Demetrio Aguila started the Healing Hands M25 Program six months ago

By Gabrielle Chung
January 28, 2020
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CBS This Morning

A surgeon in Nebraska 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 give those who couldn’t afford surgery the option to pay for their surgery by donating their time to community service, according to his clinic’s website.

While the nerve specialist does take traditional lump-sum or installments of monetary payment, he’s employed a time-based system of billing that allows his clinic to set reasonable and predictable prices — and determine how much volunteering a patient would complete to pay for their medical expenses.

“Since we are not constrained by commercial insurance contracts, we have the freedom to be transparent about our pricing and we charge exactly what we say we do,” a webpage about Aguila’s program reads. “Every patient knows the exact cost of the care offered, right down to the last penny, prior to undergoing any visit or procedure.”

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, Aguilla 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.

Putting his patients’ health into consideration, Aguila also allows those in the M25 Program to enlist others’ 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 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.

“The M25 Program is not about money,” he said. “If people come together to help other people, then your community thrives.”

According to the CBS News, about 10 percent of Aguila’s patients qualify for the program. There are currently eight people enrolled.

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This article originally appeared on People.com