St. Mary's patients get unexpected bills

LEWISTON — About 700 St. Mary's Regional Health Care patients are facing unexpected bills for annual physicals that used to cost them little or nothing.

Earlier this year, St. Mary's changed 12 primary care and family practices from federally qualified health centers to departments of the hospital. The change gave the hospital greater control over the medical practices, the hospital board's could oversee the doctors' offices and St. Mary's could link everyone through its computer system.

But it created an unexpected consequence for some patients. When their doctors' offices were health centers, the federal government paid for the annual physicals of qualified patients. When the offices became departments of the hospital, dropping the health center designation, the federal program that paid for the physicals no longer applied.

Patients who qualified for the free or low-cost physicals also qualified for Medicare, but Medicare does not cover annual physicals. About 700 patients found themselves facing an average $336 bill for the exam. 

Hundreds of patients were billed before St. Mary's realized there was a problem.

"Where there are so many pieces we had to get in place with the transition ... it took us a while to react to getting a communication put together for patients," said Doug Miller, St. Mary's operations director for doctors' offices. 

Recently, the hospital sent a one-page letter to 93 patients with upcoming appointments, advising them that they would have to pay for the exam out of pocket and offering to cut the exam's cost in half. The cost has also been cut in half for the hundreds of patients who had their exams earlier this year.   

Beginning in January, Medicare will cover annual exams and other preventive care under the new health care reform rules.

ltice@sunjournal.com

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Comments

 's picture

Profit...Profit

Hospitals change things always to increase profits. Originally, it was more profitable to have practices as FQHC so they were separate entities. Then it became more profitable to have practices as departments of the hospital...thus the change. Profit is always the motivator.

As for salaries, the President of CMMC-Mr. Chalke earned $737,000 in salary, bonus and benefits in 2009. The hospital president-Mr Covey earned $444,133. (Numbers taken from Form 990s on Guidestar.com- this is public information)

St. Mary's President- Mr. Cassidy earned $541,000 in those categories and Mr. Myles (hospital president) earned $503,000. They also have a COO who earned $226,000.

I will leave it to the reader to decide if these are competitive.

if this was an over site on

if this was an over site on their part ?, then shouldn't they bite the bullet and erase the debt that the patients weren't expected to get in the first place?it's about $235,200

RAYMOND FRECHETTE's picture

This comment hits the nail on

This comment hits the nail on the head for one of the big problems in this country--"they get paid a competitive salary based on the norms for the healthcare industry". Reminds me ofwhen mom said "if Johnny jumps off a cliff will you also?" Everyone wants a little higher salary than the other guy and wages go up to foolish levels; if directors of all corporations would use common sense and pay these folks what they are actually worth one would see wages go down and the cost of living follow suit.

 's picture

Sisters of No Charity

Their Mission Statement says they are rooted in the loving ministry of Jesus as healer, we commit ourselves to serving all persons with special attention to those who are POOR AND VULNERABLE. Our Catholic health ministry is dedicated to spiritually centered, holistic care which sustains and improves the health of individuals and communities. We are advocates for a compassionate and just society through our actions and our words. They should add the rest( as long as we are able to line our pockets with money.) Thank God for the Sister Of Charity!!!

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