Hospitals Offer Help for Patients Struggling to Afford Healthcare

Hospitals in Connecticut may offer financial assistance for people struggling to afford care. 

Millions of adults either delayed medical care or went without it in 2016 due to the cost, according to the Kaiser Health Foundation. 

Leslie Velez, a financial counselor at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, said patients often assume they won’t qualify for financial assistance and therefore don’t ask about it, but explained that most families qualify for some type of aid. 

The hospital first screens patients to see if they are eligible for Connecticut Medicaid, even if they have primary insurance, according to Velez. 

Connecticut Children’s Medical Center offers assistance based on household income and family size. 

For example, a family whose income is at or below 2.5 times the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) qualifies for 100 percent assistance, while a family with an income between 200 and 500 percent of the FPL qualifies for 45 percent assistance. 

“If you do not qualify for the financial assistance and you are a true self-pay, which means you don’t have medical insurance, automatically we do a 40 percent write-off on your hospital bill,” Velez said. 

NBC Connecticut looked at financial assistance programs at other hospitals in Connecticut and found the 250 percent figure is standard. 

Velez recommends having that conversation ahead of a patient’s first appointment. 

"Call us right away. Don't wait because you're hesitant to see, do I qualify or not? Don't wait to think, ‘Oh well, maybe I could afford it next month.’ Just contact us," Velez said. 

Even if a patient doesn’t qualify for financial assistance, the hospital can set up a payment plan, which will keep the account out of collections. 

“We actually recently had a family who couldn't afford the surgery out of pocket after the insurance paid,” Velez said. “Once we screened them for financial assistance they realized they qualify at 100 percent.” 

Financial assistance is also available through endowment funds and charitable foundations, but patients might need to meet specific criteria in order to be eligible. 

Many communities offer payment assistance for medical expenses. Call 2-1-1 or click here for more information

NBCUniversal Owned Television Stations, NBC Connecticut’s parent company, is making a donation to R.I.P. Medical Debt that will forgive $1 million of Connecticut’s medical debt. At least 674 people in Connecticut will receive yellow envelopes from R.I.P. Medical to inform the resident that some of their medical debt has been forgiven. 

Since the selection process is random, residents can’t sign up or apply for relief that will forgive a million dollars’ worth of medical debt in Connecticut. However, even if you don’t receive a yellow envelope from R.I.P. Medical Debt, there are ways to avoid collections and get help with your medical debt. 

If you want to help local families struggling with medical debt, you can join NBC Universal Owned Television Stations and make a donation to R.I.P. Medical Debt and help pay it forward to erase more medical debt. Just a few dollars can make a big difference in the lives of local families struggling with their medical bills. 

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