord Hospital for her care. She knew the Hospital provided financial assistance for treatment, but was surprised to discover she also could find help sorting out and applying for health insurance and covering additional out-of-pocket medical expenses.

In 2014, Melissa sought health insurance for the first time. She tried enrolling online, on her own, but found it frustrating.

She met twice with Concord Hospital Director of Patient Access Thomas Antinerella and financial counselor Andree Pratte. They helped Melissa sign on to the government’s HealthCare.gov Web site – even calling the site’s support line to resolve a technical issue – then helped her evaluate the 43 insurance plans available to New Hampshire residents through the Health Insurance Marketplace to help her decide which plan was right for her. The Marketplace is the online list of insurance plans, benefits and costs.

“I had no idea about health insurance,” Melissa said. “Enrollment was a crazy process and I would never have been able to do it on my own. Tom and Andree were very, very patient with me and went through everything.”

With Concord Hospital’s help enrolling in 2014 and re-enrolling in 2015, Melissa can now afford surgery to relieve chronic back pain, address other health issues and obtain needed medication.

“It meant a lot that they actually cared,” Melissa said, through tears. “I’m so grateful. I would never be getting my surgery without their help.”

Melissa comprises the “new face” of charitable care at Concord Hospital, a face that is being recognized partly due to the most recent Capital Region Health Needs Assessment facilitated by Concord Hospital. In the assessment, community members identified the need for assistance with understanding, gaining access to and affording insurance. Concord Hospital Financial Counseling is responding to that need.

Counselors see approximately 100 people per month. They help pare down the sometimes confusing list of insurance plans – including coverage and payment options – by considering a patient’s healthcare needs and whether their providers are included in specific health plans. They explain that monthly payments, or premiums, are based on a patient’s income, and that even for patients with insurance, the Hospital can provide its own financial help.