Why do I have a balance? The golden question regarding patient payments every physician’s office staff member dreads beginning January 1st. Unfortunately, your patients are not usually savvy when it comes to the nuts and bolts of their contract, and they are frustrated. They thought their plan was good, but now they have a bill.
68% of patients failed to fully pay off medical bill balances in 2016, up from 53 percent in 2015, and 49 percent in 2014. This number is expected to climb to 95% by 2020
Source: Patients May be the New Payers, But Two in Three Do Not Pay Their Hospital Bills in Full, TransUnion Healthcare, June 26, 2017
So here we are, in 2020. Let’s make sure your office is equipped and able to collect patient payments for services rendered rather than becoming a part of this scary statistic.
Begin with the basics. Make sure that your staff understands these key terms and is comfortable explaining them to your patients.
Deductible – The deductible is the amount the patient has to pay for covered services before the insurance plan pays. Some insurance plans will apply an office visit to the deductible, others will not. Family plans typically have an individual and family deductible.
Copay & Coinsurance – These are both the portion the patient will be responsible for after their deductible has been met. Copays are a set, flat fee. Coinsurance is a set percentage that the patient will pay.
Max Out of Pocket – This is the limit of what a patient will pay for covered services within a plan year. Again, on family plans, there may be an individual max and family max.
Keep in mind your staff will not know the details of your patients’ plans, nor should they be expected to! In the ever-changing world of health insurance, our patients need to become better consumers. So just being able to explain these key terms and why they create a patient balance will help them become better insurance plan shoppers!
Use your tools. Look into using Integrated Eligibility (available through your billing software and your clearinghouse). This will allow your staff to check remaining deductible balances, copay and coinsurance amounts with the click of a button. These results allow practices to confidently collect at the time of service rather than spending time and money on sending statements and working collections after the visit.
Create a plan and stick to it. Use this time to review the efficiency of your patient collections plan. Are you using an outdated plan or policy? Have you considered offering payment plans to patients with an HSA card kept on file? Make sure that your employees understand how important patient collections are to the practice, educate them on the plan and support them when they hold patients accountable to the patient collections policy.