How to Survive High Deductible Season: Collecting Patient Payments

It’s a new year, which means it’s time for a new deductible season. January is the time most insurance companies restart the calculation of annual deductibles for their members. This resetting of annual deductibles means a significant increase in patient responsibility for many practices.

To ensure you are collecting on these patient owed balances, practices will need to employ every effort they can to get paid upfront. Are you ready for the challenge? 

Here are some tips on how you can survive high deductible season.

1. Ask for payment upfront

The best time to collect patient balances is during the check-in or check-out process when the patient is in front of you and can pay immediately. Studies show that the chance of collecting from a patient drops almost 20% as soon as the patient leaves the office and continues to drop with each passing day.

We realize it’s not always easy to discuss payment with patients, but don’t be shy about it. After all, you are running a business – you deserve to get paid. It is up to you to set the standard.

This means you will need to communicate your payment policies to your patients. Communicate via every means possible—signs and placards inside your practice; posts to your website and social media outlets; reminder calls and on-hold messages; letters, postcards or emails and any other methods you can think of. The idea is to avoid surprises with patients which will ease the collection process at the time of service.

2. Identify insurance plans and deductible requirements BEFORE the visit

To be able to check what a patient’s deductible looks like, ensure that you get all of the proper insurance information BEFORE the patient arrives for their appointment. This facilitates the payment conversation and reduces the risk of any confusion. Many patients are unaware of what their insurance policies cover. In fact, according to a study conducted by TransUnion Healthcare, 62% of patients reported being surprised by out-of-pocket expenses.

Bringing this to their attention before their visit will please them and help you get paid upfront.

3. Offer payment plans

High deductible plans mean high costs for your patients. You may be faced with instances when your patient may not be able to pay their bill immediately. If that’s the case, offering payment plans can help you collect that patient revenue.

If you are establishing a payment plan with your patient, make sure to have a signed agreement that is executed by both the patient and the practice. This agreement should be in simple language and have clear expectations. It should include the following:

  • The payment amount and timeline. Both should be realistic and reasonable. There is no use setting the patient up to fail with an amount they can't pay and/or a timeline they can't meet.
  • The consequences for failing to pay. For example, the total amount becomes due unless patient gets back on schedule or if you offered a discount, they lose the discount. Or there will be an immediate transfer to a collection agency.
  • Any incentives to pay off total balance early. Offering incentives and discounts to pay can help you collect outstanding balances earlier in the payment plan.
  • The practice should require an automatic debit on the patient's bank or credit card. This allows the patient to get on a payment plan that is manageable for them and reduces the headache of managing bills and forgetting to pay. The patient can be automatically billed each month. No hassle.

We recommend you take these steps to minimize the delay in collections and maximize your this important part of your revenue stream. High deductible season doesn’t have to be a headache if you have the proper policies and solutions in place.

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