MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – Methodist Hospital is promising big changes following backlash for suing its poorest patients, including some of its own employees.
Earlier this month, the hospital made national headlines after MLK50 editor Wendi Thomas’ investigation found Methodist filed more than 8300 lawsuits for unpaid hospital bills during the past five years.
Now, Methodist says it will raise its minimum wage to $15-an-hour for all associates over the next 17 months. And regardless of insurance status, Methodist says it will no longer file lawsuits against anyone at or below 250% of the federal poverty guidelines.
Plus, for eligible patients struggling with medical debt, Methodist says it will provide financial assistance.
(METHODIST LE BONHEUR HEALTHCARE NEWS RELEASE) – Today, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare announced a series of initiatives aimed at expanding their part in uplifting the financial health of their Associates, patients and the community.
“Nationally, and here at home, a conversation is occurring about elevating those in need and caring for medically underserved patients. Methodist is working to do our part to be a positive force for change in this important conversation,” said Michael Ugwueke, President and CEO, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare. “We work each day to improve every life we touch by uplifting our Associates, patients and the community.”
Ugwueke noted that Methodist’s leaders recently led more than 20 listening sessions to hear directly from Associates, physicians and patients about how the health system can do more to fulfill their responsibility to contributing to the economic wellbeing of those they serve.
“At our core, we are a learning organization committed to continuous growth. We are now taking another step in our journey to uplift our Associates, patients and the community we serve,” said Ugwueke. “Through this process, we were humbled to learn that while there is so much good happening across our health system each day, we can, and must, do better.”
Methodist announced new initiatives to provide expanded opportunities for its Associates as well as an updated financial assistance policy.
Methodist’s commitment to Associates is a holistic approach based on two pillars: raising minimum wages and partnering with their Associates to provide career paths that lead to professional growth and greater financial security.
Over the next 17 months, Methodist will raise their minimum wage to $15 an hour for all Associates. Effective in September of this year, minimum wages will increase from $10.08 to $13.50 and by January 2021, minimum wage will become $15.00 an hour.
Methodist’s commitment to uplifting their Associates does not stop there, and a wage increase is just the starting point. To be a real catalyst for change, Methodist has committed to creating more opportunities for interested Associates to gain the skills, experience, knowledge, and education needed to advance to even higher paying positions.
“Our culture is built on the Power of One. It’s the idea that each of us – no matter our role or position within the health system – has the power to make a difference in the lives of our patients, their families and each other. With our Associate advancement effort, we are working to build on our culture by creating opportunities for our Associates to have a more financially secure and rewarding future,” said Ugwueke.
Patient Financial Assistance
To better fulfill their mission of caring for all members of the community, Methodist will be updating their financial assistance policies.
Methodist completed a 30-day review process to evaluate how they are currently helping patients who are struggling with medical debt. As part of this process, Methodist conducted more than 20 listening sessions with Associates, physicians and patients, engaged a third-party expert to conduct the review and suspended court collection proceedings during the review period.
The review compared Methodist’s billing and collections practices to those of other similar sized, urban, mission-driven healthcare organizations, with careful consideration given to the diverse population that Methodist serves.
Methodist will be making the following changes to their financial assistance policy:
Uninsured patients with income up to 250% of the federal poverty guidelines will be eligible for financial assistance, an increase from the current threshold of 125%.
Regardless of insurance status, Methodist will no longer pursue legal action against anyone who is at or below 250% of the federal poverty guidelines.
Methodist will no longer accept court ordered interest on medical debt, and we will no longer collect court allowed attorney fees and court costs from any patient.
“Our updated policy will better reflect the needs and circumstances of those we serve. More importantly it will help us better care for all members of the community. With our revised policy, families of three with a household income of $53,325 or less, will have access to financial assistance. This represents more than half of the population of greater Memphis,” said Ugwueke.
To learn more, please visit methodisthealth.org.
The updated financial assistance policy will go into effect August 2019, and Methodist will immediately begin the process of implementing these changes.