Health

As the federal government shutdown drags into its fifth week, Norton Healthcare is waiving co-pays and deductibles for federal employees who still haven’t received a paycheck. The waived fees apply in Norton emergency rooms, immediate care centers and with virtual telehealth visits.

The move comes as health care providers nationwide, including in Michigan, New York and New Jersey, are also waiving these fees. Norton System Chief Medical Officer Steven Hester said there are many families affected by the shutdown.

“One of the things at this time of the year, obviously flu season is heavy and other illnesses, and we want to make sure that families aren’t wondering how they’re going to receive their healthcare needs,” Hester said. “So we decided to waive co-pays and deductibles for emergency visits at our immediate care centers, our e-care video visits and our six area emergency departments for furloughed federal employees and their family members.”

The new policy will last until the shutdown ends and applies to 14 area Norton Immediate Care Centers, Norton eCare virtual visits and emergency departments at Norton Audubon Hospital, Norton Brownsboro Hospital, Norton Hospital, Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital, Norton Children’s Hospital and Norton Children’s Medical Center.

Hester said Norton didn’t apply the waiving of co-pays and deductibles to outpatient doctor’s appointments because video visits provide a basic level of care.

“Certainly when you look at offering different levels of care, we think the video visits offer one level of care, immediate care centers offer sort of that next level,” Hester said.

Nationwide, there have been reports of federal workers not being able to afford prescriptions, doctor’s appointments and other health care services because of being out of work.

The partial government shutdown has already stretched a record 32 days as the president and members of Congress have failed to agree on funding for a border security wall. 800,000 federal employees across the country haven’t received paychecks; that includes those that are furloughed and those that are deemed essential and have to work but are not being paid. In Kentucky, 6,500 federal workers are affected, according to a Washington Post analysis.

 

Lisa Gillespie is WFPL's Health and Innovation Reporter.