How to Increase Collections from Consumer-Driven Healthcare Plans

Today the average American family spends about $1,000 a year for out-of-pocket expenses.  Over the next five years, out-of-pocket spending is likely to significantly increase, especially if more people lose their health insurance.

Consumer-driven healthcare plans typically combine a high-deductible health insurance plan with a personal health savings account (“HSA”) from which medical expenses are paid.  This out-of-pocket spending includes prescriptions that are not covered by insurance, dental care, eye care, co-pays, deductibles, etc.  The higher level of out-of-pocket spending can make it more difficult to collect from patients with such plans.

Here are five tips that healthcare practice administrators can implement to increase collections from consumer-driven health plans:

1. Shift your practice’s culture – don’t be afraid to talk about money with your patients.

It seems obvious, but medical practices have a history of not bringing up financial obligations at the time of the appointment. If your practice is one of them, you should consider retraining front office and appointment staff and adding automated workflow tools to assist staff in the process. Remember, this is also a shift for patients. Involve physicians in this process because it not only affects their income but also their work activity schedule.

2. Start with scheduling.

Whether you are answering an appointment phone call or registering a patient in person, include an insurance eligibility check to: a) know if the services are covered; b) know the remaining deductible; and c) explain when you expect to be paid.

 3. Follow-up on the phone.

Use appointment reminder phone calls to provide an estimate of the patient’s financial responsibility and better prepare the patient for his or her visit.

 4. Don’t skip the checkout process.

Most healthcare organizations collect co-pays during check-in, but not during the check-out process. One challenge to collecting money before the patient sees his or her physician is that a procedure may be added later that was not previously accounted for. Checkout is perfect for following up to see which procedures were and were not covered, allowing you to give the patient a good estimate of what he or she will owe. This is also a good time to collect any outstanding balances from previous visits.

 5. Offer many ways to pay.

The ability to take credit cards, debit cards, HSA disbursements and checks help patients choose how they pay before they leave.  This gives patients greater flexibility. Having an accurate representation of their outstanding balances and being able to make a recurring payment are also great options for collecting money.

© 2009 Parsonage Vandenack Williams LLC

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