I have been a debt collector for 15 years. I have built my business to focus on small local business. We are members of the community where we collect. When small business owners do not get paid, it has an immediate impact. In the short run, businesses may have to delay paying their creditors, or put off buying equipment or beginning a new marketing campaign. In the long run, they may have to raise their prices or cut back on staff.
Small medical and dental practices are particularly hard hit with bad debt, much of it resulting from increased insurance out of pocket costs.
I believe that my clients have a right to be paid for the work they do. However, I also believe they have a responsibility to maintain strong billing practices and to take steps to communicate their financial policies to patients clearly.
My purpose is clearly to recover money for my physician clients. However, many successful medical debt collections result from helping consumers understand their insurance policies, or by putting reasonable payment plans in place.
Often, consumers can avoid having their files sent to collection. So, with great humility, I provide the following advice:
Learn what is in your insurance policy.
Insurance is confusing. Policy terms and conditions can change from year to year. If you obtain insurance through your business, ask your employer (your supervisor or human resources manager) how to get more information on your health insurance coverage. Or, call the numbers listed on the back of your insurance card and ask the insurance company directly. Your doctor is not an insurance specialist. While your doctor likely has a competent billing manager, they do not have knowledge only your insurance company will have, such as how many other claims are pending at any given time. Be proactive. Verify your own insurance benefits before you see the doctor. Do you have a deductible? Are any services limited to a certain amount per year?
If you receive a bill from your doctor or dentist that you believe is incorrect, do not ignore it.
I often hear from people that they have received multiple bills that were “not correct”, but ignored them, believing insurance “should have paid”. There are many reasons why a certain claim might not be paid. Sometimes the insurance needs a small piece of information that only the patient can provide. Sometimes the wrong insurance has been billed. If you do not correct these issues, who will?
Insurance claims are time sensitive. Your doctor’s office has to file insurance claims promptly or be barred from filing them at all. That is the doctor’s responsibility. However, it is your responsibility to provide correct insurance information to your doctor, and to assist the insurance company with any information they need to pay the claim.
So, if you get a bill, you think is not correct, do not delay. Pick up the phone and advocate for yourself.
More to come…