In the heart of North Carolina furniture country, in a county struggling with above-average unemployment, sits a hospital with a little-known distinction. Thomasville Medical Center is, by one important measure, the states most generous hospital.
In 2010, the hospital devoted 13 percent of its budget to charity care the highest percentage in the state.
Located about 70 miles northeast of Charlotte, the 146-bed hospital is owned by Novant Health, a nonprofit hospital chain with the states most generous charity care policy. At hospitals owned by Novant, uninsured patients with family incomes less than 300 percent of federal poverty guidelines can qualify for free care.
That means a family of four with an income of less than $69,000 would qualify. At that level, many Thomasville residents would be eligible. The towns median family income is about $36,000.
Some North Carolina hospitals require patients to supply extensive documentation before they can be approved for charity care. Supplying such information can be hard for patients facing medical emergencies.
But Thomasville, like other Novant hospitals, uses soft credit checks, making it easier for patients to qualify. That system gathers financial information so that patients dont have to provide as much documentation. The checks dont affect patients credit scores.
Novants financial assistance policy and soft credit checks help explain why several of its hospitals are among those in North Carolina that spend the largest percentages of their budgets on charity care.
Financial counselors are trained to make eligible patients aware of the financial assistance policy. Novant also explains the policy in a brochure and on its website.
Its not buried on our website, said Novant spokesman Jim Tobalski. Thats something weve improved on.
Thomasville also hosts a free medical clinic run by nonprofit Davidson Medical Ministries, providing free medical tests to uninsured patients there.
Thomasville Medical Center president Kathie Johnson said providing charity care is part of our mission to take care of all Davidson County.
Without this kind of support, she said. it would be very difficult for some people to get the care they need.
Staff writer Karen Garloch contributed.