5 Strategies to Prevent Patient Bad Debt During COVID

5 Strategies to Prevent Patient Bad Debt During COVID

Read our 5 Strategies to Prevent Patient Bad Debt During COVID

The common thinking among many finance professionals is that Spring is a time when people pay their outstanding bills. In light of the COVID pandemic, this Spring may not see as much debt resolution as usual because patients are either trying to recover from the material effects of illness or struggling to make ends meet due to employment changes.

Unfortunately, 2021 may give patients needing care another financial hit: A recent PWC report predicted that medical costs could rise as much as 10%, subjecting patients to the highest rate of inflation for medical care since 2007.

For some patients, it will be challenging to pay outstanding medical bills under these circumstances, and that could mean more bad debt for your practice. Fortunately, there are ways your office can help patients meet their financial responsibilities and avoid going into debt.

Consider Payment Plans

If your practice is not already offering payment plans, now may be the time to begin. Two points to consider when structuring payment plans for your office:

  • Limit the number of payments that can be made and set a minimum monthly payment. Plans will require administrative time from your office. Limits can help manage labor costs.
  • Consider only accepting plans using credit-card-on-file. Mailing statements costs time and money.

Remind Front Desk Staff That Payment is Expected At The Time of Service

Front office personnel set the tone for payment expectations, and sometimes it can be challenging to ask for money. Confirm your front desk is still requesting payment for copays and pre-pays for deductible amounts. Even if the patient cannot pay at the time of the visit, at least they will be aware of an upcoming bill.

Designate Financial Counselors

Consider appointing some front desk personnel to have private, confidential conversations with patients that are struggling to pay. This staff member should be well versed in any payment plans you offer and be authorized to accept deposits on copays and deductibles. Remember that providers cannot offer discounts to patients with any type of insurance. Both the patient and the provider have entered legally binding contracts, and offering discounts can be interpreted as a kick-back to the patient. If you use a collection agency for bad debt, consider reviewing your terms with them and get their feedback about adjustments that could be made for payment thresholds.

Avoid Surprise Billing

Few things can be as stressful as receiving a large, unexpected medical bill in a time of financial crisis. Although many people think of surprise billing as occurring in large hospitals and health systems, it can happen in any provider setting. Consider adjusting workflows to review patient statements over a target threshold for accuracy. Also, be sure to communicate to the patient any change to procedures during treatment as they may affect billing.

Prevent Denials

Per RevCycleIntelligence, over 90% of denials are avoidable. Denials can be a tremendous source of anxiety for patients; if justified, they result in patients becoming responsible for full payment. Confirm your revenue cycle systems are helping you run efficiently and effectively:

  • Confirm up to date credentialling for all providers and facilities
  • Update claims scrubbers
  • Code to the highest level of specificity
  • Monitor denials for patterns that reveal process failures
  • Ensure the front desk is entering demographics accurately

Although it looks like the end is in sight for the pandemic, it will take some time for life to return to normal. Offering understanding and helpful options to patients now can strengthen the provider-patient relationship, which should lead to healthier patients and a healthier bottom-line in the future.

Do you have questions about optimizing your revenue cycle during COVID? Contact us today.