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Changes in the works for 'Charity Care' at Fletcher Allen - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Changes in the works for 'Charity Care' at Fletcher Allen

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Fletcher Allen says the amount of money they give out will not change, but a new charity giving policy could mean some patients will receive a different amount of aid than they are accustomed to. Unexpected medical expenses can torpedo a budget, wiping out years of savings with one surgery or one injury.

For those that need help paying their bills, Fletcher Allen Health Care provides financial aid-- nearly $8 million per year.

A new provision in the Affordable Care Act forced Fletcher Allen Health Care to change how it does its charity giving policy. While the hospital says most people will not see a change in their bill, others could see a slight change in the amount of money they leave with in their wallet.

Fletcher Allen CEO John Brumsted said, “With the Affordable Care Act, there are some IRS rules that are a part of that that make all not-for-profit health care organizations look at their charity care."

A tiered system is set up to decide how much individuals who don't have insurance or policies that cover certain procedures must pay.

The change will most directly affect underinsured patients making around $25,000 per year. Instead of paying a flat fee of $250 for their total bill, those people will now pay 15 percent of the cost, regardless of whether they're visiting for a routine checkup or a major procedure.

Brumsted says even with the changes Fletcher Allen won't decrease the money it gives out.

"Fletcher Allen is very generous,” Brumsted said. “It was before we were forced to make the changes. It's still very, very generous relative to other peer organizations."

Comparisons with other regional nonprofit hospitals back up his claim. Someone making $25,000 per year will now pay 15 percent of their total bill at Fletcher Allen — which will soon be renamed University of Vermont Medical Center. By comparison, they would pay 55-70 percent at Albany Medical Center or anywhere from zero to 35 percent at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

Shannon Lonergan is in charge of charity care at Fletcher Allen. She says that in the last fiscal year the hospital provided $7.9 million in financial aid to needy patients.

"It's part of our mission to make sure that the patient's financial resources do not impact or influence them in seeking the necessary health care that they need,” Lonergan said.

Lonergan emphasized that 70 percent of patients who received assistance will see no changes. Brumsted said he believes the changes were mandated in the Affordable Care Act in hopes the underinsured would see more incentive to buy a better plan through the health care exchanges like Vermont Health Connect.

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