Previously, patients said they had wonderful care at the Laboure Outpatient Clinic, a facility with a mission to help uninsured and low-income community members receive treatment, but the subsequent billing process fell short.
Activists from non-profit ONE Northside, formerly Lakeview Action Coalition and Organization of the Northeast, tried to meet with St. Joseph CEO Dr. Roberta Luskin-Hawk for months before finally receiving a meeting in May.
ONE and seven community members then met with St. Joseph two more times this year to discuss implementation of new billing processes, including allowing homeless people and people on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) to obtain care without applying for financial aid.
"We didn't get everything but we got a lot of things," said Hannah Gelder, a ONE Northside member. "We are very happy with the results.
Now, any patient with a LINK card for SNAP will be presumed to be eligible for care at Laboure. Homeless people will also be able to be fast-tracked into care without going through a financial aid application process, as part of "presumptive eligibility."
Previously, several patients were being asked to apply for financial assistance despite qualifying for the clinic's "presumptive eligibility" rule, thus delaying care and causing unnecessary confusion, they said.
Phone and front desk staff have been retrained so that they can identify when an uninsured person can receive free care.
And the clinic is posting signs to let people know that it can connect patients with resources to help fill prescriptions.
"In terms of access to primary care, it's going to be much better at the clinic," Gelder said. "Now that the Affordable Care Act is being implemented, it's important for people to know what care is available in the neighborhood."
Laboure is part of St. Joseph Hospital, which is a member of ONE Northside.
Gelder said the group was unable to come to a conclusion on whether low-income and homeless patients could streamline billing between St. Joseph's emergency room and the Laboure Clinic, but the hospital said they would have "ongoing conversations about it," she said.
"We are pleased to continue working with ONE Northside to promote access to care," clinic director Maria Chicchelly said in a statement. "We hope these changes make a positive impact for the community."