Going to the hospital for a medical emergency can be frightening. Whether you are seeking treatment for yourself or a loved one, concerns about health may also be accompanied by concerns about the cost of care.
This is where health care financial counselors can help. At Sharp hospitals, our highly trained, compassionate team of financial counselors and public resource specialists can help ease your worries about cost of care, allowing you to focus your attention on getting yourself or your loved one well.
“When a patient is admitted, usually in an emergency situation, we immediately reach out to see how we might help them, often visiting them at their bedside,” says Perla Pace, manager of patient financial services at Sharp HealthCare. “The hospital has an obligation to provide treatment to every patient who comes here and always does so right away, regardless of their insurance coverage or financial situation. It is then our job to help patients navigate the complex finances related to the care they receive.”
Pace and her colleagues recognize that patients often have many questions about the medical process. They invest time to understand each patient’s unique circumstances, offer education, provide fair and transparent financial estimates for health care procedures, advocate on behalf of patients, serve as liaisons between patients and insurance providers, and connect them to available financial resources. However, their primary concern is offering support during a very stressful time.
Jose Zamora, a public resource specialist at Sharp, says that patients often don’t know how their insurance works and what is covered under their individual plan. Some may not have insurance or have minimal coverage.
“It is estimated that 77 percent of the population in San Diego does not see their primary care provider because they are overwhelmed by the complexity of health care,” Zamora says. “We provide patients with the knowledge they need to understand health care, insurance terminology and how their benefits work, and we let them know that we can help.”
It is important to Pace and Zamora that patients understand that their health care comes first. “It is all about the patient,” Zamora says. “We might be meeting them on the worst day of their lives, and we want them to know that we are there for them and will ensure they get the care they need.”
According to Pace, the inability to pay should never be a reason not to receive care. Financial counselors can create payment plans for medical care, provide negotiated discounts for upfront payment, offer interest-free loans and look for financial assistance programs for eligible patients.
“We provide a different kind of care by taking away some of the financial worry and giving our patients peace of mind,” she says. “It is our pleasure to make a difference in so many people’s health care experiences and lives.”
For the news media: To talk with Perla Pace about health care financial services for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.