Fil-Am surgeon in Nebraska lets patients pay with volunteer work
People Magazine and CBS News are bringing attention to a Filipino American surgeon in Nebraska who is letting his patients pay off their medical bills with hours of volunteer work.
Dr. Demetrio Aguila of Healing Hands of Nebraska started his M25 Program to let patients who couldn’t afford the cost of surgery the chance to pay it off by donating their time to community service, according to his clinic’s website.
Aguila, a nerve specialist, still takes money payment, but he has also used a time-based system of billing that sets reasonable and predictable prices. He then determines how many volunteer hours a patient needs to complete to pay for the medical bill.
He says his clinic is not hemmed in by commercial insurance contracts and, therefore, it is free to be transparent about its pricing. “And we charge exactly what we say we do,” a webpage about Aguila’s program explains. “Every patient knows the exact cost of the care offered, right down to the last penny, prior to undergoing any visit or procedure.”
“The M25 Program is not about money,” he said. “If people come together to help other people, then your community thrives.”
Aguila told CBS News that he founded the program six months ago to help eliminate debt for patients.
“We can’t ignore the people in our own backyard,” he said. “We want to be able to offer hope to patients who have lost hope medically.”
By partnering with charitable organizations, Aguila believes the program allows people from all walks of life to receive medical care without the concern of cost.
“I don’t care if you’re a multi-billionaire or if you’re the guy on the street corner with a styrofoam cup. You get offered the same options. Why? Because it’s fair,” the physician said.
Weighing his patients’ health situation, Aguila also allows them to get others to help with volunteering and earn hours on their behalf.
Jeff Jensen, who was the program’s first patient, needed to complete 560 hours of charity work as his payment, according to a testimonial video shared on Healing Hands of Nebraska’s website. Students at University of Nebraska Medical Center stepped in and volunteered at Orphan Grain Train to help him complete some of the charity work needed for his surgery.
According to the CBS News, about 10 percent of Aguila’s patients qualify for the program. There are currently eight people enrolled.