Hospital to begin new collections program Monday

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Punxsutawney Area Hospital (PAH) will begin a point-of-service collections program Monday which will require patients to pay a portion of their bill prior to leaving the hospital.

“Punxsutawney Area Hospital is committed to our mission of providing high-quality, cost-effective primary health care to the members of our community and surrounding areas, and we must do so while ensuring sustainability through sound financial management,” hospital Chief Executive Officer Dan Blough said. “The ability to sustain the excellent quality of health care we all enjoy is dependent upon receiving fair and complete payment for services as early as possible.

“As the cost of co-pays, co-insurance, deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses incurred by patients continues to rise, it becomes even more important for us all to pay our financial responsibility at the time of service,” Blough said. “When it comes to health care, this is a culture change for many of us.”

Most western Pennsylvania hospitals have already implemented point-of-service collection programs which require patients to pay for services on the front end.

PAH officials issued the following statement regarding the new point-of-service collections program:

One consumer recently noted, “Health care is an essential commodity, just as food and clothing are essential commodities. We can’t walk into a grocery store, load the cart with groceries and walk out before paying for them. And we can’t walk into a department store, pick out new clothing and leave the store before paying for the merchandise. Just as we pay for food and clothing when we purchase them, we need to pay for our health care at the time we receive the service.”

What, exactly, does this point-of-service policy mean to the patient?
Beginning Monday, anyone receiving care in the Emergency Department of the hospital will be asked to make their co-pay following treatment and prior to discharge. Anyone receiving care in the Medical Outpatient Clinic, Rehabilitation Department and Behavioral Health will also be asked to submit co-pay balances prior to discharge. The hospital will transition to payment of co-pays, deductibles and self-pay balances for other scheduled outpatient services on a gradual basis, with full implementation of the program scheduled for July 1.

In order to make this transition easier, please familiarize yourself with your health insurance plan. Learn what your out-of-pocket expenses are. And to help ensure proper management of your patient account, please bring the following when coming to the registration area:

• Photo identification.
• Your mailing address and telephone number.
• Your health insurance cards.
• Your physician referral form.
• Your payment for out-of-pocket expenses.

The hospital will have financial counselors on-site during the pre-registration process in order to help patients fully understand their financial responsibility and payment options.

And the billing office staff will be available to assist individuals with any alternative payment arrangements that would include federal, state, county or hospital assistance programs.

They can help with completion of applications for the Pennsylvania Medical Assistance program as well as the hospital’s Charity Care program.
These programs are subject to income guidelines, and the billing office staff can help determine if a patient meets the necessary criteria.
“The number of uninsured and underinsured patients continues to rise," Blough said. "The number of patients choosing high deductible insurance plans also continues to rise. This has shifted responsibility for payment onto the patient, which is why we have to change the way we are conducting business and shift payment of the patient portion of the bill to the point of service.

“Punxsutawney Area Hospital wants to continue building and strengthening relationships with our patients by providing education, supportive customer service and clear communication regarding financial expectations. Our number one priority will always be to provide patient-centered, quality health care to the members of our community,” Blough concluded.

For more information about the point-of-service program, contact Deb Mumper at 938-1844.