Eighteen months after Hackensack Meridian Health began offering patients a way to finance their hospital bills with no-interest loans from Commerce Bank, patient stress and bad debt at the hospital are both down.
“As a non-profit, we serve many uninsured patients,” says Anne Goodwill Pritchett, senior vice president of revenue cycle operations at Hackensack Meridian Health, the parent organization of Hackensack University Medical Center. “As a large cancer center, we also have many repeat patients.” Both groups face larger-than-average out-of-pocket expenses.
“We truly believe our patients want to pay their bills,” adds Anne. For years the hospital, which serves greater New York City, tried to accommodate them, offering those with limited financial means up to 12 months to pay. Patients who defaulted were referred to collection agencies, often leaving Hackensack University Medical Center with significant sums of uncollected debt.
The hospital had searched without success for a better extended payment solution when Anne received a call from Commerce in 2016. “We liked what we heard,” says Anne. Commerce offered to customize its Health Services Financing (HSF®) program to accommodate the hospital’s workflow and streamline the patient enrollment process.
“We are very patient-focused,” says Anne. “How others interact with our patients is extremely important to us, and Commerce’s customer service is excellent. Down to the monthly statements, Commerce’s HSF® loan program is designed from a patient’s point of view.”
Several meetings later, Hackensack University Medical Center had a program in place that allows patients to take out interest-free Commerce HSF® loans with up to five-year terms.
“Once patients are enrolled, they often ask if they can add to their balances after another hospital stay,” says Anne. “The answer is yes.”
Hackensack University Medical Center, meanwhile, receives the balance of each loan from Commerce up front, reducing its receivables and increasing its cash on hand. In the first 18 months after the May 2017 launch, more than $6 million in patient bills had been financed through the program, with bad debt dropping $3 million.
“Commerce succeeded in creating a solution that is both patient-friendly and hospital-friendly,” says Anne. Patients who have frequent hospital stays are especially appreciative, she says. “Serious illness is hard enough. Patients and families are worried enough about treatment. The HSF® loan takes away their financial concerns. It’s a relief for them to know they have a way to pay.”