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Dealing with Unmet Deductibles

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’.

Three Ways to Increase Your Practice Collections

How much money is your practice losing?Increase Collections

Collections are the life-blood of your practice.  Yet, doctors in the United States lose roughly $125 billion per year due to poor billing practices.  According to an MGMA study, an average practice will recover just $15.77 for every $100 owed once a patient defaults on the amount they owe to you.

Below are some ways that can be implemented in order to maximize your collections. You will find that most are fairly easy and do not require additional resources.  They do require a concentrated effort but will prove to be financially beneficial.

PATIENT PORTAL

  1. Make sure you have a patient portal.
  2. Remember, having a patient portal isn’t enough.  You must maximize your patient portal.
  3. Make sure you have an online bill payment option.

PATIENT COLLECTIONS

  1. Give patients a wide variety of options for paying their bills.  Be sure to accept cash, checks, credit cards and debit cards.
  2. Encourage patients to register a credit card to keep on file with your office and make sure they enroll in an automatic pay option for their patient balances.
  3. Encourage patients to pay past account balances and current charges at the time of service.
  4. Train all staff to firmly but gently communicate with patients about patient financial responsibility issues.
  5. Be willing to refuse service to patients who do not pay.

OUTSOURCE YOUR MEDICAL BILLING

  1. When you transition to a billing company, you get trained specialists dedicated to medical billing.
  2. Outsourcing means you don’t have to worry about personnel issues, covering vacations or ongoing training expenses.
  3. Utilizing a billing company will afford you the benefits of state-of-the-art software, up-to-date processes and key reports in a timely fashion.
  4. Dedicated efforts, working every denial, and not accepting zero payments will result in your practice getting more money faster.

Maybe all three ways won’t work for your practice or maybe you’ve already done some and that is great.  Every way that you implement will only help to increase your practice collections.