If patients get sticker shock on their health plan deductibles in January, it’s bound to be contagious. Providers trying to collect payments in the new year are likely to catch it, too.
The calendar rollover in January can be a wake-up call for consumers as they again become responsible for paying every healthcare dollar up to their deductible threshold. Patients who don't realize the reset occurred may be surprised by the first bill of the new year. They are on the hook for more than ever.
Patients are now the third-largest healthcare payer in the country, with only Medicare and Medicaid picking up a larger share of the nation’s medical spending. Patients are coping with this growing burden by relying on health savings accounts (HSAs) to set aside pre-tax funds for routine and unexpected expenses. Research shows there were more than 21 million of these accounts open in June 2017, with assets of $44.7 billion. They are becoming more popular for good reason.
Because the funds in these plans roll over (unlike those in flexible spending accounts), patients can save money that doesn’t “expire” at the end of every year, so they are free to put aside as much as they want without risk. Some accounts are partially funded by employers and through convenient payroll deductions. The ease of accessing these funds with a debit card makes HSAs even more attractive.
Providers Can Support Patient Responsibility
Many providers find that patients are sincere about wanting to pay their medical bills, but it may be challenging for them to do so. Providers can play an important role in encouraging patients to set aside enough money in HSAs for future needs. Compassionate providers, billers and front-desk staff should be able to discuss the advantages of HSAs and point out that these accounts are designed specifically for medical expenses. Patients are more likely to accept financial responsibility when they are properly informed, no matter what the time of year.
Providers can help by offering as many payment options as possible, including those that are HSA-friendly. Devenir reports that 80 percent of withdrawals from HSA accounts are made with debit cards, which underscores the importance of offering advanced card-reading and contactless technology (such as Apple Pay) at the point of service. Offering online bill pay and automated recurring payment plans also increases the likelihood that patients will pay, and do so sooner and more fully.
The HSA is Here to Stay
Devenir predicts the continued growth of HSA accounts, projecting 30 million accounts worth $60 billion for the end of 2019. It’s a great time to be educating patients and offering easy ways for them to pay.
Providers can manage 100 percent of patient payment with one tool on a single platform, with help from ABILITY Network. Patients will be more satisfied and will pay more fully when they can do so with 24/7 mobile-optimized online bill pay, credit/debit cards, Apple Pay, checks, cash, and automated scheduled and recurring payments.
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