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Friday, March 19, 2010 - 10:15am

Hospital Offers Half-Off Deal For Past Due Bills

A rural hospital in southeast Georgia is offering patients with overdue bills a 50-percent discount to pay-up now. It’s an effort that officials say could spread in the down economy.

Charlton Memorial Hospital in Folkston says patients with bills at least 90 days past-due as of last month...have until the end of March to take advantage of the deal.

Kim Savage is comptroller for the small 25-bed facility. She says Charlton Memorial is owed more than $6 million. And the discount offer idea she says, could easily spread to other small hospitals in the state.

"I think there’s potential there. I know especially rural hospitals and especially critical access hospitals are facing some really difficult cash-flow situations right now.”

Savage says Charlton Memorial’s never tried this before. And if half of the $6 million is collected, they would consider that a success.

Hometown Health represents more than 50 rural hospitals in Georgia. CEO Jimmy Lewis says this is just another idea for small hospitals trying to improve tight cash flow.

Lewis says too many small hospitals are suffering financially.

"We have since the middle of December helped some 8-10 achieve some emergency resources for making payroll. And that’s critical to our hospitals when we find that many hospitals in that kind of condition and we know that we’ve got a number of hospitals also that have less than 10 days cash on-hand.”

Lewis says aggravating the problem -- rural areas with high unemployment means many more patients coming-in with no insurance.

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