Benefits coordinator does double duty

The patient benefits coordinator at Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs, CO, who provides extra help to patients needing financial assistance, also performs a variety of other services for the hospital. Those include the following:

1. Helping families of patients who are going to die or have died in the hospital through the process of obtaining Medicaid retroactively. "We've had family members stop by and say,'This is wonderful. Now we can go back home and feel somebody is following up,'" says Rebecca Chance-Smith, manager of admission services.

2. Handling the accounts of self-pay patients who come in over the weekend and leave before anyone sees them. "The benefits coordinator follows up on Monday," Smith explains. "A lot of them have some kind of insurance but came in without a card. We had been billing them and waiting for 30 days to hear back, but now he calls, and they [often] say,'Oh, yeah, I have insurance [or Medicaid].'" If the patients are still in the hospital, the financial counselors handle the account.

3. Following up on all pending Medicaid accounts. "These are usually babies we know are going to get Medicaid, but we need to follow up to make sure when the number gets activated," she explains. "It takes the burden off the financial counselors of calling all the time to find out if [the number's] ready."

4. Facilitating post-discharge care. Nursing homes and skilled nursing facilities often will delay admission of a patient when they see he or she is self-pay, Smith says. The benefits coordinator explains that the Medicaid application is being processed, convincing the facility to accept the patient sooner, she adds. "We had been keeping some of the referrals in-house because we had no place to send them, but now he's able to say,'We'll have a Medicaid number in this many weeks.'"

5. Attending Department of Human Services workshops and inservices around the state to keep up-to-date on all the latest state programs. The benefits coordinator attends the workshops and then informs other staff about pending legislative or regulatory changes, Smith adds.