How health care groups are helping furloughed patients

Furloughed government workers missing paychecks during the shutdown may put off their doctor’s appointments because of the expense — and health care providers are trying to ensure that doesn’t happen.

Some are offering financial assistance to furloughed workers who might have trouble paying health bills or delaying copay and deductible payments until they’re able to make them.

“At the end of the day, it’s having to make a really hard decision between my health, my mortgage, my car payment, my kid’s day care,” said Sean Glass, CEO of Advantia Health LLC, an ambulatory women’s health group that is doing the latter and helping patients come up with different payment plans. “We can be there for our customers and say, ‘We’ll work with you on that. Within the confines of what we’re allowed to do by law, let’s find a way to keep you healthy.’”

If a patient who needs a minimally invasive gynecological procedure delays it by a month, for instance, “the impact on her health could be significantly worse than if she had it done,” Glass said. “If you’re a pregnant mom, that baby does not care that there’s a fight about a wall going on.”

From a business standpoint, Glass said, the Arlington-based group can sustain those delayed payments. Government employees and contractors affected by the shutdown don’t comprise the majority of its patient base, he said, and the company continues to get paid by customers who aren’t affected. Advantia, started in 2014, counts more than 140 providers and serves more than 250,000 patients in the D.C. region.

At Virginia Hospital Center, its Financial Assistance Policy has long been a resource for patients experiencing financial hardship, said President and CEO James Cole in an email to the Washington Business Journal. VHC’s team and board members became concerned that patients affected by the shutdown may ignore health needs and delay visits and treatments, he said.

“We at Virginia Hospital Center know that this is a very difficult time for people impacted by the shutdown,” Cole said in a statement. “Postponing or avoiding medical services can have a serious effect on one’s health, and we want to ensure that furloughed government workers know that VHC stands ready to serve their healthcare needs and provide assistance though the Financial Assistance Policy.”

Originally posted on Washington Business Journal