How To Overcome Common Collection Problems

Unemployment:

Be sympathetic but keep the patient making payments, even if they are smaller than normal. Maintain control. Offer a short term plan that accepts smaller payments, and follow up with the patient after the predetermined period of time to determine whether they have returned to work and can establish a more acceptable payment plan.

 

Illness:

Find out who is ill and the severity of the illness. Keep questioning until you have the information you need. If the illness is catastrophic in nature and there are no assets left, you may have to end your collection efforts.

 

Payment is in the mail:

Try to distinguish if this is a stall or is really true. Ask for the amount of the check, date, check number, and the bank the check is written on. Tell the patient you will be calling if the check is not in your hands within two business days , and be sure to do so.

 

Promise to pay in the future:

Check patient’s past payment record, if any, and find out why full payment cannot be made now. Avoid agreeing to a payment too far into the future.

 

Not responsible for debt:

Ask questions to find out why the patient feels this way. Often the patient doesn’t understand their charges. It is up to you to determine the real problem and help the patient resolve it. If their reasoning seems to be valid, get information about the responsible party or insurance company. Remind the patient that even if they have insurance, they are the ones who are ultimately responsible for payment of the debt.

For training videos on how to overcome common objections and excuses, visit our YouTube channel.

 

Separation/divorce:

Ask questions to gather information and obtain the names of the attorneys. Compare the date of charges to the date of the divorce decree or separation. If debt was incurred before the divorce, find out who was responsible for payment of the bills at that time.

 

Bankruptcy:

Find out the type of bankruptcy the patient filed. Get the date and docket number of the case. The law requires you to stop your collection efforts once bankruptcy has been filed and the court will determine who is to receive any available assets.

 

Receipt of partial payment:

Thank the patient for payment and find out how much more they owe in order to make payment in full. At this stage you have to make the best payment arrangement possible. Specify the date payment is due, the amount of the payment, and the manner in which it will be made (check, money order, etc.).

 

Hearing-impaired patient:

To communicate with a profoundly hearing-impaired patient you must both have a TDD (Telecommunications Device for the Deaf) machine. If you do not, you may communicate through a relay service which charges a fee for each call made. If a service is used, your first message must ask the patient for a written release allowing you to discuss personal business affairs and personal health information through a third party.

 

Call after a broken promise:

It is very important to follow up immediately upon failure to maintain a payment arrangement or promise to pay. Find out why the promise was broken and ask for payment in full again. If payment in  full is not possible, the patient may want to set up a payment schedule again. Be sure they know that this is the last promise you will accept from them.

 

Patient is not home/not available:

Get the name of the person you are talking to. Find out when the patient will be home and, if you do not have them, try to get phone numbers for the place of employment of both the patient and their spouse.

 

Argumentative patients:

Do not allow yourself to become personally involved and do not argue. If you have difficulty coping, transfer the call to your collection supervisor.

 

Abusive patients:

First, try to identify the problem. Once you have determined the real issue, assure the patient that you will try to help resolve it. It is important to listen; this is how you will identify the problem areas and discover ways of solving them.

 

Military patients:

Patients in the military move frequently and are difficult to contact. If your letters are being ignored, you might try going through the patient’s chain of command.

 

Death:

Be sympathetic and understanding. Find out the name of the executor of the estate and contact them. If necessary, file a creditor’s claim.

 

Turnover:

You may come in contact with a patient with whom you cannot work. The best thing to do is to turn that account over to someone else who may be able to approach the patient from a new, more successful angle.

 

See our Guide to Contacting Patients for more tips on the best days and times to contact patients regarding an outstanding bill.

 

Before making a call to a patient, review the 8 Steps to a Good Collection Call.

 

This information is not to be construed as legal advice. Legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. Although we attempt to provide up-to-date information, laws and regulations often change. We make no claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy or completeness of this document. For legal advice, please consult an attorney.

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