High-deductible insurance plans pose new challenges for medical practices. The end result is that patient collections are shifting from third-party insurers to medical practices. This added collection burden spawns other obligations that medical practices might not want to tackle, but in the end will have to face:
Most people with high-deductible plans do not understand the added financial risk they have assumed. They focus on the lower premiums and either are ignorant of or ignore the large financial outlays they have assumed for their healthcare. As a result, medical practices must make sure their patients understand their responsibility to pay.
Typically medical practices have patients read and sign a financial policy form. This strategy is no longer enough because few people read the form. And if the goal of the practice is to make sure it collects what it is owned, a more proactive approach is necessary.
Assigning patient collections to the front desk person is a typical response for most practices, and a bad one. First, the front desk position is usually the least paid and lowest skilled in the practice. Second, trying to explain a patient’s financial responsibility through a plate glass window with other people standing in line is a futile exercise and violates patients’ confidentiality.
In addition to assigning a competent person who has the time, knowledge and empathy to handle a patient’s “financial” education and collections, the practice needs to set aside space where this person and the patient can meet in private. The pharmacy industry has undertaken this new responsibility by adding “consultation” rooms in their facilities.
Patient education will take time that should be factored into scheduling, especially for new patients.
In the end, high-deductible plans will raise costs for medical practices or compel them to re-assign personnel or redesign facilities (for example, turning an exam room into a consultation room or a multi-purpose room).
The University of Georgia Small Business Development Center’s Medical Practice Management Program (MP2) provides no-cost consultation for medical practices in Georgia. Contact Matt Lastinger at 706 542-8322 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Source: Matt Lastinger, John Maynard, UGA SBDC)