By Kari Easterly of the Arc of Adams County

Testimony for the Colorado Senate Health and Human Services Committee on February 16, 2012.

My name is Kari Easterly. I am an advocate with the Arc of Adams County. Our organization provides independent advocacy for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We are a local chapter of the Arc of Colorado.

Throughout my testimony I am going to refer to Joe although that is not his real name. In March 2010, Joe was hospitalized at a Denver area hospital for almost two weeks. He had lost his job and his health insurance a couple of months prior and was not eligible for Medicaid at the time. His hospital bill for those two weeks alone was just shy of $100,000. This amount did not include radiology, physician, and therapy charges which were billed separately. Including his hospital bill, there were in excess of 10 different medical charges associated with his hospital stay. The total of all his bills was over $120,000.

Joe was never offered any kind of financial application for charity or offered any options for payment plans. In June of 2010, he started bringing the bills he received to me. A couple of bills had already been submitted to collection agencies. Joe and I started calling and writing letters asking for financial assistance and charity. Finally the hospital sent us a “Healthcare Charity Care Program” application. The application process assures that someone clearly cannot pay their bill. This was approved in February of 2011. Almost 11 months after his hospitalization. The hospital wrote off every last penny of the nearly $100,000 he owed.

As for the remaining bills, in June of 2010, we wrote each of them letters asking for charity and options for a payment plan. Several bills had already been sent to collections. In one instance the medical office that submitted the bill to the collection agency no longer had a record of the statement and there was nothing to be done. Many of the others were very gracious and did waive the total bill; others were able to give a discount and set up a payment plan that was reasonable. This process of working through the collection agencies, contacting medical offices, and negotiating took over a year.

Joe is very responsible and wanted to be able to pay his debts. The cumulative amount of debt for his hospital stay in March 2010 was too much for him to handle. This caused him a great deal of anxiety. Almost 2 years later he has around $1200 left to pay. He has been making payments regularly and is looking forward to being debt free.

Senate Bill 134 is necessary for people in situations like Joe’s. He never thought to ask, but more importantly was never told of the Charity program at the hospital. Had he known about the program it would have prevented a lot of his anxiety and saved time and money for all the businesses and agencies involved. SB 134 requires implementation of an option already available through a hospital and supports the right action to take. I strongly support SB134.

Kari Easterly
The Arc of Adams County

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