Insurance premiums have increased, the number of covered services has diminished, and deductibles have never been higher. Some of our patients are forced to make decisions about their health based on what they can afford, not what they need. The new Kaiser Family Foundation survey finds that, among patients with health insurance, one in five had problems paying their medical bills in the last year. As patient balances increase, the result is long-term financial strain and a growing problem for healthcare providers across the country.
The best way to keep patients happy, improve clinical outcomes, and enhance collections in your practice, is to clearly and openly discuss your fees and payment policy up front. Patients feel frustrated trying to understand and navigate their financial responsibility. Set yourself apart by clearly outlining what is covered, or not covered, by their insurance and explaining deductibles and copays. By conducting a formal Financial Report of Findings in your office, you can clearly outline your treatment plan and the patient’s estimated out-of-pocket expenses. When patients understand their financial responsibility, it eliminates the fear of unexpected costs that are not in their budgets. Financial clarity can help clinical compliance because it removes the fear of the unknown for our patients.
Speaking of budgets, make sure that your clinic has a wide variety of payment options that easily fit within your patient’s budget. Offer payment options that include a down payment and regular payments on a weekly, bi-monthly or monthly basis. Payments should end before, or at the time, care ends. An easy way to establish consistent collection is by placing your patients on an auto-debit plan. This creates efficiency at the front desk and eliminates the need to collect money at every visit. Some patients may require smaller payments over a longer period, so having a health care credit card option might be helpful. This gives patients a manageable payment that fits within their budgets and allows the clinic to be paid a few days after care is provided.
For those patients that have little or no chiropractic insurance coverage, remember that offering legal network-based discounts through a Discount Medical Plan Organization, such as ChiroHealthUSA, is a great way to keep care more affordable. A Discount Medical Plan allows you to choose the level of discounts you would like to offer in your practice, all under the protection of a contractual network agreement. That’s exactly the way BCBS, Aetna, Cigna, and others can pay us different amounts for the exact same services. The existence of a contract allows you to set, offer, and accept these rates from network members.
If you provide ways to make care affordable and offer payment options that your patients can afford, you have a win-win situation. Patients have become “healthcare consumers,” and with healthcare costs rising faster than inflation, you must find ways to help patients access affordable care without putting your practice and your license at risk.