Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare announced a series of initiatives aimed at "expanding and uplifting the financial health of its employees, patients and the community."
According to its announcement, Methodist will be making the following changes to its financial assistance policy:
- Uninsured patients with income up to 250 percent of the federal poverty guidelines will be eligible for financial assistance, an increase from the current threshold of 125 percent.
- Regardless of insurance status, Methodist will no longer pursue legal action against anyone who is at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.
- Methodist will no longer accept court ordered interest on medical debt, and will no longer collect court allowed attorney fees and court costs from any patient.
In a July 30 news conference, Michael Ugwueke, president and CEO of Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, said the updated financial assistance policy will go into effect August 2019 and that Methodist has begun the process of implementing these changes.
"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," Ugwueke, said. "We work each day to improve every life we touch by uplifting our associates, patients and the community."
Methodist's announcement came approximately a month after the publication of a news report critical of some of the hospital's financial policies and activity. The report, which received widespread media attention in Memphis, contained information concerning lawsuits and collection processes against patients - including its own employees - who owed the hospital money for treatment they received.
Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare is Memphis' largest hospital system.
Ugwueke said Methodist's leaders recently led more than 20 listening sessions to hear directly from its employees, 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 employees as well as an updated financial assistance policy.
Methodist's commitment to employees 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 employees. 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.
Ugwueke said 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.
According to Ugwueke, Methodist will be updating its financial assistance policies.
Methodist completed a 30-day review process to evaluate how it currently is assisting patients who are struggling with medical debt. As part of this process, Methodist conducted more than 20 listening sessions with employees, 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.