The Deductible SeasonDecember 21st, 2010
The first 4 months of the New Year can be a cash flow struggle for medical practices due to the high deductible insurance policies that are in use today. On top of that 10% of the US population is unemployed and may not have insurance coverage. Electronic Eligibility checking is a must in this environment, but it is only part of what a practice manager has to do to keep the cash flow even during these months. Just having Electronic Eligibility status is not enough.
Eligibility reports that are returned from the insurance companies today are starting to list other valuable information for each of your patients: accurate and up to date YTD deductibles that have not been met, and co-payment amounts due per encounter. Now it all comes down to whether you have trained your staff properly to deal with this information. The answer in most cases is… NO.
Policies and staff training are critical to the success of surviving the deductible season. It will be uncomfortable for most front office staff to ask for the full office visit payment up front. Most patients will question why they have to pay, or will have forgotten their checkbooks. The first step in assuring success is to convince the staff that they do have a right to collect deductibles and co-payments at the encounter. Sounds basic… but I can assure you in most practices you will get push back from the staff.
Preparing the patient is every bit as important as preparing the staff. Change your message in the appointment reminder to include “co-payments and deductibles will be collected upon arrival at the practice as per our new policies”. If your practice does not use an automated reminder system, it’s a good idea to have staff pre-call scheduled patients for a few months. Design the message, either method, to reflect the personality of the practice and the relationship that has been established with your patients over the years.
One of the standards in management is “if you can measure it, you can manage it”. The results of all of your focus and hard work above will be very measurable. It should be measured on a daily basis and managed on a daily basis. I’ve also seen some creative implementations of collecting the deductibles up front. One practice gave staff $2.00 for every deductible that was collected up front, approximately the cost of sending a bill, and/or a statement in the mail to collect the same amount. That $2 times 25 patients a day was a nice bonus for each of the front office staff and the cash flow was greatly improved for the practice. Even more importantly, collections were greatly improved.
Medical Practices are a business just like any other service business. You deserve to be paid for the great professional service that you offer. Your patients like you, trust you and will be much more receptive to your payment policies if they are notified in advance.
Happy Deductible Season!