With affordable healthcare constantly in the news cycle, a lot of people are looking into ways to manage their medical bills in whatever way possible. One Nebraska doctor also seems to be looking for solutions and might have found an innovative way to help patients pay their bills.
Demetrio Aguila, M.D. is a nerve specialist at Healing Hands of Nebraska (1) and has noticed that a lot of patients forego necessary surgeries and procedures because they can’t afford them. With surgeries in the U.S. often costing tens of thousands of dollars, that’s understandable (2) but it goes against people’s wellbeing.
The Healing Hands M25 Program
That’s why Dr. Aguila has recently launched a new program at his hospital that allows people to pay off their surgery debts by taking part in community programs. The goals of the program are threefold – 1) to encourage people to undergo the procedures that are necessary for their health, 2) to help them financially, and 3) to help the community through people’s volunteering labor.
“We can’t ignore the people in our own backyard,” Aguila told CBS News (3). “We want to be able to offer hope to patients who have lost hope medically.”
Dr. Aguila’s “M25 Program” at the Healing Hands also backed their decision with some stunning statistics. They’ve found that over two-thirds of individual bankruptcies in the U.S. are due to medical debt and over 75% of those were from people who already had private medical insurances.
The M25 Program works with patients on an individual basis and determines the community work hours “payment” each patient will need to do depending on their condition, need, and the type of procedure the doctor has conducted. An example on the program’s website (4) says that for a surgery that cost $5,000, the program would ask for 250 hours of community service instead. This amounts to $20 which is just below the average hourly wage in the U.S. (5) but is way above the country’s minimum hourly wage.
Additionally, the M25 program allows for more than one person to donate to those volunteering hours, essentially allowing other people to help the patient pay off their debt faster.
Jeff Jensen, a patient of Dr. Aguila, told CBS News that he had to do 560 volunteer hours to pay for his foot surgery and about 100 people helped him out by doing some of the hours. (6)
“Of those 105, I probably knew 30 or 40 of them,” Jensen shared. “Really without this program, this surgery wouldn’t have been done.”
The M25 Healing Hands also works with multiple volunteering programs which not only broadens the scope of volunteering campaigns but also gives patients the flexibility to choose what to work on. Since the program’s start, ~10% of Dr. Aguilla’s patients have chosen that option.
“This whole practice is about restoring hope for patients by giving them the opportunity to wrest back control of their health care,” Aguila said.