Hospital will aid plant workers

Published 10:34 pm Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Last year, more than 530 employees of Demopolis’ New Era Cap Co. visited Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital seeking treatment for various nicks and ailments.

In no fewer than three months, those employees will lose their primary health insurance, which potentially could put a drain of more than $250,000 on the facility’s indigent care liability.

“It’s not a pretty picture,” hospital CEO Mike Marshall said. “We figure, worst-case scenario, we’ll get hit with about a quarter of a million dollars, cash.”

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Law requires Alabama hospitals to treat those in need regardless of their ability to pay. With little to no reimbursement for those patients’ care, hospitals write off millions of uncollectible dollars annually.

With so many local residents and potential patients soon to be in need of insurance, Marshall said the hospital has a program in place to help them find it.

“Many of the people employed by New Era will be eligible for Medicaid or may have children eligible for ALLKids or another discounted insurance program,” he said. “The key is them finding out about it and learning how to enroll in it.”

The hospital’s Grants, Research and Outreach of WestAL (GROWestAL) serves as an education and outreach branch for the hospital.

Its mission is identify and acquire financial and other resources which enable the Tombigbee Healthcare Authority (THA) to provide quality, accessible healthcare to all Black Belt residents. This division includes grant and outreach programs that serve the residents of the Black Belt counties served under THA.

“When people are uninsured or under insured, they don’t seek regular medical treatment,” Marshall said. “What we’ll do is take a look at their situation – household income or personal income, number and age of children, etc. – and try and find them some level or some kind of insurance program that they’ll qualify for.”

Loretta Smith, GROWestAL program manager, said while the hospital may not be able to actually enroll people in the programs, its goal is to help them through the application process.

“We’ll be with them step by step,” she said. “Once we can determine what their need is and what they qualify for, then we can figure out how we can help them.”

Many of those programs include health coverage for children and free or discounted prescription medication.

For more information on these services, contact Loretta Smith at (334) 287-2610.