Navigating Affordable Healthcare

While the lofty goal of the Affordable Care Act is to provide healthcare coverage for millions of uninsured Americans, the battle to register those people is a one-on-one proposition.

That’s because, while it sounds simple, navigating the government’s website and choosing the right services can be daunting.

That’s where Connie Small is making a difference.

Small is the supervisor of financial counseling for Roper St. Francis where she manages a staff of 10 people who personally visit patients in the system’s three hospitals – Roper, Bon Secours St. Francis and Mount Pleasant – to assist them in signing up for South Carolina’s Medicaid coverage or plans on the Health Insurance Marketplace, otherwise known as the exchange.

“Our goal is to reach out to our unfunded and underfunded patients to assist them in finding coverage for their medical expenses,” Small said. “What we do is contact the patients, either before they are admitted for a procedure or while they’re in the hospital. We then work with them to assess their financial situation to see if they qualify for any of these medical programs.”

Ideally, to have as many patients as possible covered under insurance would benefit everyone so the costs of those patients who are uninsured are not passed on to others.

And while news of this new program has been the talk of the nation for more than a year, some people are still uninformed or intimidated by the process.

“Surprisingly, there are a lot of patients in this day and time who do not realize they may qualify for these programs,” Small said. “And the majority of these patients are working people who, because of income, may not meet the Medicaid qualifications. But if they have children, we can usually get the children covered. We find that our patients are very grateful for this service.”

If Medicaid is not the answer, Small said, her team assists patients filing for insurance under the Affordable Care Act, through the Health Insurance Marketplace, which can be accessed at www.healthcare.gov.

“We’ve increased staffing to accommodate the anticipated increase in volume,” she said looking at the applications on her desk. “We expect 2014 to be a very busy year.”

If you’re a Roper St. Francis patient and believe you are uninsured or underinsured, please call 402-CARE (2273) or visit our website to be connected with one of our financial counselors or v. 

By: Ken Burger, former Post and Courier sports columnist and local author. Reach Ken at ken.burger@rsfh.com.

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