Find Out Friday Whether 50% Upfront Policy Stands or Falls

On Friday, Aug. 25, we will learn where UNM Hospital stands.

A month ago, Hospital leaders said they “stand ready” to fix problems they created by implementing the poorly conceived 50% Upfront for the Poor Policy. Since then, additional patients have come forward who couldn’t afford to pay thousands of dollars up front for a hysterectomy and a hernia repair. One little boy is waiting to get leg braces to ease the pain of his two club feet, without surgery that would cost a literal fortune. Will UNMH continue to stand behind this inhumane policy?

The Albuquerque Journal has said that “UNMH is right to require uninsured patients to pay 50 percent in advance for non-emergency surgeries.”  Hopefully we will know by Friday whether UNM Hospital leaders will continue to stand by this policy? We have asked them since June to rescind this damaging policy immediately, to no avail.

We have shared evidence with the board of people whose surgeries have been cancelled.

These are not “cosmetic” surgeries like lay people would connote from the term “elective” that the hospital uses to describe ACL and MCL surgery on torn knee ligaments that prevent people from walking, for example, in addition to hysterectomies and hernia operations. We hope that patients will be able to get the medically necessary surgeries and care that their doctors, including UNM Hospital doctors, say they need.

We don’t oppose the process of requiring patients to be screened for financial assistance, and when found to be indigent, to help them understand and take responsibility for paying reasonable amounts for necessary care. As community health workers, Pathways navigators, enrollment specialists, social workers and health care providers, we assist patients with navigating this complicated process on a daily basis, at no cost to them.

We are talking about a drastic policy change that caught the hospital board itself by surprise, and was implemented without the consultation of any affected groups. The key policy change is this: poor people used to pay a down payment of $25 to get medically necessary surgery, and the remainder afterward. Now they must pay 50% upfront.

For client stories about how much $$ they needed to come up with, follow this link.

The board should disavow this policy and stop singling out people who have no means to pay.  These are people who have already been screened and determined by the hospital’s well-trained financial assistance staff to be living below poverty and have no means to pay upfront for needed medical care.  This policy is inhumane and counter productive.

An appeals process should be designed to deal with unique cases – not designed to correct a systemic injustice.  We stand ready to work with our Public Hospital to expand affordable access to care and to hold the hospital accountable for the public’s trust. Please don’t deny medical care.  Not in Albuquerque. Not in New Mexico.  Not anywhere.

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