The Support Services Team at Bluestem Health is a “one-stop shop” for resources, allowing people in the community to apply for services without the need to travel to multiple places. The dedicated Support Services Team led by Isela Meza, Patient Support Services Supervisor, currently has two departments: Patient Support Specialists and Community Health Navigators. These individuals are there to offer services and resources to all Bluestem Health patients or individuals in the community seeking to become patients of the clinic. The knowledgeable team can assist with applying for the Sliding Scale Fee Program, enrolling in the Health Insurance Marketplace or in Medicaid, or accessing Economic or General Assistance programs.
Community Health Navigators attend community events, like health fairs, and talk to people about the clinic and the services offered. The team finds that individuals in the community who may qualify for special support services may be unaware that the services exist, or that they may actually qualify for the quality Medical, Dental, and Behavioral Health services offered at Bluestem Health. “There are people out there who don’t know who we are and when we talk about our services, they are glad they did,” says Ms. Meza.
The Support Services Team helps patients from the beginning stages of the application process through completion. Patients follow-up with the team so that their case runs smoothly. The team can further assist if patients need help with any verification requests needed or other details along the way. “I always hear from patients that they enjoy the in-person assistance versus over the phone or any other way,” says Ms. Meza. “They feel they understand more and feel appreciated by the person who is helping them.”
The most common reason people contact Support Services at Bluestem Health is because they want to know if they can get assistance paying for their healthcare or a discount in the services offered at Bluestem Health. Many people are surprised to find that they can qualify for assistance. “Not many people outside of the clinic know that we offer a sliding fee as well to those who have insurance coverage,” adds Ms. Meza. “The sliding fee discount can be applied to co-pays, deductibles not met, share-of-cost amounts, co-insurance, and services not covered by their plan.” Patients do need to meet the eligibility requirements to enroll, but the Sliding Scale Program is especially beneficial to qualified recipients who have high deductibles.
The providers at Bluestem Health often refer patients who are uninsured or without prescription coverage to the Support Services Team to discuss the Medication Access Program (MAP) when they see a patient who can’t afford their medications. “Our providers are good about referring patients to us for MAP,” says Ms. Meza. MAP can help cover the cost of prescriptions for certain medications. Patient Support Specialists can then sit down with the patient and explain how the program works. Patients who are enrolled in MAP are far more likely to take their medications as prescribed instead of changing their dosages or avoiding medications due to the cost.
Having a team dedicated to enrollment assistance benefits both the patients themselves and Bluestem Health. If patients can afford to see a provider at the clinic at a discounted rate, they will be less likely to incur more costly services at an Emergency Room.
Recently, a Bluestem Health patient who happened to be homeless and living on the streets at the time was unable to afford medical visits and medications. The Support Services team was able to prescreen the patient for General Assistance and help with the application right in the clinic. Unfortunately, the patient previously was not aware of what General Assistance is or how it works, but patients who qualify for General Assistance are able to receive medical services and their medications at no cost – exactly the help the patient needed at the time. After the Support Services Team was able to help the patient submit the application and send the proper verification requests, the patient was approved and is now able to access medications and office visits.
"Providing assistance for patients to enroll in programs boosts the success of Bluestem Health to better serve the community health population and to keep the associated costs down," adds Ms. Meza.
Patients can call Bluestem Health at 402-476-1455 and request an appointment with the Support Services Team.