Virginia Mason is committed to providing services and programs that help build a stronger, healthier community. As a nonprofit organization, we use our earnings over and above our costs to support our charitable purposes. We provide a wide range of community benefit services, from the provision of uncompensated (charity) care to subsidized health services to community health improvement services to education and research.
As a non-profit organization we are committed to serving patients who are uninsured, underinsured or otherwise unable to pay for their medical care. The number of patients receiving
free or deeply discounted care through our charity care program has more than doubled in the past five years, with charges of more than $9 million provided as charity care in 2006. We also provided to Medicaid patients in 2006 uncompensated charges in the amount of $24 million. Uncollected charges and Medicare discounts are not included as part of our charity care program.
Under Virginia Mason’s charity care policy, medically
necessary care (after all health insurance has been exhausted) is provided free to Washington residents making up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level. In 2006 we confirmed our commitment to adhere to the Washington State Hospital Association voluntary guidelines on billing the uninsured. As part of that commitment, Washington residents earning up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level will qualify for 30 percent discounts on medically necessary care.
Subsidized Health Services
Every community needs certain health care services that typically cost more to deliver than they take in. These “subsidized health services” are part of our mission because they are needed in the community and would otherwise not be available to meet patient needs. They include:
Emergency services available to all, regardless of ability to pay;
Bailey-Boushay House, a nursing residence and day health center for people living with HIV/AIDS;
Tender Loving Care, a day care program for mildly ill children.
Community Health Improvement Services
Improving health and quality of life extends beyond the delivery of a diagnosis and treatment. It also requires that we share information and knowledge with the community. Through sponsorship of community health improvement and outreach services, Virginia Mason supports some of the most vulnerable members of the community. Health improvement and outreach services provided by VM in 2006 include:
Community health education, such as classes in the Buse Diabetes Teaching Center;
Outreach to schools to promote awareness, develop an understanding and foster acceptance of people with hearing impairments through the Listen for Life Center;
Promotion of healthy lifestyles through free patient education;
Sponsorship of many professionally facilitated support groups, including brain tumor, Parkinson’s disease, breast cancer, gastric bypass and prostate cancer groups;
Virginia Mason conducts medical research through its affiliate, Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason (BRI). In 2006, BRI celebrated 50 years of scientific innovation and advancements to improve people’s lives. BRI is a non-profit biomedical research institute that works to unlock the mysteries of the immune system. Its team of world-renowned scientists is focused on identifying causes and cures for devastating diseases
including diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and cancer. BRI is an international leader in immune system and autoimmune disease research with a focus on translating laboratory discoveries to real life applications. Today, the state-of-the-art research institute, built in 1999, houses 200 researchers and staff with a budget of more than $20 million a year.
Patient Profile: Barbara Hamer
When Barbara Hamer underwent gastric bypass surgery (weight-loss surgery) at Virginia Mason in 2004, she knew she would need the support of her medical team before, during and after her procedure. What she didn’t realize at the time was that she would also need the help of patients just like her — those who had gone through the same surgery.
Barbara, who has lost 80 pounds as a result of the surgery, found that help through the Gastric Bypass Support Group meetings at Virginia Mason. This group is one of a variety of support groups offered by Virginia Mason to help individuals who are faced with challenging health issues. There is a Gastric Bypass Support Group that meets monthly at the Seattle Main Campus and another that meets monthly at Virginia Mason Federal Way.
“Attending gives me a chance to meet, talk to and listen to people who have gone through the same thing. You can’t get that kind of support from a blog,” Barbara says.
Listening to the stories of others helped Barbara prepare for the future. “I am reminded each month that while surgery is invaluable in losing my weight, quality food choices, daily exercise and support group attendance are important tools for maintenance,” Barbara says.
Barbara continues to attend the support group meetings, which include participation from Virginia Mason physicians, nurses, a clinical psychologist and dietitians. “It’s nice to have a group of people who understand what you are going through and who can help get you on track when needed.”
Patient Profile: Gayle Bernsen
Last fall, Gayle Bernsen noticed a spot on her knee. She tried to ignore it. But, she says, “It just looked weird.” Still, the active Roslyn, Wash., woman, who works as a waitress, was reluctant to have the spot checked, “I don’t really like to go to the doctor,” she says.
But she decided to go anyway. Since she lives in Roslyn going to Virginia Mason Issaquah meant a trip over the pass. She saw Physician Assistant Valerie Thibert, who suspected the spot was melanoma. A sample examined by VM Pathology revealed that it was Clark Level IV melanoma. Thibert arranged for Gayle to be seen at the Floyd & Delores Jones Cancer Institute at the Seattle Main Campus.
At the Cancer Institute, the diagnosis was confirmed by Alexandra Schmidek, MD, reconstructive surgeon. Dr. Schmidek surgically removed the cancerous tissue on Gayle’s knee and also took biopsies from the lymph nodes in her groin. They were negative for cancer.
Although the procedure went well, one aspect of Gayle’s treatment wasn’t looking so good — the financial. Gayle had no insurance, and to add to her worries, she had been out of work during treatment and recovery. Even though she couldn’t pay for her treatment, she made too much money to qualify for state assistance. The team of VM staff who had cared for Gayle urged her to apply for assistance from Virginia Mason. So she asked VM for help.
Gayle’s circumstances were reviewed and 100 percent of her bill was paid by VM’s charity care program. “I’m so grateful,” says Gayle, who is now back at work and doing fine. In a recent follow-up exam Gayle was found to be cancer free. She is relieved, but she knows she will need ongoing follow-up to watch for recurrence of the cancer. “Dr. Schmidek told me I was one in a thousand for how well it is going,” says Gayle.
“At times I would go 100 miles an hour — but cancer slowed me down. Now I’m a real homebody. I am just glad I can take care of my family — which is my three puppies — two goldens and a Jack Russell — they are spoiled rotten!”