Collecting From Self-Pay Patients

Collecting from self-pay patients can be complicated. Uninsured or under-insured patients may feel that their medical bills are unmanageable or overwhelming. Medical collections representatives, like you, must attempt to obtain payment for services were rendered, while assisting the patient in understanding their bill, helping them with Charity Care Programs (if eligible) and effectively communicating with them without resorting to aggressive tactics.

Help patients manage their accounts. Helping patients understand their medical bills and working with them to come up with manageable payment plans is a lot more effective than simply trying to get their credit card information. For a lot of patients, watching their medical debts accumulate can be very burdensome and they may not know where to start. The best strategy is to start by listening to the patient. Once the problem is determined, work with them on creating a solution and setting up a payment arrangement.

When setting up the payment arrangement with the patient, do not ask, “How much can you afford to pay?” We all know the answer to that – it’s $5, $10, or maybe $15. Instead, begin by asking the patient, “How long do you think this will take you to pay off?” You will notice that patients will begin telling you 5 or 6 months. No patient is going to tell you they need 98 months to pay their bill off, because that sounds ridiculous; but that is what you are allowing them to do with small monthly payments with long term arrangements.  You will see that patients will be more likely to agree with paying a larger amount when they realize how much time it will take them to pay their outstanding bill.

Help patients find resources. Many self-pay patients are unaware of the different programs that are available to help the uninsured or under-insured find coverage. For example, the nonprofit Foundation for Health Coverage Education in California offers an online resource where patients can take a quick survey in order to receive a list of programs that they might be eligible for. For uninsured patients with limited knowledge of available social programs, this type of assistance can define whether they have to assume 100 percent of the responsibility for their healthcare. Additionally, patients who have partial insurance coverage can benefit from these resources too, as well as providers who will get paid a portion of their cost without hassle.

Effectively communicating with patients. When speaking with a patient about an outstanding balance be sure to keep control of the conversation. Remember, people do not choose to be patients, so when you call be a friendly fixer and negotiator. If you owed $1,000 to someone, would you want to pay your friend or an enemy? Keep that same mindset for your patients.

Changing the tone of letters sent out to self-pay patients can help change how patients feel about their provider’s revenue cycle management service and medical collections reps. Sending out a letter that expresses a willingness to help, or that mentions the possibility of a discount can be much more effective than a standard demand letter or patient statement. Of course, you should still be sure that the tone sounds professional and the reason why the patient is receiving the letter should always be clearly stated.

Learn more about revenue cycle management services, training and collection resources, such as how your organization can update its policies for a more patient-friendly approach, how to collect more co-pays and deductibles, 8 steps to a good collection call and more.

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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