Passport 55 helps seniors with medical bills
Hospital service celebrates 20 years of working through red tape
05 / 15 / 2007
Maria Nelson, Media Relations
Affinity Health System
(920) 554-0686 (pager)
OSHKOSH, Wis. – Last fall, Margaret and Elwin Kalmerton were at wits end. Margaret had suffered a number of illnesses and the Oshkosh couple started getting inundated with medical bills.
Margaret was on the mend, but she was not well enough to deal with deciphering the hospital bills and insurance paperwork, and determine what needed to be paid. “I was not able to do it myself,” Margaret recalls. “We had such a hard time keeping everything straight.”
Then, she heard about Passport 55, a program offered by Mercy Medical Center and Affinity Health System. The program helps people over 55 with the complicated paperwork involved with medical bills and insurance companies.
“I brought in a large grocery bag filled with bills and insurance paperwork,” Margaret said. “The counselors at Passport 55 helped us get through everything. It was the best thing we ever did.”
Among the services offered by Passport 55:
- Work with seniors to help them understand their insurance coverage, including Medicare.
- Advocate on behalf of members to ensure collection of all insurance benefits and verify what balance the client is responsible for and when requested, write checks.
- Assistance with Medicare and insurance appeals.
Passport 55 has more than 2,500 members enrolled in the program since it began in 1987. “A former Mercy administrator felt there was a need in the community to offer this type of service,” said Diane Griffin, a Passport 55 counselor. “The program was originally for Mercy patients with Mercy bills but quickly developed into this full-service program where we assist our clients with all or any clinic and hospital bills,” Griffin said.
Today, the staff of two counselors meets with seniors, or with the families of senior parents, from around the country, including as far away as Michigan, Missouri, Kansas and Florida. “Some families will come in with paperwork after a parent dies and asks us to settle any of the outstanding issues,” Griffin says.
“It’s a gratifying job,” says Lisa Rhyner, Passport 55 counselor. “We’re counselors, advocates, investigators and most of all, friends to our clients.”
“The entire staff really made a big difference for us,” says Margaret Kalmerton.
Passport 55 will celebrate its 20th anniversary with an open house from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, May 16, in the Passport 55 office at Mercy Medical Center.
To become a Passport 55 member, there is an initial membership fee of $60, with an annual renewal rate of $40. The program is partially funded through the Mercy Health Foundation.
For the Editor:
Affinity Health System, a faith-based regional health care network, is the Fox Valley’s second-largest employer, according to the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce & Industry. For the fourth consecutive year, Affinity has been named one of the nation’s top 64 health systems based on clinical performance according to Thomson Reuters, a leading provider of information and solutions to improve the cost and quality of health care. For ten consecutive years, Affinity Health System has been named to the SDI (formerly Verispan) Integrated Health Network Top 100, an annual assessment of the 100 most highly integrated health care networks in the nation. Both St. Elizabeth Hospital in Appleton and Mercy Medical Center in Oshkosh rank among the top 1 percent of hospitals nationwide in terms of quality and efficiency, as determined by the 2007 Premier | CareScience Select practice National Quality Award. Members of Affinity include Mercy Medical Center and Mercy Health Foundation, Oshkosh; St. Elizabeth Hospital and the St. Elizabeth Hospital Foundation, Appleton; Affinity Medical Group, a regional network of 25 family practice and specialty clinics – 22 of which are recognized as NCQA Level III medical homes, the highest level of recognition – in 14 communities; Calumet Medical Center, Chilton; and Affinity Occupational Health.