HSA enlists debt collection agency

The Heath Services Authority will turn unpaid hospital bills over to a private debt collection agency in a bid to improve its bottom line.

HSA Acting CEO Lizzette Yearwood said the move is necessary to allow the authority to cover the cost of providing services to patients, meet operational expenses and continually upgrade facilities and equipment.

‘It is our hope that the public will understand the importance of paying for their services as a vital part of our ability to ensure the continued provision of quality care,’ Ms Yearwood told the Caymanian Compass.

Unaudited HSA accounts show that patients owe the authority over $15 million, $10 million of which is six months or more overdue.

Contrary to previous media reports, there is no bad debt write-off under consideration at the moment, Ms Yearwood said.

Turning unpaid bills over to a private debt collection agency is the latest move toward economic independence for the authority, which has been financially hamstrung by an apparent mentality among some that hospital bills don’t need to be paid.

As of 1 February, all bills that are six months or more overdue will be turned over to the Cayman Islands National Credit Bureau. From that date forward, all bills that are three months or more overdue will be turned over to CINCB.

‘While the HSA will not change its mission as the primary provider of healthcare services in the Cayman Islands to provide medical care to all residents, it remains firm in its resolve to collect for services provided,’ said Ms Yearwood.

‘The HSA is mindful of the economic realities facing many residents in these islands and will continue to work with our patients on payment options, where appropriate,’ she said.

‘However, we aim to raise the awareness that our ability to continue providing a high quality service is highly dependent on each patient paying in full for the cost of their medical care.’

The HSA has previously pledged to become financially independent of Government by July 2009.

Fee increase

A key component in the authority’s path toward financial independence was to be a 10 per cent across-the-board fee increases for HSA services. HSA fees have not increased since 2002.

The change, which requires legislative amendment of the Health Services (Fees) Law, was meant to come into effect 1 July 2007, but it has since not materialised.

Ministry of Health and Human Services Chief Officer Diane Montoya said in October she expected the amendment to be passed in November, but it did not come before the house.

No comment was available from the Ministry about when the amendment is likely to come before the LA.

Also expected to boost the HSA’s bottom line is the introduction of a new charge master that will put fees in place for services the authority provides for free. These services have effectively been ‘un-billable’ because the current charge master does not make provision for them.

Ms Yearwood has previously said she expects the new charge master will come into effect at the beginning of the 2008/09 financial year.

New faces at HSA

Meanwhile, there have been a few new faces walking around the Cayman Islands Hospital in recent months.

As the Caymanian Compass has previously reported, Dr. Greg Hoeksema, a former US Navy doctor and hospital administrator, has taken up the role of medical director with the authority.

The authority also has a new Director of Human Resources Chris Walker, an HR professional with more than 18 years experience working with hospitals and a range of large and medium sized companies in the US.