Clinic Charity Policy Changed — Again

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Back in December, Cleveland Clinic revealed that beginning January 1, it would implement a plan to reduce charity care costs by limiting its program to those who live within 150 miles of the city. The move drew considerable attention and no shortage of scorn from critics.

Now the Clinic’s policy has changed again.

Turns out all eligible Ohioans are covered by the new program, which discounts services for the uninsured or underinsured who earn up to four times the federal poverty level.

Once Clinic officials actually studied their own plan, they realized it was silly: A 150-mile radius from Cleveland draws a line that shears off only a sliver of each of Ohio’s most southern and western counties.

“We mapped it out and we thought, gosh, we left out about four people in southern Ohio,” says Clinic spokeswoman Eileen Sheil “So we changed it.”

After a detailed study of a similar map, Scene estimates that an additional 18 people along Ohio's western border also can breathe easier in knowing they won’t have to resort to Indiana for hardship care.

The Clinic will still save by eliminating charity care that used to be given to out-of-state patients.

Sheil describes the case of a patient who was covered by Medicaid in a neighboring state who sought extended treatment at the Clinic. A problem arose when the other state did not want to reimburse the Clinic for treating its citizen.

“The Clinic spent $1 million on [the patient]. It was a complicated case,” Sheil says. “We want to preserve our charity care dollars for the patients here at home who need it the most.”

The Ohio-only policy is a cut in charity care for the Clinic, but the program is still the most extensive offered by any area institution. By comparison, University Hospitals Health System limits charity care to those living within two districts of any of its hospitals, MetroHealth includes only Cuyahoga County residents, and Southwest General Medical Center offers extended charity care services only to residents of the six suburbs in its tax district.

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