January is the time most insurance companies restart the calculation of annual deductibles for their members. This resetting of annual deductibles can mean a significant increase in patient responsibility for many practices. In 2014 it is estimated this impact will be even more significant and last for a longer period of time as high deductible health plans will be more the norm than in years past. The best time to collect these balances is during the check-in or check-out process when the patient is in front of you and can pay immediately. These balances can, at times, be difficult to collect after the fact through statements as patients have not always planned for this extra expense. At the very least, there will be a delay on these payments and a decline in cash flow as multiple statements are mailed. Setting the expectations with patients prior to their appointment is key in managing the collection of these payments.
We recommend you take these steps to minimize the delay in collections and maximize your collections on this important part of your revenue:
Have staff reinforce deductible requirements related to services when they are making the appointment.
Reinforce expectation of payment requirements during reminder messages for appointments.
Add an on-hold message for your patients. They can say something like “We are collecting deductibles beginning January 2, 2014. Please be prepared to pay your deductible."
Review their obligations upfront during check-in and inform staff to collect deductibles beginning January 2, 2014. Do not collect deductibles for Medicare patients who also have Medicaid or for Medicare patients with supplemental insurance as there most likely will not be a balance that the patient will owe.
Flyers can also be handed to patients at check-in to explain deductibles and why the practice has decided to collect them instead of billing for them.
Place a placard at the office front desk or flash it on your website to explain to the patients the importance of paying deductibles.
Ask the patient if there are any changes to their insurance plan coverage effective January 1, 2014. A major portion of changes in plan coverage occur on January 1.
Once insurance plan is verified, carefully inspect the patient’s deductible status prior to the visit to determine if the services you will be providing falls under the patient’s deductible calculation. For example, well visits or routine screenings may not be subject to a deductible.
Patients who are seeing multiple providers may quickly move through their annual deductibles, so it is recommended that you check deductible status just prior to your seeing the patient to make sure the information is up to date.
Collect every dollar owed to you for the services you provide and collecting deductibles at the point of care should be an important part of collection efforts.