Reports show that roughly 42.9 million people with credit records have unresolved medical expenses.  It’s no surprise that patient payments continue to be a difficult task in revenue cycle management for billing administrators.

Medical practices, ASCs and hospitals all face big hurdles when it comes to collecting payment from their patients.  MGMA (Medical Group Management Association), surveyed more than 2,000 health care professionals and came up with this list.

The four biggest hurdles when dealing with patient payments:

  1. Failure to directly confront and deal with patient payment issues
    Don’t hesitate to change or enforce your patient collection policies.  Only 25% of practices surveyed offer a payment plan at the time of service.  However, 94% of respondents offer patients a recurring payment plan or installment option on outstanding balances and 46% of practices reported they only use this as a last effort.
  1. High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs)
    HDHPs is a relatively newer collection challenge for practices.  HDHPs have been on the rise, growing from 3.2 million enrollees in 2006 to 8 million in 2009.  Take on the burden of educating patients with HDHPs to help alleviate the surprise for patients that don’t understand their contractual responsibilities.
  1. The current economic status, unemployment rates, and uninsured patients
    While the economy is in a better position now than it was just a few years ago, unemployment is still an issue.  Know how your region is affected.  Certain areas of the country are more affected by unemployment than others.  Revise your patient collection policies as the economy changes.  Respondents reportedly wrote off an average of 11.3% of total AR during the last fiscal year.
  1. Setting patient expectations
    Most of your patients aren’t aware the average amount due per office visit  in the U.S. is $110.  As the report puts it, “patients have been shielded from the true cost of healthcare services.”  Low copayments and deductibles has led to patients being completely unaware of the true cost of services.  Make an impact at your practice or medical facility by setting patients’ expectations from the start.
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