Mosaic Life Care spent most of 2015 reviewing debt collections practices, ending the year with a medical debt grace period that resulted in almost $11 million in debt forgiveness during the first two months.
“We were doing the medically right thing for the person, but on the financial responsibility part, we were doing the wrong thing,” said Dr. Mark Laney, president and CEO of Mosaic. “We needed desperately to move from a back-end function of our finances to a proactive, ‘Let’s talk before you incur any expenses and know what your responsibilities are and what you qualify for.’”
During the medical debt grace period, held from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, patients with outstanding debt are able to apply for financial assistance, even if legal action had already been taken.
Through the end of November, 1,649 applications had been approved for financial assistance totaling approximately $10.8 million in debt, interest and legal fee forgiveness, according to the hospital. Applications will be accepted through midnight Dec. 31, 2015.
“We have had a lot of people come forward and we’ve been able to go through their bills and talk to them about their financial situation and write off debt and qualify people for discounts,” Dr. Laney said. “It’s been a very positive experience.”
Mosaic began reviewing the billing and debt collection practices after a study found that the hospital issued more wage garnishments than any other hospital in Missouri.
In 2014, Northwest Financial Services, the for-profit debt collection arm of Mosaic, issued approximately 2,400 wage garnishment cases. In 2015, that number was 940 as of Dec. 21, including a suspension of legal action from January to April while the process was under review.
In the new year, Mosaic will continue to update billing and collections practices and “hardwire the change,” Dr. Laney said.
“For me, it’s a little more transparency from the board’s perspective,” said Steve Schram, chairman of the Mosaic board of trustees. “Really, it takes away any fear that people have about it if we can sit down with people on the front end versus the back end. I think it’s going to be a lot more nonthreatening environment for people in St. Joseph to get medical care.”
For more top local stories of 2015, go to www.newspressnow.com/special_reports_top_10_stories.