WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - WECT has confirmed that New Hanover Regional Medical Center will no longer be offering patients the popular “prompt pay discount” now that it has officially merged with Novant Health. WECT was made aware the 25% discount was discontinued by a disappointed patient, who had hoped to save approximately $700 on an upcoming surgical procedure by paying in advance.
“I went in to pre-pay today as a $700 savings would be huge, only to find that discount has been taken away. I called both the billing office as well as the surgical office that handles sending out the estimates, only to be told it has to do with Novant taking over and that their hands are tied. They directed me to a customer service line... which is disconnected,” the patient wrote in an email to the station.
The patient was especially frustrated because the hospital had previously notified her that if she paid before February 5, her bill would be reduced from $2,895 to just over $2,100, and she felt the advertised discount should be honored even if the hospital ownership was changing.
When WECT contacted the hospital about this patient’s particular dilemma, and the status of the prompt pay program in general, they said the program was going away.
“As part of aligning our financial policies and procedures [with Novant Health], NHRMC is sunsetting the prompt pay discount,” hospital spokesperson Julian March explained. “The vast majority of those who used it had insurance. Applying a prompt pay discount for patients with insurance is very rare in the health care industry, and NHRMC had already been considering removing it. We are pleased to offer a more robust financial assistance program at this time.”
March added that moving forward, they would be adopting Novant Health’s financial assistance program which provides more assistance to those who need it most, by increasing qualification for a 100% write off from 200 to 300 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. However, for patients like the one who contacted us who had procedures scheduled during the transition, they would be extending the prompt pay discount.
“We are honoring the offer of the prompt pay discount for those who received an estimate for services scheduled before [February 1, 2021]. The patient received some incorrect information, so we have gone back to our team to ensure we are consistently communicating our courtesy discounts in those cases,” March said.
While Novant’s discount program will certainly benefit patients in lower income brackets, this is a financial hit for middle and upper income patients. It also raises concerns for people who feared a merger would increase the price of health care in Southeastern North Carolina.
The hospital declined interview requests from WECT about this decision. New Hanover County Commission Chair Julia Boseman, who was an early advocate of the hospital sale, said she knew nothing about the discount being discontinued and declined an interview request. County Commissioner Rob Zapple, who worried the sale could increase the cost of healthcare for patients, also declined to comment. Zapple said he didn’t know enough about Novant’s discount program to weigh the overall impact of discontinuing the prompt pay discount.
Patients with questions can reach Patient Financial Services at 910-667-7050.