It goes without saying COVID-19 has put a financial strain on today’s economy. With individuals losing jobs, decline in business (or closing of businesses), it’s not likely paying the medical bill is a top priority. Folks will prioritize and pay for what is needed to help stay afloat. Your practice maybe suffering as well due to this vicious cycle. Here are some tips to help cope without further drain to your wallet.
In order to ease the financial strain on patients you should be flexible. When patients call and say they're having trouble paying their bill, help them out. Offer a discount to help them pay for their care or a long-term payment plan with affordable monthly payments. If you want to be pro-active, provide them with information like this website (https://www.usa.gov/help-with-bills), so your patient can get assistance from government programs to help pay medical and other bills.
Provide an easy way to make payments and provide a number of payment methods. Most people prefer to pay online, but others prefer to pay by phone; so include a phone number in the reminder text/emailed to the patient, along with a link to pay via website. Your patient portal would be a great place to have an option for the patient to pay their bill and look at their statements. Cell phone Apps are a great way to accommodate easy payment methods. (Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, PayPal, and Venmo).
Before treating a patient with an outstanding balance, check your schedule before seeing the patient. Collect at least part of that balance before treatment. You can either manually add or set automated reminders that work with patient balances if you have patient alerts. This would prevent the patient from even taking up an appointment slot, which is an even better option.
A schedule program that tells you if the patient is payer eligible would be great. If you don’t have this useful feature which auto checks patient eligibility, have your staff add it in the schedule’s comment section so you can easily see who has and doesn’t have insurance coverage.
To help avoid coding and billing errors, consider adding CCI (Correct Coding Initiative) Edits to your practice billing system to reduce insurance, claim rejections and increase payer payments.
Getting accurate insurance payments means getting what the patient owes correct. ERA’s (Electric Remittance Advice) is a huge time saver and accurate way to automatically blast in those insurance payments.
If you are suffering from financial strain, there are a number of government programs established to help businesses combat financial stability during COVID. The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is for businesses with up to 300 employees. Applications are accepted through March 31, 2021. The Small Business Administration (SBA) offers several relief options. The SBA Debt Relief Program offers payment for principal, interest, and fees associated with microloans issued prior to September 27, 2020. Grants are another way to help support practicing physicians. The American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation (ABIM) offers grants to align with their mission in improving healthcare. Grants are available to help improve guidelines on how to care for a patient, and to introduce quality measures and tools to help the physician provide the best care for their patients. There are other private foundations as well as government programs that offer grants to help physicians.
For more information:
Small Business Administration Click here
The American Board of Internal Medicine Click here
Apply for a Government Grant Click here
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Author: Jennie WelterShare