Ron Drummond wants his insights into the hospital industry to be helpful for Samaritan Ministries members.
A member since 2012, Ron was elected to the Samaritan Board of Directors in 2015. He brings years of experience working with hospital charging and billing systems. Ron hopes he can help Samaritan to help its members find better prices for health care in an environment of continually rising costs.
“The biggest problem consumers face when seeking care is there is no standard price for anything and patients normally don’t have any way to understand what prices are before they show up at a doctor’s office for a procedure,” he says. “Most processes for charging are dictated by insurance coding. Prices vary substantially from hospital to hospital and region to region, even within the same region. It’s pretty much the wild, wild West.”
Ron didn’t set out to work as a consultant or auditor in hospitals’ accounting systems. His first job was working in a hospital laboratory in Canton, Illinois. After he and his wife, Lynn, wound up in Waterloo, Iowa, he decided to earn an accounting degree from the University of Northern Iowa, becoming a certified public accountant in 1992. In 1996 Ron took a job with Cerner Corp., the second largest electronic hospital records company in the U.S., as a support specialist working with their laboratory software product. In 1999, Ron began working with the software that is used to capture charges that are billable to patients.
Over the next decade, Ron moved from charging software to patient-accounting software, which is used to create insurance claims and statements for patients. During this time, he saw firsthand how hospitals interacted with insurance companies and how they handled patient billing. After working at Cerner for 16 years, he stepped out on his own to do independent consulting, helping medical providers implement Cerner’s Patient Accounting software.
“I was much more confident than my wife was,” he says.
Consulting was rewarding, but finding work was a challenge. Although the jobs were there, they often didn’t last as long as planned.
“There were several times I was getting a notification that a project was ending and I had to find another project, which made Lynn nervous. It worked out very well. In three years of consulting, I think there were only four weeks when I didn’t get a paycheck.”
Now Ron works as a Revenue Integrity auditor for Softek Solutions, a software company with products that complement Cerner’s charging functionality.
“I help hospitals audit the processes to make sure that the charging functionality is as correct as it can be,” he says. “We’re looking for errors in processes in software that affect hospital charging. We’re making sure all the dots line up, so that a charge is created when it should be.”
One of the insights that his career has given him, especially in his current job, is how hospitals attempt to make their revenues work out. There are predetermined rates of payment hospitals receive from Medicare and prenegotiated discounts for insurance. The processes in place for those paying cash often don’t result in respectable discounts.
Another challenge for cash-paying patients is being funneled to means testing to determine eligibility for government assistance or charitable assistance. (Samaritan’s Ministry Guidelines state that “seeking government assistance from government aid programs is never required by SMI and is contrary to our understanding of God’s will for His people.”)
Now that Ron is a Samaritan member attempting to navigate hospital billing for his own needs, he has developed a process he goes through to find the best price for health care.
Ron is using his knowledge on different scales. On a small scale, he has mapped out discounts and hospital prices at Kansas City hospitals and shared the information with other members through Samaritan’s Facebook page. On a larger scale, he’s helping Samaritan leadership—and through them the members—to find ways to get better prices, so shares can stay lower for longer.
New members have only known how to deal with their insurance companies and the insurance company’s network. Educating new members before they have a need is key.
“I felt that Samaritan needs to provide more relevant information about shopping for the best value when selecting health care options,” Ron says. “There are some providers that do provide a fair cash price without negotiation and Samaritan would be ahead to help members locate them. To help keep share prices manageable, members need to evaluate prices and discounts before seeking services.”
Ron was elected a year ago and has attended three Board meetings, one as an observer and two as a member of the Board.
When he’s not auditing, consulting, or serving Samaritan members, Ron is contributing through ministry to his church or gardening with his wife, Lynn.
Both have been involved in the youth program, AWANA, in their congregation, Antioch Bible Baptist. Exercising his accounting skills, Ron served on the finance committee at Antioch for a couple years, until his travel schedule started to interfere. He also has been a co-coordinator for the church’s Dave Ramsey Financial Peace outreach for the past several years. Ron also has attended the Ramsey financial Coach Master Series in Nashville.
“Dave Ramsey’s focus is to help people get into a budgeting mindset, eliminate debt from their household, and become financially independent,” he says. “In our church, we work with people and help them organize their debt, come up with a plan to put a budget together and get out of debt, start saving towards retirement, and increase their giving.”
Ron and Lynn live in a rural community on a “farmette” of 10 acres. They have added to the vegetable gardens prepared by the previous owners by planting several fruit trees, blueberries, raspberries, and grapes. The previous owners sold produce in the local farmer’s market, but the Drummonds aren’t quite that dedicated to farming just yet.
They also have a heart for Samaritan families with pre-existing maternity Special Prayer Needs.
“A couple that joins Samaritan when they are already pregnant place their faith in God to meet their need,” Ron says. “From a membership perspective, it’s an opportunity to send them a card and say, ‘Thanks for trusting in the Samaritan principle,’ and to offer encouragement that the other members are going to help meet their need. It’s one opportunity for pre-existing conditions to be met.”