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Greetings from the greeters

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

With our eyes toward spring, the Registration Department at the Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District (SHCHD) would like to share some important information with you regarding upcoming changes to Medicare billing ID numbers, the transition to our new billing partner, and the joys and challenges of working in Registration at a rural Critical Access Hospital.

Why do I even need to register?

We take pride in doing our part to make your healthcare experience as good as it can be.

Registration, also referred to as Patient Financial Services (PFS), functions within the hospital as an important part of the patient care experience. We know Registration can seem like an inconvenience, especially when you’re in a hurry or not feeling well, and you want things to be quick and easy. I’ve been told “all you do is get in the way,” and I can sympathize. Everyone who works here has also been a patient, and we all understand that it isn’t enjoyable, but we do our best to provide you with the highest level of care possible, and to do that Registration plays an essential role.

The Good, the Bad, and the Wonderful

The person sitting at the front desk can’t stitch you up or offer medical advice, but we can explain the difference between a co-pay and a deductible, and we do our best to ensure that when you come to receive services, they are billed accurately. Every department in SHCHD has individuals with training in different areas. Collectively, we represent hundreds of years’ worth of knowledge and experience, but we all have separate responsibilities and limitations. Those who can draw your blood may not be able to answer questions about your insurance plan. The nurse caring for you in the Emergency Department can give you medication but won’t know the details of how that medication is coded and billed. PFS makes sure that all services provided are at the lowest cost to you, while ensuring appropriate payments to us.

Working in Registration can be difficult: The computer system doesn’t always function as expected, there’s a dictionary’s worth of insurance information to remember, and a single typo can make a doctor’s orders invalid. Yet, working in Registration can also be very rewarding. We do our best to ease stress and anxiety for patients and their families, whether you are here because of a life-threatening emergency, a routine clinic visit, or any of our other services like blood draws or mammograms. And we take pride in doing our part to make your healthcare experience as good as it can be.

The Elephant in the Room

Healthcare in California, and across the US, is in a constant state of flux, with ever-changing regulations, evolving standards of care, and incredibly complex payment protocols. There are also thousands of state and federal laws governing healthcare, and the state does multiple facility visits and audits throughout each year. Being ruled out of compliance in any of our operations puts our hospital at risk for steep penalties or even closure. The landscape has changed dramatically over the last few decades, and we are diligent in our efforts to ensure services can continue, while maintaining our community-centered culture.

Medicare Increasing Patient Security

This year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) are going to be issuing new ID numbers to all Medicare beneficiaries. These new numbers will replace the use of a patient’s Social Security number as their ID, a practice that has been under heavy scrutiny in healthcare as we focus on the importance of protecting our patients’ privacy and security. This is a huge undertaking by CMS, but it is a needed update and one we’ve been preparing for at the hospital. New ID cards will be sent out starting April 1st of this year. You can still come in and be seen without your new ID card, as CMS will update us when we bill them during this transition.

To receive your new Medicare card, you should confirm that you’ve provided the Social Security Administration (SSA) with your current mailing address, even if you do not receive Social Security benefits. To confirm or update your address, visit or call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213.

Billing Office Change

Another positive change is transitioning to our new billing partner, Healthcare Resource Group (HRG). HRG provides quality centralized services and utilizes leading technology, all with highly skilled, U.S. based payer specialists. After months of dedicated staff work, the conversion is now complete. New statements will begin going out mid-March, and rest assured that patient responsibility for balances owed will be calculated from the mailing date of your first statement, not from your date of service.

To contact HRG directly, call 1-877-673-0903, or if you’d like to speak with PFS staff right here at the hospital, you are always welcome to call us 1-707-923-3921, extension 293 or 236.

Helen Hagler, PFS/HIM Representative, Southern Humboldt Community Healthcare District