July 12, 2013
Volume 57, Issue 28

WHA Launches Enrollment Assistance Plan
Board members Pandl and Taylor agree to co-chair Enrollment Action Council

With the biennial budget bill now signed into law, WHA is shifting its focus away from lobbying and toward implementation of Governor Scott Walkerís coverage plan. Under the new budget law (2013 WI Act 20), Medicaid enrollment will both expand and contract while the still-under-construction Wisconsin federal exchange will be relied upon to connect those coming off Medicaid with coverage. Governor Walker estimates his plan will reduce the number of uninsured in Wisconsin by some 225,000. A key aspect of realizing this goal will be helping thousands of low income individuals and families transition to exchange coverage or sign up for Medicaid. It is a significant task that WHA is gearing up to assist with carrying out.

With implementation of the health insurance exchanges about 80 days away, and changes to the Medicaid program on the horizon, WHA is now focusing on how to achieve a reduction in the uninsured and connect low income individuals and families with Medicaid and exchange coverage. WHA has launched its plan to engage member hospitals and health systems, work with policymakers and the Walker Administration and coordinate with other stakeholders throughout the state.

As part of these efforts, WHA has created a member Enrollment Action Council (EAC), led by Mark Taylor, president/CEO of Columbia St. Maryís, Inc., and Therese Pandl, president/CEO of HSHS in Eastern Wisconsin. The EAC will provide leadership for members around patient enrollment into new coverage options that will be available through the health insurance exchange, as well as through Medicaid. Members of EAC represent hospitals and health systems from all parts of the state.

"The uncertainty and confusion about the changes that are just a few short months away has not been alleviated," said Taylor. "We recognize that connecting low income individuals with coverage and maintaining that coverage will be a challenge, but we are committed to doing our part as we view patient assistance activities as integral to our mission."

"There is a genuine urgency to these issues," added Pandl. "Collaboration among hospitals and health systems, as well as with the state and other community partners will be essential to help reduce the number of uninsured in our state."

WHAís overall plan also includes offering a series of events for its members to learn more about the changes expected this fall. WHA is coordinating seven regional meetings with the Department of Health Services (DHS) where members can learn more details from Brett Davis, the stateís Medicaid director, about the Departmentís plans for enrollment of newly-eligible individuals into Medicaid and for transitioning those who will be disenrolled into exchange coverage. Dates and times for these special sessions are being finalized, and members will be notified in the upcoming days.

WHA is also offering four webinars on exchange implementation, employer issues and enrollment plans. Over 400 people participated in the first webinar held in June. Future dates include July 25, August 14 and September 17.

Collaboration with other entities is also a critical element of WHAís enrollment strategy. WHA staff is engaged in several efforts throughout the state, such as the enrollment work being led by the Milwaukee Health Care Partnership and the Enrollment 4 Health Initiative. Staff will also be participating in a Stakeholder Summit on July 16 being offered by the UW Population Health Institute.

Finally, WHA continues to be engaged with policymakers including the federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the state Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OCI) and DHS. Representatives from each will be participating in the August 14 webinar and elaborating on their respective roles in enrollment assistance. Rules governing the activities of enrollment assistance are also expected from OCI shortly. A scope statement on the rule was released within the last week. 

"We remain very concerned about the ability of low income populations to connect to coverage, which is why we will remain highly engaged with our members, state agencies and others with respect to outreach, education and enrollment," said Joanne Alig, WHAís senior vice president for policy and research.

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Political Action Fundraising Total Climbs to $107K - 41% of Goal

The Wisconsin hospitals state political action funds fundraising campaign has raised $107,889 to date from 145 individuals. This puts the 2013 campaign at 41 percent of the goal to raise $260,000 by yearís end. If the goal is reached, it will be the highest total ever raised.

So far individuals are contributing an average of $744, which is up $31 from this same time last year. While the pace of the average contribution is up as well as the median contribution of $500, the campaign is a little behind last yearís pace by $6,000, but ahead of the 2011 pace by $1,600.

Of the total contributors so far, 29 percent are members of the Platinum Club who have contributed $1,500 or more so far to the 2013 campaign.

All individual contributors are listed in The Valued Voice by name and affiliated organization on a regular basis. Thank you to the 2013 contributors to date who are listed below. Contributors are listed alphabetically by contribution category. The next publication of the contributor list will be in the July 26 edition of The Valued Voice. For more information, contact Jodi Bloch at 608-217-9508 or Jenny Boese at 608-274-1820.

Contributors ranging from $1 to $499
Ambs, Kathleen St. Maryís Janesville Hospital
Ashenhurst, Karla Ministry Health Care
Bair, Barbara St. Clare Hospital & Health Services
Bayer, Tom St. Vincent Hospital
Bergmann, Ann Spooner Health System
Boson, Ann Ministry Saint Joseph's Hospital
Brenny, Terrence Stoughton Hospital Association
Brenton, Andrew Wisconsin Hospital Association
Calhoun, William Mercy Medical Center
Capelli, A.J. Aurora Health Care
Casey, Candy Columbia Center
Censky, Bill Holy Family Memorial
Connors, Lawrence St. Mary's Hospital Medical Center - Green Bay
Cormier, Laura Bellin Hospital
Culotta, Jennifer St. Clare Hospital & Health Services
Dahl, James Fort HealthCare
Dalebroux, Steve St. Mary's Hospital - Madison
Ferrigno, Sandra St. Mary's Hospital - Madison
Fielding, Laura Holy Family Memorial
Gille, Larry St. Vincent Hospital
Granger, Lorna Aurora Health Care
Hafeman, Paula St. Vincent Hospital
Halida, Cheryl St. Joseph's Hospital
Hardy, Shawntera Hudson Hospital & Clinics
Hieb, Laura Bellin Hospital
Hockers, Sara Holy Family Memorial
Hofer, John Bay Area Medical Center
Jelle, Laura St. Clare Hospital & Health Services
Jensen, Russell St. Mary's Hospital - Madison
Johnson, Charles St. Mary's Hospital - Madison
Josue, Sherry St. Mary's Hospital - Madison
Karuschak, Michael Amery Regional Medical Center
King, Steve St. Mary's Hospital - Madison
Klay, Lois St. Joseph's Hospital
Klein, Tim Holy Family Memorial
Knutzen, Barbara Agnesian HealthCare
Lange, George Westgate Medical Group, CSMCP
Lepien, Troy St. Mary's Hospital - Madison
Martin, Nancy Ministry Saint Michael's Hospital
Maurer, Mary Holy Family Memorial
Natzke, Kristin Marshfield Clinic
O'Hara, Tiffanie Wisconsin Hospital Association
Oland, Charisse Rusk County
Ose, Peggy Riverview Hospital Association
Pavelec-Marti, Cheryl Ministry Saint Michael's Hospital
Penczykowski, James St. Mary's Hospital - Madison
Reinke, Mary Meriter Hospital
Rocheleau, John Bellin Hospital
Roundy, Ann Columbus Community Hospital
Schubring, Randy Mayo Health System - Eau Claire
Simaras, James Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare
Statz, Darrell Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative
Stelzer, Jason St. Clare Hospital & Health Services
Teigen, Seth St. Mary's Hospital - Madison
Thornton, Eric St. Mary's Janesville Hospital
Walker, Troy St. Clare Hospital & Health Services
Westrick, Paul Columbia St. Mary's Columbia Hospital
Woleske, Chris Bellin Psychiatric Center
Wolf, Edward Lakeview Medical Center
Wymelenberg, Tracy Aurora Health Care
Wysocki, Scott St. Clare Hospital & Health Services
Yaron, Rachel Ministry Saint Clare's Hospital
Contributors ranging from $500 to $999
Bablitch, Steve Aurora Health Care
Borgerding, Dana
Carlson, Dan Bay Area Medical Center
Dietsche, James Bellin Hospital
Dolohanty, Naomi Aurora Health Care
Dube, Troy Chippewa Valley Hospital
Freimund, Rooney Bay Area Medical Center
Gullingsrud, Tim Hayward Area Memorial Hospital and Nursing Home
Hinner, William Ministry Saint Clare's Hospital
Hyland, Carol Agnesian HealthCare
Jacobson, Terry St. Mary's Hospital of Superior
Joyner, Ken Bay Area Medical Center
Krueger, Mary Ministry Saint Clare's Hospital
Larson, Margaret Mercy Medical Center
Lewis, Gordon Burnett Medical Center
Mantei, Mary Jo Bay Area Medical Center
May, Carol Sauk Prairie Memorial Hospital
Mulder, Doris Beloit Health System
Richards, Theresa Ministry Saint Joseph's Hospital
Rickelman, Debbie WHA Information Center
Russell, John Columbus Community Hospital
Schafer, Michael Spooner Health System
Selberg, Heidi HSHS-Eastern Wisconsin Division
Shabino, Charles Wisconsin Hospital Association
Stuart, Philip Tomah Memorial Hospital
Swanson, Kerry St. Mary's Janesville Hospital
Van Meeteren, Bob Reedsburg Area Medical Center
VanCourt, Bernie Bay Area Medical Center
Worrick, Gerald Ministry Door County Medical Center
Contributors ranging from $1,000 to $1,499
Britton, Gregory Beloit Health System
Dexter, Donn Mayo Health System - Eau Claire
Huettl, Patricia Holy Family Memorial
Hymans, Daniel Memorial Medical Center - Ashland
Kerwin, George Bellin Hospital
Levin, Jeremy Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative
Martin, Jeff Ministry Saint Michael's Hospital
McKevett, Timothy Beloit Health System
Natzke, Ryan Marshfield Clinic
Roller, Rachel Aurora Health Care
Turkal, Nick Aurora Health Care
Contributors ranging from $1,500 to $1,999
Alig, Joanne Wisconsin Hospital Association
Anderson, Sandy St. Clare Hospital & Health Services
Bloch, Jodi Wisconsin Hospital Association
Boese, Jennifer Wisconsin Hospital Association
Byrne, Frank St. Mary's Hospital - Madison
Clapp, Nicole Grant Regional Health Center
Court, Kelly Wisconsin Hospital Association
Eichman, Cynthia Ministry Our Lady of Victory Hospital
Francis, Jeff Ministry Health Care
Frank, Jennifer Wisconsin Hospital Association
Grasmick, Mary Kay Wisconsin Hospital Association
Harding, Edward Bay Area Medical Center
Meyer, Daniel Aurora BayCare Medical Center in Green Bay
Millermaier, Edward Bellin Hospital
Potter, Brian Wisconsin Hospital Association
Repore, Michael Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare
Sanders, Michael Monroe Clinic
Sexton, William Prairie du Chien Memorial Hospital
Size, Tim Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative
Stanford, Matthew Wisconsin Hospital Association
Wallace, Michael Fort HealthCare
Warmuth, Judith Wisconsin Hospital Association
Contributors ranging from $2,000 to $2,999
Brenton, Mary E.
Duncan, Robert Children's Hospital of Wisconsin
Gage, Weldon Children's Hospital of Wisconsin
Herzog, Mark Holy Family Memorial
Jacobson, Catherine Froedtert Health
Kachelski, Joe Wisconsin Statewide Health Information Network
Katen-Bahensky, Donna
Kief, Brian Ministry Saint Joseph's Hospital
Leitch, Laura Wisconsin Hospital Association
Little, Steve Agnesian HealthCare
Mettner, Michelle Children's Hospital of Wisconsin
Neufelder, Daniel Affinity Health System
Normington, Jeremy Moundview Memorial Hospital & Clinics
O'Brien, Kyle Wisconsin Hospital Association
Oliverio, John Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare
Pandl, Therese HSHS-Eastern Wisconsin Division
Starmann-Harrison, Mary Hospital Sisters Health System
Woodward, James Meriter Hospital
Contributors ranging from $3,000 to $4,999
Borgerding, Eric Wisconsin Hospital Association
Contributors $5,000 and above
Brenton, Stephen Wisconsin Hospital Association
Tyre, Scott Capitol Navigators, Inc

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Bob Murphy to Keynote WHAís Leadership Summit, September 19

Bob Murphy, a nationally-known operations leader, health care presenter and senior leader with the Studer Group, will keynote the WHA Leadership Summit, scheduled September 19 at the Country Springs Hotel in Pewaukee. Murphy has more than 25 years experience in health care, including as a phlebotomist, nursing assistant, registered nurse, department leader, quality leader, risk manager, hospital COO and CEO. He will focus his opening session on strategies to convert new behaviors into hardwired skills within your organization, making the gains in patient, employee and physician satisfaction stick.

This one-day event will provide WHA members with the leadership and management practice tools and techniques needed to stay ahead in the changing world of health care. This event will highlight examples of innovative and bold leadership, offer actionable strategies, and provide valuable peer networking opportunities to those who lead in the provision of high quality, affordable and accessible health care services throughout Wisconsin.

In addition to Murphyís opening keynote, this yearís event will include several other education options, including the option of a 4.5 hour or 6.0 hour ACHE Face-to-Face education track.

An agenda and online registration are available at: http://events.SignUp4.com/13LeadershipSummit0919.

If you need hotel accommodations, a block of rooms is being held at the Country Springs Hotel for the evening of September 18. You can make a reservation in the WHA block by calling 262-547-0201 by August 28.

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Presidentís Column: The Delay is a Very Big Deal

It has become customary over the years for White House officials to time the dump of "bad news" on the front end of a major holiday weekend. And thatís what happened on July 3 when the Obama Administration announced a one-year delay in implementing the "employer mandate"óa requirement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that employers with more than 50 employees provide health plan coverage or face significant financial penalties.

Democrats basically reacted with a "not much to see here" while Republicans gloated that the action underscores the insanity of the larger law.

But the delay is a very big deal for at least five reasons:

Under the law, eligibility for exchange subsidies depends on an individualís coverage status. If employers are not required to report on their insurance offerings next year, how will the government determine eligibility? The answer to that question was answered this week by Administration officials calling for self-attestation. But ignoring proof of eligibility for generous benefits will encourage fraud, be expensive and potentially destabilize the larger insurance marketplace. It is quite the "dogís breakfast."

Steve Brenton

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DHS Publishes New Medical Record Copy Fees

Each July 1, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) is required to adjust the fees that a health care provider may charge for providing copies of a patientís health care records pursuant to Wis. Stat. ß146.83 (3f) (c) 2. The fee is adjusted by the percentage difference between the consumer price index for the 12-month period ending on December 31 of the preceding year and the consumer price index for the 12-month period ending on December 31 of the year before the preceding year. The dollar amounts that a health care provider may charge for providing copies of a patientís health care records are specified under Wis. Stat. ß146.83 (3f) (b).

For a list of the fees, go to page 61 in the following document: http://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/code/register/2013/690b/register.pdf

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High Value Health CareóWisconsinís Competitive Advantage: Richland Hospital Decreases Readmissions Nearly 60 Percent by Engaging Community Partners

The health care industry is in the midst of sweeping changes, and hospitals are in the cross-hairs on a number of fronts. This is a time for hospitals to decide if they will ride the wave proactively, or stand firm and resist the change. In Wisconsin, hospitals are choosing to lead with innovative and effective improvement strategies that are having a positive impact on quality and safety. Influenced by federal efforts aimed at improving quality, hospitals are working closely with the WHA Partners for Patients initiative to learn, practice and put into place new practices that are driving clinical performance and patient satisfaction. A particularly relevant example is the Richland Hospitalís effort to decrease readmissions.

Richland Hospital has reduced their readmission rate nearly 60 percent over the past year. Their success was the result of evaluating each step of the discharge process. Early on, the improvement team recognized that some aspects of the discharge process occurred in the community and were separate from, but impacted by the successful transition to a new care setting. To address this, the hospital reached out to their community health partners. As a result, the hospital is leading a local group of health care organizations, known as the "Richland County Transition of Care Coalition" that share responsibility for ensuring a safe transition for the patient as they are moved from one care setting to the next. Richland Hospital has included representatives on the coalition from their own medical staff, family care program, the local Aging and Disability Resource Center, skilled nursing facilities and home health organizations as well as local pharmacies.

"When we began taking a more critical look at our discharge process, we quickly realized that the family, health care agencies and many others must work together to help patients stay well after they leave our hospital," said Cindy Hanold, RN, chief nursing officer. "The coalition concept has not only reduced our readmissions, but has also enhanced working relationships and advanced care coordination in our community."

Follow-up phone calls with the patient are now a priority for the admission/discharge nurse and the readmissions team leader. The staff reviews the discharge instructions, allowing the patient sufficient time to ask questions. Then, the patient is prompted to repeat the discharge instructions to assure the staff that they have a good understanding of them. This has lead to significant improvements in patientsí satisfaction with the hospital discharge process as well.

Improving a process as complicated as a patient discharge requires a dedicated team of professionals, and Richland Hospital found them in team leader Peggy Sue Champnoise, RN and team members Cindy Fish, SW; Bobbi McGlynn, RN; Sue Stocks, RN; Michele Kleppe, RN; Erin Worthington, RN; Cindy Chicker, Cindy Hanold, and Jill Bower, administration.

Rather than standing on the sidelines or turning within, hospitals in Wisconsin are taking a proactive approach to recognize the systemic issues that lead patients back to their doors.

"The more I do this work, the more I see the external factors that are not within any one organizationís locus of control," according to WHAís readmissions initiative lead, Stephanie Sobczak. "For example, in the past we may have not looked into the factors that might be driving readmissions. Now, we realize that we canít do it alone, and working with our community partners is often the first step to improvement."

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Grassroots Spotlight: U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin Visits Marshfield Clinic
Hears the Wisconsin story on value and quality

Marshfield Clinic leaders shared some of the Clinicís success stories in providing accessible, affordable health care in Wisconsin with U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) during her visit July 1 in Marshfield.

"The political challenge is to tell the Wisconsin story and share the successes of the many health care systems in Wisconsin and Minnesota that are making the transition to value-based care," Dr. Ewert said.

During her 90 minutes at Marshfield, Baldwin heard about the Clinicís various efforts to provide value-based care and efforts to improve access to dental care. She was also briefed on Security Health Plan of Wisconsin, Inc.ís plans as Affordable Care Act (ACA) actions near, and the Clinicís TeleHealth Program.

Marty Anderson, product manager at Security Health Plan, told Sen. Baldwin about different options the health plan will offer in the federally-facilitated marketplace (FFM) established by the ACA. Anderson said making the public aware of the exchange and attracting a good mix of members with and without health conditions to purchase insurance will be the biggest challenge.

Marilyn Follen, administrator of the Institute for Quality, Innovation and Patient Safety (IQIPS), shared how the Clinic is moving forward as an Accountable Care Organization, and success with projects like the Physician Group Practice Demonstration, which have helped improve care and reduce costs. Providers are promoting healthy lifestyles and preventive care to reduce hospitalizations and costs for patients.

"We are working to intervene sooner," Follen said. "We donít want to wait until a patient is in crisis."

Amit Acharya, BDS, PhD, a biomedical informatics scientist in the Biomedical Informatics Research Center and a general dentist by training, shared what he called a "sobering" report on dental care in Wisconsin. Acharya said 108 million Americans lack dental insurance, 2.5 times as many people who donít have health insurance. Tooth decay, which is the most common childhood disease, is five times more common than asthma.

Marshfield Clinic discussed with Senator Baldwin the strides it is making to improve access to dental care. Family Health Center of Marshfield, Inc., in conjunction with the Clinic, has eight dental centers in rural Wisconsin with a ninth under construction in Black River Falls. The Clinic also has implemented one of the very few integrated medical-dental electronic health records and is in the process of developing clinical decision support tools to support cross-disciplinary care.

Nina Antoniotti, RN, PhD, director of the TeleHealth program, shared how the Clinic reaches out to its rural patients and saves them from traveling long distances for brief appointments. About 200 Clinic providers in different specialties and primary care make roughly 4,500 consultations a month, Antoniotti said.

Baldwin took notes throughout the meeting and frequently asked questions about the information presented. Clinic President Brian Ewert, MD, thanked Baldwin for visiting the Clinic and for her work in Washington D.C., and urged her to keep up the effort.

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WTCS Seeks WHA Workforce Council Input on Health Occupation Programs

The Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) health occupations program representatives presented data related to trends in enrollment, graduation and salary at the July 11 WHA Workforce Council meeting in Madison. WTCS continues to be a valued resource to hospitals and clinics in workforce planning.

Annette Severson, associate vice president, Office of Instruction, and Kathy Loppnow, education director, Health Sciences, of the WTCS asked Council members for input and direction on whether the college is meeting the current need for workers and if the programs are appropriately positioned for the future. Specifically, they asked Council members about their anticipated needs in health information technology and billing and coding.

"Health reform and new technology are changing the health care landscape and posing new opportunities for both workers and workforce planners," according to Judy Warmuth, WHA vice president of workforce, "At the same time, these changes require WTCS to re-direct their programming efforts to match the anticipated needs in our health care facilities."

Council members indicated to the WTCS staff that physical therapists and physical therapy assistants are difficult to recruit. Members also emphasized they will continue to need a steady number of medical coders or possibly even an increasing number, in the future.

Severson and Loppnow described four new programs that have been approved by WTCS: Gerontology AAS degree, Wellness and Health Promotion, Computed Tomography, and Paramedic to RN. The last program will offer paramedics a fast track to the associate RN degree. It will offer advanced standing to returning veterans with medic experience.

The WTCS is asking hospitals to consider increasing access to clinical learning opportunities for three occupational groups. The greatest need is for learning experiences for students in the Health Information Technology program. Hospitals have indicated that implementation of electronic medical records has created learning needs with their own employees resulting in fewer student placements. Student clinical placements are also needed in the Medical Laboratory Technician and Nursing programs.

Severson and Loppnow thanked Wisconsin hospitals and WHA for facilitating excellent working relationships that allow for frequent communication about both the need for health care workers and the quality and preparation of technical college graduates.

The Council also heard about important changes to Unemployment Insurance (UI) in Wisconsin that were included in the 2013-2015 Biennial budget. Warmuth reviewed these changes and an additional UI change included in Act 36 and pending AB 184.

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Member News: Gundersen CEO is "White House Champion of Change"

Jeff Thompson, MD, CEO, Gundersen Health System, La Crosse, was selected by President Barack Obama as one of 11 "Champions of Change" who are working to protect public health in a changing climate. Thompson was honored at the White House July 9 for his leadership in environmental stewardship for health care organizations. Under his leadership, Gundersen is poised to become energy independent in 2014 and will be the first health care organization in the country to achieve this goal.

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Wisconsin Hospitals Community Benefits Ė Charity Care

Fear of a bill should never prevent a patient from seeking care at a Wisconsin hospital. Wisconsin hospital charity care programs provided $232 million to more than 700 patients each day last year. The stories that follow illustrate the deep commitment and continuing concern that hospitals have to their patients to ensure they receive the care they need regardless of their ability to pay.

Help during a rough time

By anyoneís account, May 2008 was a bad month for Ann Johnson* of rural northern Wisconsin. Her husband, Jim*, needed surgery due to ongoing health conditions. Then tragedy struck when a family member was killed in an accident.

"It was a really, really hard time for us," says Johnson.

Their medical bills were piling up because of Jimís many doctor appointments and lab tests. "I didnít know how we would pay the hospital and then funeral bills," says Johnson. "We didnít qualify for other programs because we had insurance. But the insurance didnít cover all of his expenses." The familyís insurance had a low limit of outpatient service coverage.

Johnson worked with the patient financial planners at Mayo Clinic Health System Ė Northland in Barron. "The girls in the office ó Theresa and Chris ó are just wonderful." They helped her apply for the Financial Assistance Program. If patients need financial assistance, they can apply for it before or after they receive the services. Many factors are weighed when determining if a patient is eligible for financial assistance, including the patientís income, assets and needs.

Mayo Clinic Health System works with patients to help set up affordable payment options or, if a patient qualifies, forgive part or all of a medical bill. That was the case for Johnson when their entire balance was forgiven. "I was so relieved! I donít know what we would have done without the help."

Ann and Jim have experienced better months since 2008. Jimís health has improved following his surgery even though he does have some long-term effects as a result. And they are grateful for the care they received during this dark time in their lives.

"They helped us emotionally, physically and financially. Itís so appreciated," Ann says.

*Names changed

Mayo Clinic Health System Ė Northland, Barron

Charity Care Story

Patty, a 63-year-old woman from Omro, was encouraged to get an annual exam and a mammogram after visiting Mercy Medical Center with her husband for one of his appointments. Patty hadnít had one of these exams in quite awhile and was unsure that she wanted to go ahead with it due to financial setbacks. Her provider informed Patty about the Wisconsin Well Woman Program, which pays for certain wellness screenings for women with little to no health insurance.

Patty followed her providerís advice and went ahead with the exam, only to find that she had stage two breast cancer. With cancer in the picture, along with other medical issues, her providers at Mercy Medical Center wanted her and her husband to know that the medical bills would be taken care of.

"We were already stressed, and Jeanie made sure I was calm through the whole thing," Patty said. "She made the transition very easy."

Patty will start chemotherapy in the near future and, because of Affinity Care, she is reassured that bills should be the last thing on her mind. The stress is taken away every time she steps through the doors at Mercy Medical Center because of the concerned, kind providers and staff members.

"I know I have a good team who is going to take care of me," she said. "That hospital is amazing."

Both Patty and her husband were able to receive many services, which were provided for them through Affinity Care. Patty said, "They surpass every hospital Iíve ever been to. They outshine everyone just by how much they care."

Mercy Medical Center, Oshkosh

Caring Hearts Financial Assistance Program

Mark Marlowe was a healthy person until 2009 when seizures landed him in the hospital, and he was later diagnosed with a third stage brain tumor.

He went through chemotherapy and radiation treatment and now has chemotherapy treatments for five days every six weeks.

Marlowe lost his insurance at the end of November 2009, and his mother left her home and job in Chippewa Falls to be in Appleton as his caregiver. She had to retire early from her job after taking family medical leave and using up vacation time.

Marlowe was 39 when all this started.

"Itís kind of young to have such a drastic diagnosis," said Patricia Bergeron. "On the other hand, weíre thanking God every day because of how many donít make it with that type of tumor. They couldnít remove it."

Medical bills started to pile up, bringing a total of over $10,000.

"It was a long struggle," said Bergeron.

That is when ThedaCareís Caring Hearts Financial Assistance Program stepped in to help ease the financial burdens brought on by doctor visits and treatment programs.

"That was huge," said Bergeron. "It was definitely a gift from God. And they came through twice for us."

Marlowe agreed. "That took a lot of pressure off," he said. "It felt a lot better not having to worry as much or at all."

Bergeron agreed. "Caring Hearts is a very good name," she said. "Itís unbelievable the pressure it removed. They just take you in right under their wing and take the stress off of what could have been many, many thousands of dollars."

They are still hopeful Marlowe will one day return to work.

"The tumor has shrunk," she said. "Itís stable. They donít say cancer free."

Marlowe urged those who are struggling to seek out Caring Hearts.

"Iíd tell them that itís helped ease the burden, the finances of it," he said. "It helped me feel more comfortable with the illness that I had."

ThedaCare, Appleton

Community Care Program

At Mile Bluff Medical Center, our goal is to improve the health and wellness of our community, to provide care at its best and to be there when itís needed most. We do that by bringing medical experts and sophisticated services to the region, and by offering assistance in times of emergency. Most of the time, those emergencies are medicalÖsometimes they are financial.

"I donít know who to thank at Mile Bluff, but I would like to pass along my heartfelt appreciation. I was overwhelmed with relief when my bill was forgiven. Please know you are now always in my prayers. I am so grateful. Thank you!"

These words were written in a letter to Mile Bluff Medical Center, thanking the organization for its financial aid. As a nonprofit organization, Mile Bluff offers programs and services for everyone in the area Ė regardless of their ability to pay. This passion for others is amplified by the Community Care Program that Mile Bluff has set up to help those who need assistance in covering health care expenses.

Mile Bluff understands the impact that trying economic times can have on individuals, and realizes that mounting medical bills can often cause overwhelming amounts of stress. Mile Bluff created the Community Care Program to ease the strain of these trying times. An advocate from Mile Bluff is available to help patients apply for financial assistance, and recipients are chosen based on individual financial criteria.

During the 2011 fiscal year, Mile Bluff was able to help 520 individuals who were unable to pay some or all of their medical bills. Nearly $1.2 million of debt was forgiven through the Community Care Program.

Mile Bluff Medical Center has been committed to going beyond expectations in health care since 1883. The organization operates the only hospital in Juneau County and was founded to improve the health and wellness of the community by providing compassionate and progressive care. Although Mile Bluff has grown over the years and now serves 55,000 individuals across a five-county region, it has never lost sight of its mission to provide health care evolving for life.

Mile Bluff Medical Center, Mauston

Submit community benefit stories to Mary Kay Grasmick, editor, at

Read more about hospitals connecting with their communities at www.WiServePoint.org.

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