FARMINGTON — Franklin Memorial Hospital is continuing to seek improvement in health care for the uninsured and underinsured despite its current financial hardships.

The hospital is holding two focus groups Wednesday to gain insight into ways to improve access to health care for patients who are uninsured and underinsured, said Tracy Harty, who will be facilitating the groups.

Harty said the hospital is hosting the groups in part to gather information for a two-year program she is directing. She said the hospital received a grant in January to fund the program to understand how the hospital’s financial assistance program compares to those of other hospitals and to what extent the program allows people to get the care they need.

In February, President and CEO Rebecca Ryder announced that even though the hospital was undergoing financial problems, she and the network staff would remain focused on retaining high-quality care. At the time, the hospital reported about a $500,000 monthly loss and said it would lay off 35 and 40 people.

Harty said even though the hospital is operating at a loss and undergoing major health-care changes, it is still there to serve the community.

“We are committed to the health of the population, and that means making sure everybody has care, not just those who can afford it,” she said.

Part of the pilot program is to let people know that if they have little income, they still can receive health care.

“When people don’t have insurance, they often don’t get care until they are really, really sick; and then they go to the emergency room, and then don’t get any follow-up care,” she said.

Harty said the hospital may do similar focus groups in the fall.

By federal regulation, hospitals need to provide financial assistance for anyone who does not qualify for Medicare or Medicaid and has an income at 1.5 times the poverty level or lower, Harty said.

She said Franklin Memorial Hospital provides financial assistance for people for whose income is twice the poverty limit or less. A person’s eligibility is measured on a sliding scale that differentiates, for example, between an adult with one child and an adult with five.

Through the groups, the hospital is trying to get participant feedback about getting the health care they need, finding a primary-care provider, filling prescriptions and how the financial assistance program is working for them.

Harty said anyone with an interest in those issues is invited to attend either session. At the conclusion of the focus group, participants will receive a gas card to help offset their travel costs for attending.

The program is funded by a grant awarded to the hospital in January to form a nurse navigator pilot program to improve health care coordination, access to health care and integration of behavioral health care for uninsured and underinsured patients qualifying for free or discounted care under the hospital financial assistance policy.

Kaitlin Schroeder– 861-9252
[email protected]

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