Collecting Self-pay Balances: Cash Is King
You cannot pick up a newspaper today without reading about the 47 million uninsured US residents. Well, that is only the tip of the iceberg. Yes, there may be that many people without any third-party coverage, but there is a much larger group of individuals who fall into the self-pay category: all of us with high-deductible health plans. Deductibles today run from $500 to $5,000, and if you are normally a health individual, when a need for radiography or a CT scan presents itself, there is a good chance that you will be paying for a portion of it out of your own pocket. Given this shift toward many services being paid for personally, consumers are more concerned as to how they spend their money. Funny how it didn’t seem to matter how much a service cost when the employer was paying the bill. Now that I’m paying for medical services, I’m part of the new consumer-driven health care generation, and I’m not going to settle for the way that services have been delivered in the past. If I can’t get an appointment within a reasonable time frame (and remember, I’ll define reasonable), I’ll go somewhere else for the service. You’ll need to give me the total cost of the services upfront, because I will be shopping. Oh, and by the way, trying to justify a higher price because of your quality doesn’t cut it. How would a layperson know whether one radiologist was better than another radiologist? If you schedule me for an imaging service at 1 pm and I wait until 2 pm, you can count on me subtracting the value of one hour of my time from your bill. You may be finding that patients are the primary payors, even though they have presented you with their insurance cards before the time of service. Your practice will need to adjust, given this new class of self-pay patients; here are some ideas to help ensure that your self-pay receivables don’t skyrocket.
- For preverification of third-party coverage, use online resources, when available.
- Collect copays and deductibles before patients leave the office.
- Review and request any outstanding balances before setting another appointment.
- Ask for payment in full: You are not a bank. If they can’t pay in full, tell patients that you will accept two equal payments. If the patient still balks and says, “I can’t afford two payments,” train your staff never to say, “So, what can you afford?”