Is patient bad debt hurting your bottom line?

May 4, 2017 ABILITY

Healthcare providers are increasingly finding themselves acting as banks and bill collectors when it comes to getting paid for care. With the rise of high-deductible health plans and other cost-sharing, many patients are struggling to pay what their plans don’t cover. All too often, collection becomes the problem of clinical practices and hospitals. But there are ways to manage patient bad debt and prevent write-offs.

To lower the risk of any potential complications and prevent delays in revenue, it’s important to work with patients to identify and address any potential issues before they occur. For example, research consistently shows that collecting payment in-person is an industry best practice and brings the best results. Discussing your patient’s eligibility, deductible, and copayment before or at the time of visit is recommended as it helps avoid payment complications. These can be sensitive subjects and it’s important to keep that in mind when working with your patients. Remembering this will help avoid challenges before they occur.

As a billing manager, it’s also critical to be aware of the legal regulations dictating best practices for how to collect payment from your patients. For example, you should have a written payment policy and apply it fairly, as consumer protection laws govern their use. Don’t make a habit of waiving copays – this can be construed as fraud by some insurance plans, which consider collecting copays part of your contractual responsibility. Lastly, keep in mind that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), state law and insurance contracts also have a say in what you collect and how you collect overdue payments.

Making sure you’re covered

Following up is critical to ensure you receive payments on time. This includes quickly processing claims which can speed payments and prevent them from timing out. You will also find that giving up on denied claims can mean leaving money on the table. It is also beneficial to consider a third-party lender to finance patient bad debt instead of managing payment plans yourself. If necessary, write off bills below a certain dollar value since they may be more expensive than worthwhile debt to collect. Lastly, don’t wait too long if you have to resort to bill collection. The recommended trigger dates are six to eight weeks. Keeping these points in mind when following up should help you achieve the best results with securing timely payments.

For additional information on how ABILITY Network applications can help make the collection process run more smoothly, contact us today. View our Challenges in Patient Payment for additional strategies on how to address these potential challenges, or visit the Open Enrollment section of our Resource Center.


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