In the Community
Intro
Caring for Patients' Financial Health

 

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irst she lost her job, then her health insurance. And then Alison Engel got
very sick.

As she went through tests at Cedars-Sinai while experiencing severe headaches, she was afraid she’d be sent home because she couldn’t pay her hospital bills. Her headaches were caused by a cerebrospinal fluid leak that required major spinal surgery and a month-long stay at Cedars-Sinai.

One day, a social worker came to her room and explained how to apply for financial assistance. Months later, at her West Hollywood apartment, Alison cries when she recalls learning that
Cedars-Sinai had granted her application.

 

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Caring for Patients' Financial Health

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As part of its Community Benefit commitment, Cedars-Sinai provides millions of dollars in free and part-pay care each year. Eligibility is based on income level and family size, among other factors.

The California Healthcare Association recommends that hospitals use 300 percent of the federal poverty level as a basis for determining charity care eligibility. To help a greater number of people avoid facing a financial crisis as a result of a health crisis, Cedars-Sinai provides financial assistance to those in its service area who earn up to 450 percent of the federal poverty level — and does not count homes, cars and other personal

Walking for Fitness and Friendship

possessions as income. Cedars-Sinai’s more inclusive policy would, for example, enable a family of four with an income of $95,000 a year to qualify for an 85 percent reduction in their hospital bill.

Learning that Cedars-Sinai would pay her hospital bills was a huge relief for Alison, who wrote to the Patient Financial Services Department to thank the many individuals who “… without meeting me, or knowing much about me, came to my aid and offered help in the same way that a family member or good friend would offer love and support in a difficult time.”

Expanded Clininc Capabilies

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he waiting room at the health clinic across the street from the Los Angeles Mission’s homeless shelter on Skid Row is full, but Rebecca Martin, MD, never seems to rush. The Cedars-Sinai internal medicine chief resident takes time to ask every patient about their medical history and medications, and to make notes that will be kept for future reference.

She dispenses health information along with prescriptions, always on the lookout for serious conditions that require immediate attention. Every two weeks, she dedicates an afternoon to working at the “Mission clinic” run by Los Angeles Christian Health Centers, or at the Saban Free Clinic (formerly known as the Los Angeles Free Clinic). She’s one of many Cedars-Sinai medical residents who provide health services at free

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clinics around Los Angeles as part of their training.

“It’s a great learning experience because I’m able to make decisions about how to treat a wide variety of diseases,” she says. “It’s also very satisfying to be able to help the homeless take better care of their health.”

Level I Trauma Care

 

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s the only private, nonprofit hospital in Los Angeles County designated as a Level I trauma center — and one of only four such hospitals in the county — Cedars-Sinai fills a critical need for highly specialized surgical trauma care.

About 1,600 trauma patients are treated at
Cedars-Sinai each year. The most common causes of injuries are falls and motor vehicle crashes. The Medical Center meets strict standards to receive Level I verification from the American College of Surgeons. The Trauma Service oversees many aspects of treatment, from the time a trauma patient enters the Emergency Department to surgery and critical care, ward care and clinic follow-up.

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Cedars-Sinai also works to prevent injuries by offering community education that promotes safety for kids, discourages teens from drinking and driving, and helps older people avoid falls. Prevention efforts also include screening trauma patients for signs of substance abuse. “Our social workers do this screening and offer referrals. These are teachable moments. A brief intervention can be a turning point in a patient’s life,” says Trauma Program Manager Heidi Hotz.

Pull Quote A Preventive Approach for All Stages of Life