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Patient Payments Blog

A Feel Good Story, Maybe.

Posted by Jim Turner

Nov 14, 2017 8:37:00 AM

Michigan nurses, nonprofit team up to clear $1 million medical debt for 500 families

I came across this article recently and thought, what a terrific thing for those nurses to do! Helping 500 families is an amazing accomplishment. Think of the relief for the families and the good vibes for the nurses! Those debts averaged $2000 per family. How would we like it if someone came along and erased that much of our debt!

The article went on to say how they did it.

‘The Michigan Nurses Association, which represents about 13,000 registered nurses statewide, recently worked with Rye, N.Y.-based nonprofit RIP Medical Debt to clear more than $1 million in medical debt for more than 500 Michigan individuals and families, the union said via news release. These efforts, led by MNA members at Lansing, Mich.-based Sparrow Hospital, affects families and individuals across Michigan, including those in the Greater Lansing area.

MNA officials said since RIP Medical Debt buys medical debt for less than its value, the union paid about $10,000 to clear $1 million in debt.’

Reading that makes me feel good. But it also makes me pause. I’m in the business of helping practices get paid before that $1 million goes past due, let alone gets written off. The other thing that made me pause, actually caught me off guard, was that the debt was resolved for a penny on the dollar. One percent of what the original bill was. What must doctors think when their dollars’ worth of work gets reduced to a penny?

What must doctors think when their dollars’ worth of work gets reduced to a penny?

Blue Simple National Nurses Day Social Media Graphic.pngI’m aware that there are a lot of families that get caught unprepared for a medical event. Many of them were never in a position to prepare for one. And charity toward those families has a great place in medicine. We must strive for compassion. But I’m also left wondering how many of those families could have paid their bills without sacrificing their lifestyle.

Many of the suggestions we present from week to week include checking eligibility and doing estimates. Having the financial conversation up front is another recurring theme here. Determining the patient’s ability and willingness to pay before treatment is the difference between charity that’s forced upon you and charity you choose. What do I mean by that?

Determining the patient’s ability and willingness to pay before treatment is the difference between charity that’s forced upon you and charity you choose.

Medical practitioners are generally compassionate. Like the nurses referenced in the story, they want to care for people physically, emotionally, and, in this case, financially. It’s one thing to have compassion on people when we discover they need it. It’s a great thing to make a charitable offer to them. But, there are those who give us no choice by not paying their bills. People who may be able, but are not willing to pay, force us to give up what we’ve earned. Giving up our right to collect what is due in these cases doesn’t feel good. It doesn’t feel like we are being charitable. It feels like we are being robbed.

I guess that’s the heart of why we publish this blog and offer solutions. We want our medical community to remain compassionate but we don’t want them to feel like they are being robbed. We have the solutions and experience to help so we will keep offering them. Our hope is that more practices will discover what they can do to prevent forced charities, collect the money they earn, and have more to give to charities they actually choose.

Topics: healthcare payments, Patient Cost Estimation Tools, Patient Eligibility, Medical Office Administration, charity policy

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