SIXTEEN HOSPITAL EMPLOYEES ARE FEDERALLY CERTIFIED ASSISTANCE COUNSELORS
BEAUFORT, SC - With so much confusion over the Affordable Care Act, Beaufort Memorial Hospital is stepping up to help uninsured area residents sign up for coverage through the new Health Insurance Marketplace.
A total of 16 hospital employees have completed training as federally certified application counselors. They will be available three days a week at the Beaufort Memorial Medical and Administrative Center (BMAC) to answer questions and guide individuals through the health insurance exchange’s online application.
Those interested in getting the one-on-one assistance can call (843) 522-5585 to set up an appointment. Walk-ins are also welcome. The consultations will take place on the third and fourth floor of the center located at 990 Ribaut Road, Beaufort, across from the main hospital campus.
“We know there are a lot of people concerned about the new health care program,” said BMH Chief Financial Officer Jeff White.”Some may be intimidated by the application process. Others don’t trust the government. And there are those who qualify for Medicaid, but are so accustomed to having nothing, they don’t know they can apply for it.
“Our ultimate goal is to help these people get insurance and the proper care they need.”
Most of the BMH employees trained as certified application counselors work in the hospital’s patient financial services department or patient registration and are familiar with insurance, Medicare and Medicaid programs. Five of the 16 are practice managers at doctors’ offices that are part of Beaufort Memorial Physician Partners.
Under the new Health Insurance Marketplace or “exchange," Beaufort and Jasper residents have the choice of 27 insurance plans offered by three companies. The plans are divided into three levels of coverage—bronze, silver and gold—based on how much the plan will pay for your health care and what services are covered.
“The counselors are not selling plans,” White said. “They can tell you if your doctor or hospital is a member of a particular plan. They can answer questions and help you get through the application process. But what plan you choose will be up to you.”
BMH did not receive federal grant money to pay for the program. It is absorbing the cost to help reduce the ever-growing number of uninsured patients the nonprofit hospital treats for free annually. In the fiscal year ending September 2012, charity care totaled $22.3 million—up from $15.4 million in 2008.
In addition, the hospital incurs millions of dollars in bad debt—that is, services that go unpaid. Bad debt totaled $21.7 million in 2012—$8 million more than in 2008.
Beaufort Memorial coordinated the program with AccessHealth Lowcountry, a network of area healthcare providers that serves as a clearinghouse of medical services for low-income uninsured residents in Beaufort and Jasper counties.
Some 32,000 people in the two counties are believed to be uninsured. Most of them will need to purchase insurance by March 31 to avoid paying a tax penalty of $95.
To learn more about applying for insurance through the Affordable Care Act Health Insurance Marketplace, visit
www.bmhsc.org/Health-Resources/12920/Content.aspx or call (843) 522-5585.