Ballad Health to absorb more out-of-pocket expenses: 5 things to know

Ballad Health expanded its charity care policy and other financial guidelines to help patients lower their out-of-pocket medical costs, the Johnson City, Tenn.-based health system said Jan. 6.

Five things to know:

1. The changes make free and discounted care available to more uninsured and underinsured patients, assisting those with incomes up to 450 percent of the federal poverty level who also have high deductibles and copays.

2. For uninsured patients, Ballad is increasing the discount off charges to 85 percent for treatment sought at the health system's physician practices, urgent care centers, diagnostics centers and hospitals. The change is effective immediately.

3. Starting April 1, Ballad will use analytics and data to presumptively determine who is eligible for free care or discounts. Ballad said the new policy will reduce the need for patients to present paperwork, and lower the number of bills sent to collections or deemed bad debt.

4. Under the changes, Ballad said a family of four with a total income of $57,938 or below could receive no-cost care, even if they have insurance with deductibles and copays. Ballad plans to absorb these expenses.

5. Ballad is the latest health system to expand its charity care eligibility. Beginning this year, Los Angeles-based Cedars-Sinai said it's expanding its financial assistance policy to patients who make nearly $50,000 a year.

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