FOLKSTON, Ga. - Charlton Memorial Hospital is giving patients who are overdue on medical bills an offer they may not be able to refuse.
But they only have a few days to accept the offer.
Patients whose bills are past due at least 90 days as of Feb. 28 will be given a 50 percent discount if they pay by March 31.
The offer, approved by the hospital's board of directors, will help generate much needed cash for the nonprofit hospital in Folkston and help many patients who are struggling financially because of the bad economy.
Kim Savage, the hospital's comptroller, said the hospital is owed more than $6 million in past due accounts.
"We realize it's hard times for everybody," Savage said. "There are people without jobs who don't have the wherewithal to pay their bills. We thought it would be a service to the community."
Savage said the offer also helps the hospital avoid the expense of hiring a collection agency to collect the overdue bills.
The hospital has contacted overdue customers by telephone, fliers and through local media to make them aware of the offer, she said.
"So far, the response has been good, but it's not as good as we hoped," she said.
Charlton County Manager Steve Nance said many overdue bills would likely not be paid without the offer.
"If they would have offered a 15 to 20 percent discount, they may not have gotten a response," Nance said. "The perception is many of these old bills wouldn't have been paid. They're getting a good response for the effort."
The county is one of the beneficiaries of the offer, Nance said. The hospital recently sent overdue notices for medical treatment of jail inmates and the county is paying those bills at the discounted rate.
"We're saving the county money for jail inmates," he said.
Savage said patients with overdue bills who can't afford to take advantage of the offer should still call the hospital because some arrangements can be made to pay the bill. Hospital officials can also help find grants and other means to help patients with their overdue bills.
Contact the hospital's business office 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays to make payment arrangements. Call (912) 496-2531 for information.
"It's a great deal," Savage said. "It's not often a person can say they got 50 percent off on their health care."
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