Joanna Van Hollebeke is a patient financial advocate at Swedish Medical Center Seattle who helps under-insured or uninsured patients with their medical bills.
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The following podcast. He’s a presentation of Answers for Elders featuring the Swedish Hospital financial department. Welcome back to the program everyone. I am so excited to have a lovely lady across the from me here in the studio, Joanna Van Hollebeke, from Swedish Hospital. And Joanna, you are in the financial aid area. What specifically welcome? First of all, welcome to the program and second tell us a little bit about what you do for Swedish well, thank you for having me here, Suzanne. I really appreciate being able to represent Swedish on Answers for Elders. So I am a patient financial advocate at Swedish Hospital and part of what we do is we help people who are uninsured or under ensured help find sources for paying their bills, and that includes helping people sign up for Medicaid or find our financial assistance program are in House of financial assistance program and all sorts of sources that we can you know, Joanna, what I love about it is you truly are an advocate. You are a partner for that patient so that they can, you know, concentrate on whatever health issues that they’re facing and of course we can talk a little bit about it a little later on the kind of the services that you provide, but specifically for seniors. I’m sure that there’s a lot of seniors out there that are probably hesitant to go into any sort of hospital situation or healthcare situation because they ignore it because they’re unfixed incomes and maybe Medicare doesn’t cover everything, maybe they’re in a situation where they don’t want to lose and they can’t afford to lose any income and they’re going without medications, things like that. So you’re such a valuable resource. You’re in the community. Well, thank you. I love what I do and I love where I work. You know, one of the things I think that’s really interesting about this whole world of seniors is the fact that a lot of us are checking our senior parents into retirement living or we’re going into rehab facilities or things like that, or skilled in their care or independent living, and I know from my mom. When I was doing your paperwork, one of the key questions I was asked, which I had no clue about, was what hospital do you want? And it was kind of threw me off guard because as a consumer out there. I thought that the hospitals were all the same. I didn’t know. And you know what my answer was. What? And I’m going to throw that at you. I said, is there a difference? And they laughed and they said, well, we can’t really direct you and other in any way. So, Joanna, tell me what’s the difference? Well, Swedish is incredible for so many reasons. You won’t find a more comprehensive, complete care than you will at Swedish. We offer many different types of services, including behavioral health, neuroscience, pregnancy and childbirth, orthopedics, pediatrics. List goes on and on. And we have several campuses across Washington State that encompasses the services, one in Edmonds, Mill Creek, Ballard, Issaquah, Redmond. I mean we’re really you know, we have a vast network in our hospital. Well, and I do know to that you guys do a lot of work with specifically with seniors. I know that we used to take my mom to your wound care area over in Edmonds. Yeah, and amazing work they do. Amazing. Yeah, I am very proud of where I work with. Everyone is so compassionate and we just, you know, we all have the same vision, and you know that’s just to be completely committed to our patients in every capacity. And and I love doing the financial work that I do because I get to I get to help them in a different way than some of the clinical staff does. So do you have a particular story in mind that you can share with us of how you’ve been able to help some you know, a family specifically in the area? Oh, too many to list. Really putting me on the spot here, I know, but I mean obviously a lot of us have been you know, we hesitate going to the doctor, we until it’s too late and then we end up in the emergency room and we’re terrified. Obviously some of us are low incomes, some of us are no income. It’s sad that a lot of seniors today are, you know, barely making it as it is on such a small social security or low income kind of a situation. So what would happen if somebody came to you? What’s the process? So if somebody is uninsured or underinsured, they are referred to me by one of the staff and we first see if they qualify for Medicaid, first and foremost, and and so we go through the application process for that. If they don’t qualify for that, then we have other options. We next pursue the charity care program through Swedish and if you qualify for that program we can write off your bill up to a hundred percent. And what is exactly? What is the charity care program? So it’s basically, depending on what level of income you’re at, you can qualify for the program, which would basically erase all of your bills through Swedish. So if you’re under a certain income and you have, you know, thousands of dollars incurring because you know this, this and that, if you qualify for that program then we would be able to write off those bills and you wouldn’t have to worry about them anymore. We’re a nonprofit hospital and so, you know, a large part of what we do is charity right offs, and I’m very, very proud of that. I love it. Well, you know, I know that I was in and out of Swedish Edmonds with my mom a lot and I have to say they were amazing. They were, you know, compassionate, caring, listened to me, was helpful with her, respectful to seniors. You know, you go to other places and you know, running the the gamut that I did with my mom, I remember a couple times actually confronting doctors not in your hospital, not any thanks. It’s like, excuse me, but talk to for her, don’t talk to me. Don’t talk to her like she’s not a part of you know, this conversation, this is her health, this is her time. And of course there’s a lot of families out there that have a low income, you know, parent and they’re concerned about making sure that they get the best care possible. Absolutely now, if you were going to talk to it whole and you know, if you’re obviously you’re working with the senior, but you probably are working with their adult children, admitting cases and helping get them qualified. How does that process work? A lot of times we are unable to talk to the patient for whatever reason, and so we are having to deal with, you know, next of kin, and you know more often than not it’s a child and a little child, and so you know, usually we will work directly with them, with the patient permission and and and you know that usually goes really well. I enjoy working with them as well, and we will help them apply for these services, basically using their family members as a conduit. Perfect. Yeah, we are talking to Joanna Van Hollebeke from Swedish hospital and she is a financial advocate. Is that correct? Patient foundation, financial advocate. I love that title. I love it too, you know I have, I’m a big positive thing on advocacy. So as opposed to using that word, as opposed to a caregiver, sure it’s really it’s got a different connotation and that’s what I like about you, because you truly are a partner in that. So, in working with families, obviously in most cases they need to have a power of attorney or at least in approval by the patient. Is that correct? Yes, what happens if there isn’t that DOC factor in place? Are you still able to talk to the family to a certain degree, or is there a little bit more of a challenge? There’s a little bit more of a challenge, but you know, there’s certain things that we can talk to them about without violating hip up. Yeah, I know exactly. You know, but you know, it is preferred to, you know, get power of attorney and get authorization from the patient. oftentimes, like you said, it’s not possible, but there’s still things that we can do to help them. Sure, we do everything that we can. Sure, and then as far as the whole Medicare thing, obviously you work in conjunction with seniors with Medicare, but there’s certain times that Medicare is not going to cover certain treatments maybe and are so. So how do you work within that realm? So you typically people that qualify for Medicare will also qualify for Medicaid, and so one of the things that I love to do is for our Medicare recipient specifically, is help them sign up for Medicaid as a supplement to their primary insurance mm. And what that does is whatever Medicare doesn’t pay, Medicaid usually will pick up the majority of the remainder patient responsibility, and so what ends up happening is they don’t really have any bills left over that they need to pay after Medicaid pays its portion. Right and and I love doing that for them. I love seeing the smile on their face when they discover oh my gosh, I don’t have to pay. You know, it’s a wonderful feeling. Well, it’s wonderful that you are there for them and most certainly you can do so much for the community and and helping our seniors in this area. I’m now I’m curious. Speaking of Medicare. Obviously you got to be the the queen of understanding how all of this comes together. A lot of us in the world of, you know, navigating senior care, we don’t necessarily understand how Medicare works and there’s also a lot of fear about, you know, what is going to happen in the future. Can you just give me a quick overview of what it covers? Well, there’s different parts to Medicare. As you probably know, medicare part A and B are often referred to as original Medicare, and Medicare part C is usually like a Medicare advantage plan or an m a plan. Medicare D is prescription drug coverage. So you know all of those parts and compass Medicare. So Medica for Medicare Part A, specifically, it provides coverage and benefits for inpatient hospital care and in patients days and skilled nursing facilities and hospice, things like that. For be it provides coverage and benefits for doctors and clinical services. So it’s more on the clinical side as opposed to the hospital side and then see is a way of getting Medicare, a and be coverage basically put together. And those are the kind of a combination. Yeah, the combo plans, like the the Medicare advantage plans, and then part D is a standalone plan, right, the prescription coverage that you can purchase additionally as well. That’s awesome. Yeah. So, Joanna, how if I’m a senior and I want to inquire about help with medical expenses at Swedish, how do I reach you so you can reach me? I am actually located at the Swedish Ballard location and I am in the, I’m the soul patient financial advocate there. I love that, and and I’m at the patient accounts office there in the main hospital. Perfect. You can also reach me by telephone. My direct is two and six seven eight one six hundred and twenty eight, and I’m available Monday through Friday, eight am to 5-thirty PM to answer questions. Joanna, thanks for being on the problem. Oh, you’re so welcome. Thank you for having me, Suzanne. This podcast is a presentation of answers for elders. To learn more about Answers for Elders, go to AnswersforElders.com.
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Originally published April 22, 2017