Dealing with Unmet Deductibles

Unmet Deductible

Unmet deductibles challenge health care practices and interrupt cash flow.  Long gone are the days when collecting patient payables meant collecting $10 copays.  More and more patients have chosen a high deductible health plan to save on premiums and/or take advantage of health savings accounts (HSA).

Unmet Deductible This means that each patient must pay out of pocket for health care services until their deductible is met.  After that, their insurance will pay your claims.  The amount of the deductible varies from policy to policy.  However, the most common amounts range from $200 to $6,000.

Unfortunately, each new year finds patients, providers and clinic staff struggling to meet these deductibles.  Each must find an effective way to deal with the impact when deductibles reset.  Here are a few basics for improving your patient collections.

Tips to Improve Collecting Patient Deductibles

  1. Prior to the patient’s appointment verify eligibility and know what your patient will owe.  This is especially important because patients change insurances which results in changes to the deductibles.
  2. Always verify whether or not a deductible has been been met when you call to verify the patient’s insurance.
  3. Reduce front desk awkwardness and instead tell the patient why they will owe before the appointment.  Letting the patient know what they will owe is critical.  You can even do this when you place appointment reminder calls.  Patients don’t like surprises and they are being educated to understand that they will owe more than a $10 copay.
  4. Make it easy for them to pay and give them options.  Let them pay on a credit card, by cash, check, money order and even PayPal.  Make sure your staff offers to accept payment during the appointment reminder call or when they check-in or check-out.  Also, make sure that you have this payment expectations/information posted in several places in the office, including the waiting area and patient rooms.
  5. Implement a credit card on file policy whereby your patients agree to have all or some of the balance charged to their credit cards each month.  You do not want the liability of keeping their credit card information onsite, so use a certified and secure third party to retain the information.
  6. Promote your patient portal and if you don’t have one – get one.  Online payments are the way to go!  Some patients just want to go online and make a payment.
  7. Collect a flat amount in advance.  If you don’t know how much the patient will owe, then collect a flat amount.  Let the patient know that after the claim has been paid the balance will be billed to them.
  8. Inform your staff of how to collect money.  Your staff should be well-informed of all office and financial policies.  Consider providing staff with scripts to help them collect patient payments.

Time of service collections and lots of communications will help to make collecting deductibles easier and in the long run reduce everyone’s stress during ‘deductible season’.