Everyone agrees that something has to be done to address the growing amounts of unpaid medical debts. Forcing people to pay for healthcare procedures up front leads some individuals to opt out of receiving healthcare that might be important. Sending patients a bill afterwards presents its own set of issues, as anyone working at a healthcare collection agency will tell you.
A number of healthcare providers have been in the spotlight recently, accused of being too aggressive with their collection efforts by filing lawsuits and garnishing the wages of individuals who have not paid off their medical debts. But relying on the moral fibre and responsibility of individuals often leads providers with empty pockets.
One published report looks at how different facilities are tackling this problem, with mixed results.
One facility, for example, requires individuals with no insurance to pay 25% of their bill before receiving any services. The objective is to move the payment process to earlier in the interaction, instead of just sending a bill afterwards.
Another facility is piloting the use of a that looks like a credit card statement, where a “patient checks out of a hospital like a hotel.”
While nobody knows what the perfect system looks like, or whether such a system even exists, many agree that something needs to change. Collection agencies would be wise to involve themselves in those conversations, if they have not yet done so with their clients, to offer perspectives and years of hard-earned insights with their healthcare clients.
“There is a groundswell happening,” said Steve Scharmann, vice president of finance and revenue-cycle management at Dignity Health. “I would say it has been lip service for many years, and to a certain degree it still is. But I see more payers and providers coming to the table to try to do this better.”