Alternatives to charity health care

In 2008, Hawaii hospitals provided $24,600,000 in charity care and lost $107,100,000 in payments that could not be collected. The total amount of charity care and bad debt is expected to increase in 2009 (“Hawaii’s Healthcare System – What Lies Ahead?” pages 16 and 21, Healthcare Association of Hawaii, 11/09).

We can’t deny people life-saving health care, but we can start by expecting individuals to have honor and personal responsibility. Most people don’t want charity; they want a chance to give something back.

Why can’t health care providers come up with alternatives to cash payments for lower-income families?

Here are just a few “out of the cashbox” ideas for individuals and families that need financial aid:

* Create a Hospital “Welcome” program. A feeling of safety and warmth could help patients recover more quickly. Individuals could make hospitals more welcoming, by creating artwork for the walls, sewing chair covers, quilting covers, and adding personal touches to the rooms.

* Create a Hospital “Greetings” program. With limited visiting hours and busy families, many patients feel lonely and bored. Individuals could visit children, the elderly, and those who are injured or sick and brighten up their days. They could read books, sing songs, and generally try to make other hospital patients’ visits more comfortable or lively.

* Create a Hospital “Kupuna” program. Instead of “waiting to recover,” we could engage hospital patients’ minds and creativity. Individuals could hold classes to teach people to read, play a musical instrument, knit, paint, or speak another language. Just about anything! They just have to be willing to share their knowledge and enthusiasm.

Let’s discuss more ways to turn charity care into an opportunity for personal responsibility and pride.

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