By Skye Kinkade
If you don’t have insurance, or think you won’t be able to afford your deductible or co-pays, the staff at Mercy Medical Center wants to make it known that there are plenty of financial assistance programs available to help you access the medical attention you need.
Heather Driml, manager of patient access, said her staff is very involved with patients and they always try to encourage everyone to fill out financial assistance forms when they come in for treatment.
“Talking about finances and medical care can be like oil and water,” Driml said. “They don’t mix.” But there are several solutions for those who can’t quite afford their medical care, she said.
For instance, Driml explained that Mercy offers prompt pay discounts, meaning if you pay for a service with cash in advance, you automatically qualify for a 20 percent discount. For those without insurance coverage who need a CT scan or MRI, Mercy can offer “global cash prices,” which cover the procedure and the radiologist fees.
The entire financial counseling staff are educated in all financial assistance programs offered, and they can assist patients in finding a program they can qualify for.
“We can help them fill out their Medi-Cal paperwork – we let them know what they need, help them make copies, and put it all together. We’ll even send it for them so they don’t have to worry about postage.”
In other instances, Mercy is able to write off a percentage of a balance owed on a case by case basis to those who qualify.
“The bottom line is, we don’t want people to delay in seeking medical care because they lack insurance or have high medical costs,” said Joyce Zwanziger, the director of marketing at Mercy Mt. Shasta.
“Mercy is committed to furthering the healing ministry of Jesus and dedicates our resources to delivering compassionate, high quality, affordable health services to all in need. To that end, Mercy has a well defined and generous medical charity program available for those who need assistance accessing necessary health services.”
Driml said she believes there is a large population in Siskiyou County of those who have no insurance or are underinsured, meaning that their plans may cover 50 to 80 percent of their medical costs, or have high deductibles that are difficult to meet. That, coupled with high premiums, can make access to medical care a challenge.
“We process about 1,200  financial assistance applications a year, and on a consistent basis, we provide at least $175,000 a month in financial assistance – sometimes more.
“I think we do a really good job... we have a good grip on the process, and we’re really able to help people,” Driml said. “We don’t want people to go elsewhere... we want our community to come to us for their medical care.”
Financial counselors are available at the hospital Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Driml said. If you’re interested in speaking with a financial counselor, you can schedule an appointment by calling their direct line, 926-7245.
“Our goal is to speak with patients before their services, so we can explain what their benefits cover, and find out what their expected expenses might be. We can usually give estimates, and verify their benefits.”
For those who simply don’t qualify for any assistance, Zwanziger said Mercy offers interest free payments for up to 36 months.
“We’ve tried to make the system as simple as possible.,” Driml said. “Everyone should apply... it’s well worth the time.”