In just seven short months, millions of Americans will gain access to health insurance through either expanded Medicaid eligibility or a health insurance exchange. Knowing where to turn though can be daunting for consumers. Enroll America, a 501(c)(3) that includes the AHA, Families USA and Kaiser Permanente, is just one group that's putting boots on the ground to try and explain coverage options to consumers and help them get ready to enroll.

Even before the 2014 floodgates open though, hospitals can play a pivotal role in helping patients find coverage options, which not only benefits patients, but also the hospital's bottom line. During a 25-month pilot project, Sharp HealthCare and its technology partner, PointCare, discovered that 80 percent of self-pay patients were eligible for coverage in a public program but were not enrolled.

Armed with that knowledge, Sharp was actually able to direct patients to the appropriate coverage vehicle. Over two-and-a-half years, the San Diego health system saw a $7.7 million increase to patient cash collections.

Gerilynn Sevenikar, vice president of patient financial services for Sharp, says that entering into a "compassionate" discussion with patients allowed the health system to create a constructive dialogue and work together to resolve what can be a very sticky issue.

Sevenikar and Ankeny Minoux, COO of PointCare, discuss the pilot in this video.