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Hospitals improve health by helping patients enroll in health insurance

Applying for health coverage can be overwhelming. Complicated financial situations, family dynamics, and medical needs can make understanding and selecting plans difficult for many people.

Keeping people healthy is a priority for New York’s hospitals and health systems. They are improving the health of local communities by helping patients understand, secure, and use health insurance. When people have health insurance, they are able to access affordable primary and preventive care, which enables them to stay healthier.

Helping Patients Understand Health Plan Options

At many hospitals and health systems, expert patient financial services representatives provide individuals and families a clear picture of the insurance options available to them. They help uninsured New Yorkers navigate and apply for affordable health insurance. In addition, state-trained certified application counselors are on staff at many hospitals to provide guidance during the application process and help people overcome obstacles to enrollment.

This assistance can be tremendously beneficial. For instance, a new Medicaid enrollee can get coverage for care received in the past 90 days. In addition, having health insurance increases the likelihood that a patient will access needed follow-up and preventive care.

Hospitals, health systems, and community organizations throughout New York don’t stop offering assistance once enrollment is completed. They are there to help consumers who don’t understand how their insurance plan works, have a problem with a bill, or otherwise need help.

Community Outreach Helps Individuals and Families Get Insured

Hospitals don’t just wait for uninsured patients to come through the front door. They engage in proactive outreach in their local communities, often in partnership with community organizations.

Nassau-Suffolk Hospital Council (NSHC) is one of those partners. NSHC has provided insurance assistance to thousands of families since 2001—assisting about 4,500 patients in 2017 alone. NSHC provides support to uninsured patients who have been hospitalized and engage uninsured people in community locations such as libraries, community centers, and parish halls.

“One thing we make a point of doing is enrolling the entire family. If an individual is not insured, chances are the others in their family aren’t either,” said Wendy Darwell, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, NSHC. “We also make sure to know where they regularly get care—or would get care. We help them search the in-network list to make sure they pick a plan that will allow them to access care from those providers.”

Insurance is Key

Getting people insured is key because people who lack insurance are more likely to wait until their health problem worsens before seeking medical attention—often in the hospital emergency room. When people have health insurance they are able to access care where and when they need it. Helping people obtain and use health insurance is one of the many ways hospitals and healthcare systems fulfill their mission of improving the health of individuals, families, and communities.