Setting Expectations for Co-Pays and Balances: Increasing Collections Part 2

Continuing with our series on Patient Payments it’s important to set expectations with both staff members and patients in order to reduce Accounts Receivable. 58 percent of bad debt is from self pay patients according to respondents from The Association of Work Process Improvement (TAWPI) Payment Trends Healthcare Industry survey.

With Universal Healthcare rapidly approaching and more and more patients take on co-pays, setting expectations ahead of time will help with obtaining payment at the time of service and increase the likelihood patients will pay off their balances.

There are easy measures that can be put into place to help set expectations.

Payment Policy – Have a written payment policy that your staff fully understands.  Make the policy available to your patients.  Post the policy on your website and place a sign in your office stating “We collect your co-payment at the time of service”

Make it easy to pay – Obtaining payments can be resolved by simply making payment options convenient.  Having a payment plan structure, online payments and financing options  can make all the difference in the world.  Most people are willing to pay as long as it doesn’t require a stamp and a post office.  Data from the 2012 Trends in Healthcare Payments Annual Report found “72 percent of patients surveyed said they would like to be able to pay their healthcare bills online.”

Offer Discounts – The more payment options provided the more likely you are to get paid.  For those that are uninsured or underinsured, consider offering a discount.   Getting paid something is better than getting paid nothing.

Timely billing – Make sure patients are aware a billing statement will be sent. The further out from the date of service the less value the patient views in the service. According to the 2009 McKinsey Quarterly U.S. Healthcare Payments study, 19 percent did not make a payment because they did not receive a billing statement in a timely manner. It is important to get the first statement out within 30 days while the value of the service is still fresh their mind.  Billing should stay timely and consistent. Do not let months lag between the first billing to second billing.  Patient billing is not a merely a function, it plays a critical and strategic role in revenue collection and cash flow.

Why are so many facilities afraid to ask for payment up-front? Healthcare should operate similarly to any other business in setting payment expectations upfront and providing multiple payment opportunities.  It will actually reduce the patient’s stress of having to worry about how or when they will be able to pay and point of service collections will skyrocket.