Overcoming Payment Obstacles to Increase Cash Flow and Improve Patient Satisfaction

Offering quality care is only part of what it takes to run a successful independent practice in 2019. Patients are paying more and more up front. Meanwhile, healthcare costs continue to consume an ever-higher percentage of a policyholder’s income thanks to rising insurance premiums.

Consider these sobering statistics:

  • The average deductible for employer-based health insurance plans reached $1,500 in 2018, and the average deductible for an ACA bronze plan topped out at $5,800.
  • In many practices, patient balances account for 23 percent of total collections.
  • It’s been reported that 20 percent of insured working-age Americans have difficulty paying their medical bills.
  • Almost 30 percent of adults in the U.S. have medical debt or difficulty paying medical bills.
  • A quarter of all U.S. families have an unpaid healthcare bill, and 20 percent are paying over time.

In most households, medical expenses fall behind such priorities as mortgages, rent, car payments, day care, utilities and cell service. Even a small outstanding healthcare balance can be a problem for a family living from paycheck to paycheck. From a medical practice’s perspective, recent studies have shown that physicians spend at least as much time on desk work, EHR, insurance and billing matters as they do with patients.

There’s much you can do to ensure that patients don’t feel so overwhelmed by medical debt that they give up on paying or, worse, avoid treatment altogether. Here are six ways to start developing a system that promotes more consistent payments.

  1. Know what they owe. Verify eligibility and benefit status in real time so you can identify what copays and deductibles are due at the time of the visit.
  2. Set a goal of collecting 100 percent of all patient copays in the office. Communicate “no copay, no visit” every chance you have—at the bottom of bills, on your website, in the office. Train staff to become familiar with the deductible and copay requirements of various plans, and be sure to call patients in advance to remind them about co-pays and deductibles.
  3. Make the most of patient statements. Send e-statements that include a “pay now” feature. If you’re still using paper, create a better statement by removing the aging buckets and adding “due now.” Add the “past due” from the second statement on.
  4. Keep up with emerging technologies so patients can easily pay online. Provide patient access to an online portal to view statements and print and pay bills.
  5. Offer payment plans. These should be documented in writing and signed by patient. The installment plan should have options that make it easy for a patient to pay—but be sure to spell out what will happen when a payment is missed Note: Payment plans should not to exceed six months.
  6. When it comes to past-due balances, be persistent but not annoying. There’s a fine line between reminding patients and harassing them. Educate your staff on how to handle sensitive situations and politely ask for payment.

Please contact us to schedule a free consultation or to explore strategies to improve your billing and collections processes.