Over the years, I have worked with a number of medical and dental practices, helping them collect delinquent patient accounts and working with them to improve their credit practices. I am certain that any business, especially a medical or dental practice, can reduce the bad debt in their business. Consider the following ideas.
Verify and communicate insurance
For both new and current patients, verify insurance coverage before each visit. Before the patient is seen, make sure they understand any limitations and out-of-pocket expenses they may encounter, and do it in writing. Review with patient and make sure they sign a statement that they understand and agree to pay any sums insurance does not cover. If the patient has a high deductible, consider a separate notice that explains it. Review the notice with the patient and ask them to sign their agreement.
One of the things we often her from people in collections is, “I thought my insurance covered that”. While we understand how health insurance works and can explain it to them, if you communicate insurance coverage in advance, you might save problems down the road.
Patient Responsibility Form and Your Expectations for Payment
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.
Once insurance has processed the claim, patient statements should be sent that clearly indicate charges, payments and adjustments. Bill promptly and regularly.
Make it easy for patients to pay you
I recently visited a new specialist. My insurance carries a $35.00 copay per visit. The day following my visit, I received an email with a link. I was able to pay easily and quickly. If you do not have an online payment portal, invest in one. Merchant providers are providing all sorts of options, including delivery via email and text.
Many patients now have Health Savings Accounts. Make sure to let patients know you can accept them for payment.
Offer a variety of payment plans to patients, including CareCredit or another healthcare financing option, if available to your practice. Make certain all payment plans are in writing, and signed by the patient.
Collection on Overdue Patient Accounts – It’s a process
Stay on top of overdue patient accounts. Set up a process to follow up. Compose a collection letter to send after 30 days. 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.
Do not hesitate to hire a collection agency
If a patient goes more than 90 days past due, you are likely going to have trouble getting paid. Consider hiring a collection agency that is experienced in medical debt collection. There are many good agencies out there, and you should be able to find an agency that understands your business.
You provided service with the expectation of being paid. You also did not intend to give an interest free loan. The more you communicate your payment expectations, the more likely it is that patients will pay you on time.