The Callaway County Ambulance District's Board of Directors approved a policy Tuesday night that may help some patients be able to better afford services.
The board voted unanimously to adopt a new patient accounts hardship policy that would enable the district to waive fees or portions of fees if the patients meet financial need requirements.
"We, over the years, have gotten requests on a regular basis from patients asking if we could offer discounts because they were willing to pay, but financially could not afford to pay the full amount," said Director Charles Anderson, noting he had spoken to officials with other districts at various conferences over the years. "The solution is to develop a hardship policy - that would need to be based on federal poverty guidelines - that would give us guidelines on when we can discount or waive balances.
"We've never had (such a policy). It's just been our practice to not do that, but with things as they are, we are getting these requests more and more frequently."
The policy Anderson presented to the board during Tuesday night's meeting included stipulations that decisions to waive balances - which are to be made on a case-by-case basis - must be documented and "based upon uniform, objective criteria."
Anderson said the waived fees would appear under a new line item in district financial statements, "so we would know how much is being written off on this."
Patients requesting such a waiver will receive a financial worksheet outlining income and expenses to help in determining the need for assistance. According to the policy, criteria to be considered in reviewing those worksheets includes U.S. Census Bureau poverty guidelines, reasonableness and prudent measurement and allowable cash flow.
Georgia Ladlie, board president, pointed out that this new policy may be a way to make at least some collection on accounts that currently never get paid.
"If a patient doesn't have the money to pay their full bill, there are no outside resources. They typically just don't pay it and then it gets turned over to the collection agency and we never see anything from it," Anderson agreed.
Ladlie added, "At least with this in place we would have a policy to go by and to help fish out people trying to take advantage."
"We also need to remember that even if they don't pay, they're paying through the sales tax," Ladlie said as she continued to list reasons why she liked the idea of having a hardship policy.
The board unanimously approved the policy.