Medical debt collection has been in the news lately because more and more Americans are unable to pay what they owe because of higher out of pocket medical costs. There are differing arguments, based mainly on political ideology for a better healthcare/insurance system. However, the system we have today provides both challenges opportunities for health care provider.
Each part of your service delivery provides an opportunity to communicate, and better communication can prevent problems down the road.
- New Patient Intake – Before a patient is seen, collect as much information as you can. Many practices have their patient forms online and require them to be completed and provided at the first visit. This is great, except that insurance information should be collected and verified well before the first visit. Many of the bills we see come for collection involve inactive insurance policies that were not presented until the date of service. As much as practical, verify insurance before the first visit and make sure to communicate information on any out-of-pocket costs to the patient.
- Patient Financial Responsibility – Each new patient should sign a statement promising to pay any out of pocket costs. The statement should inform patients when you expect to be paid and the types of payment plans you are willing to accept. Update each year.
- Patient Billing – Once insurance has processed the claim, patient statements should be sent that clearly indicate charges, payments and adjustments. Bill promptly and regularly.
- Collection Letters – If, unfortunately, patients fail to pay you on time, have a collection letter ready to send out. Your letter should be polite but firm. Again, give a specific time period for payment. You can also send a second letter with increasing urgency, and advise patient that you will take further collection action if payment is not received by the due date.