The patient payment process is an important component of and Medical Billing Service. Many patients that default on paying medical bills do not originally intend to do so. When a patient gets sick or is hurt, the patient may not have the ability to pay off all of the bill at the start of treatment. Physicians and practice administrators can make it easier and more manageable for patients to stagger treatment, create a payment plan, and work towards full payment. Working with patients from the outset will create better payment outcomes for medical practices.
1. Train staff to get payments or start a payment plan while the patient is front of them.
Get patients to take care of their responsibilities during the course of treatment. Sensitive but assertive, well trained staff really helps.
Some suggestions include:
- Find out exactly what the patient owes before the appointment arrives. Collect the entire copay and deductibles daily at the desk.
- Establish a “No Pay, No Visit” policy. All but seriously ill patients that cannot take care of their payment responsibilities the day of service should be rescheduled. The policy should be on all applicable documentation and website pages. Patients should be informed of the next payment required for their next appointment prior to the date itself.
- On the day of the appointment, ask for payment with a statement such as, “How would you like to pay today?”
- Use scripts to help staff deal with potentially difficult patients.
- Establish an internal collection policy to handle late and missing patient payments.
2. Review insurance policies in detail with patients.
It is easy to ignore the fine print of insurance plan coverage. Employees may have little say about changes to policies and human resources may give them little notice or encouragement to discuss how the changes impact them. Increasingly, many Americans who receive coverage under the Affordable Care Act may have chosen high deductible plans. They may be unaware of the out-of-pocket expenses necessary to pay before their coverage steps in. A practice manager should review and help patients find out more about their coverage before and if necessary during the initial stages of treatment. Ensure that insurance policies remain active throughout the course of treatment. Have patients responsible for informing the staff of updates. Form better communications at the outset of services.
3. Discuss payment plans with patients before and during treatment.
In general, patients do want to be responsible for services. Discuss options to make it affordable and automatic. They can choose an option and then link up their accounts to automatically make the payments by due dates. During period of high stress and worry, financial obligations often become a low priority. There are many services that automatically charge a patient’s credit card a predetermined amount every month.
The patient payment plan should be written out, agreed upon and signed by patients. It should explicitly detail consequences from missed payments. Payment plans should not exceed six months in length. Accept payments online and via the web portal.
4. Writing off small balances may be preferable to going through a third party collection agency.
If a patient fails to make payments, the amount may be small enough that a write-off is better for the practice than turning to a debt collection agency. According to the Association of Credit and Collection Professions statistics, the healthcare industry recovers only about 22 percent of delinquent funds. After commission to the agency, a practice may only recover 14%. Public relations headaches can arise from poor debt collection agency tactics that affect the reputation of the medical establishment that contracted their services.
Diligent efforts on behalf of medical practice can increase immediate revenue and reduce the problem of non-payment. Assist patients in fulfilling their responsibilities and getting the care they need.