How to guarantee patient payments when health insurance deductibles reset
Let’s face it, patients are frustrated with confusing and inconvenient healthcare payment experiences. They can become even more frustrated at the start of a new year when health insurance deductibles reset. Patients may not fully understand deductible resets, their healthcare plan’s policies, or healthcare vernacular in general. When patients are confused, they are less likely to pay, which can lead to bad debt and uncollected balances. Providers can evaluate their billing and payments processes and consider implementing changes that will improve the way they talk with patients about money.
Here are three conversations you can initiate to change the payment relationship with patients when health insurance deductibles reset.
Start the conversation by asking,“What payment method would you like us to keep on file?”
It is important to take a proactive approach to patient collections by starting the payment conversation early. Consider creating a policy where all patients keep payment methods on file with your organization. This will make collecting payments from patients easier and help establish that patients are expected to cover their portion of their healthcare responsibility.
If a patient asks why he or she needs to save a card on file, try these responses:
“It’s our policy to ask all patients to keep a card on file.”
“Based on your coverage and benefit information, you’re going to owe some amount for this encounter. We’ll use this card to collect the payment once your responsibility has been determined by your health plan.”
Make sure your staff has visibility into patient benefit information so they can be prepared for any conversation. This will help you answer questions patients may have about their payment responsibility, or you can use this information to determine an estimate of what the patient may owe. If you offer a payment estimate, consider collecting a portion of the payment up front. Not only is this good for cash flow, it also makes payment easier for patients. When they do receive a bill, they’ve already made some payment, making their portion seem lower than expected or seem like they’ve already made good progress on paying it back. This creates a more positive experience, rather than receiving a bill that is overwhelming and repayment hasn’t started.
“We want to make this easy for you.”
Once you have a patient’s payment method on file, talk to him or her about automatic payments. At first, patients might be intimidated by letting you charge their credit or debit card to collect their responsibility — especially if that responsibility is in the thousands. You can ease patient concerns by establishing a charge limit. This lets patients know the maximum amount they will be charged and will lead to conversations about other payment options such as payment plans.
Conversations like this not only increase your likelihood of getting paid, they also establish your credibility and help patients trust your organization. Most patients are confused by their medical bills and are looking for guidance with the payment process; enable your staff to offer that guidance to build loyal, trusting relationships with patients.
“We know healthcare payments can be confusing.”
Being proactive about collecting patient payments means finding ways to engage patients in the process at every touchpoint. Reach your patients before a healthcare interaction occurs to help alleviate some of the confusion that comes with paying a healthcare bill. Engage with patients pre-visit through their mobile devices to help them understand their benefit information and learn what options are available to make a payment. Show them how to access your patient portal so they can sign up, select communication preferences, and save a payment method to easily make a payment.
It is important to remember that every patient is different. Some patients prefer to do everything over the phone while others want to access their healthcare information and bills right from their mobile devices. Give your patients convenient features such as the ability to take a photo of their statement and easily pay it through their mobile phone. For patients who do not want to pay this way, make sure they know about options, including setting up payments through their bank’s bill pay portal. Giving your patients simple and easy ways to pay their bills shows you care.
Track your progress!
Now that you have implemented new payment processes, it is important to track your progress. To maximize the benefits of payment technologies, providers need to have insight into their receivables data to know what’s working and why it’s working, then adjust resources accordingly.
Use reporting tools to monitor patient payments and see if your new approach is working. It is crucial to track the performance of new collection initiatives over a long period of time and have the flexibility to report on performance in a way that best suits your organization (quarterly, annually, monthly, etc.). You can then use this data to make more informed business decisions to help you improve collections.
Check out our webinar, “How to Guarantee Patient Payments When Deductibles Reset” to learn how your organization can change the payment conversation and guarantee payments from your patients with high-deductible health plans, or any out-of-pocket costs — without hurting the patient experience or disrupting office workflow.
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