In this age of insurance plans with high cost-sharing (e.g., deductibles, co-insurance) requirements, a solid collections policy is critical for every medical practice. When practices are lax about checking patient eligibility for services and ensuring a complete picture of what the patient will owe for your services, cash flow suffers. This brief article provides four good tips to prevent this from happening to you.
Be confident and assertive. Asking people for money can be uncomfortable, and without the proper training, your staff will not know how to ask or how to handle patients who “forget their checkbooks.” Your office policies should delineate how payments are requested, whether they are prior to the service, or before scheduling a follow-up appointment. In addition, when making appointment reminder calls, your staff can remind the patient about an outstanding balance or deductible payment that is due.
Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Because insurance coverage can change at any time, be sure to state that the charges are current as of the date the benefits were checked. If you’ve ever called a health plan, you’ve heard the recording that hedges even the plan’s confirmation of the information. Do the same.
Ask the right questions. Again, because of the discomfort factor, sometimes employees can phrase the payment as a request rather than a reminder. If given the option of paying the bill, most patients will opt for later rather than now. Having to bill a patient entails a cost to the practice, so it’s best to coach staff on the words and tone to use when (politely but firmly) asking for payment.
Prepare for the unexpected. Make sure staff knows how to handle the non-paying patient. Keep in mind that establishing payment plans for large bills or coordinating the patient’s application with one of the many healthcare financing options are some ways to help the patient meet his or her obligation to your practice.