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Phoenix Children’s Hospital adds counselors to answer insurance questions

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story misspelled the last name of Laura Handy-Oldham.

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PHOENIX – When parents brings kids to Phoenix Children’s Hospital, their concerns often extend beyond medical care to what they are entitled to under their health care coverage, be it an employer’s plan or the state’s Medicaid system.

To ease that confusion, the hospital now offers Family Financial Services, with a team of certified counselors ready to help with those questions.

Laura Handy-Oldham, the hospital’s director of patient access, said the goal is simple: “No surprises.”

“We have a team that works all of the benefits and all of the eligibility up front, and they work hand in hand with our Family Financial Services team to reach out to the family beforehand so that they know what’s expected of them,” she said. listen

To create the team, Phoenix Children’s revamped its operation that had provided help to offer counselors certified through the marketplace, Handy-Oldham said.

“We went through and identified the areas that they really needed to be expert in, including really tearing apart benefits and understanding everything behind them,” she said. listen

In addition to helping families understand their insurance options, the counselors also work with the parents and make sure they know what is expected of them financially before they come in for appointments or procedures. This helps the families understand what they will have to pay out of pocket, what their insurance is covering and what its not, and what their options are for covering that, Handy-Oldham said.

Dr. Daniel Derksen, director of the University of Arizona’s Center for Rural Health, said Arizona’s demographics make helping people navigate health insurance more important here.

“Half of Arizonans who are uninsured are Hispanic-Latino,” Derksen said. “Many of the terms we use to explain insurance to those who don’t have it don’t translate from English to Spanish. The learning curve was steep, and they didn’t understand their choices.”

Maura Carley, author of the book “Health Insurance: Navigating Traps and Gaps,” said it’s common for people to need help understanding their coverage options.

“Our health care system is very complex, and in any area of life where there is a lot of complexity there are people who are going to need help.”

Handy-Oldham said the program can save families thousands of dollars.

“You feel good at the end of the day when you are able to do that,” she said.