As if your job was not hard enough, there are organizations, writers, and public service companies out there that are constantly telling patients not to pay their bills. They might argue that they are only trying to help patients pay the correct amount. But human nature tells me that when people read articles that give them a way to delay or get out of paying something they don’t want to pay - they will take it.
When I see articles like to two links below I cringe. I’m pretty sure these folks have never been on the other side of healthcare. The side that has to decide if we keep an employee or let her go because we are not getting paid. The side that stresses over whether or not payroll is going to be met. The side that needs to upgrade equipment to give the best patient care possible, but due to past due bills, can’t justify spending the money.
All the while, these folks just keep writing, ‘don’t pay your doctor’ posts.
Don't Pay A Medical Bill Until You Do These 5 Things
What To Do When You Desperately Need Help With Medical Bills
I’m going to guess that the people writing these posts got wind of a hospital that billed an emergency room visit at $10,000 for a hangnail. Or some other such easily corrected nonsense. But the consequences to smaller practices, those that come from patients being bombarded with articles like this, contribute to ever increasing A/R balances.
How do we fight back? How do we help our patients understand that the bill is due upon receipt and not ninety days after, when they’ve gotten around to researching the billing codes, asking for an itemized list, negotiating the balance, and the other things these articles are encouraging them to do?
Simple - spell it out for them. Now that you know what your patients are reading you should get out in front of these suggestions. (By the way, I could list many, many more articles similar to these in publications like USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, Nerd Wallet, and others)
My challenge to you is to read these two articles and ask yourself - is my policy clear enough and accessible enough to answer these points BEFORE my patients ever receive a bill?
In other words, are your bills clear enough for a patient to understand what they are paying for? Are you open to negotiation on the bill? Did you give them a crystal clear list of charges? Are co-insurance and co-pay policies clearly printed, pasted, stapled, posted, written down, and digitally downloaded to your patient in every conceivable way? Do you enforce those policies?!!! Is the due date chiseled in stone? Are there painful consequences for late payment? What is your charity policy?
If you don’t think through, nail down, clearly communicate, and enforce your payment policies, your patients will assume you don’t care about being paid on time. They will take the customary ninety days or more to deal with it.
I can’t think of anything worse for a billing department than to have patients who wait three months and then start working on the checklists suggested in these articles. What a frustration for you! They start asking for explanations while they continue to age into the 120 to 150 day buckets. Not good.
Know what the ‘other side’ is thinking and you can prevent a lot of past due payments. It takes extra work and there are always those who will find loopholes. But persist and you will find that the vast majority of your patients not only want to pay you, but will, and on time at that. Keep up the good work - you are doing amazing things!