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Annual deductible resets can create financial challenges for patients, leading to less cash flow for provider organizations. Here are four ways to improve collections and help make it easier for patients to pay their healthcare bills.

Many patients find themselves in a familiar situation at the start of a new year: their health insurance deductibles reset. The change brings on a new set of financial expectations for patients. Healthcare providers who understand how this change affects their patients can develop strategies to ensure the collection process runs smoothly after the reset occurs.

Challenges Patients Face When Deductibles Reset at the Start of the Year

The first step is for healthcare providers to recognize the challenges their patients may face when deductibles reset. These can include:

  • Financial hardship: Patients can face an economic burden, especially if they have a high-deductible health plan. The problem can be even more significant for patients with chronic illnesses and others who require regular medical care. Patients with family coverage also face high financial hurdles when resets happen.
  • Confusion about coverage: Patients may be unsure which medical services are covered by their insurance plan and which are not. Misunderstandings about coverage can result in unexpected bills and unplanned out-of-pocket expenses.
  • Difficulty accessing care: Patients may delay or avoid necessary medical care due to the high cost of meeting their deductible. This can lead to worsening health conditions and more expensive medical treatment in the long run.
  • Stress and anxiety: Many patients feel overwhelmed when they face the prospect of higher costs for medical services. This financial pressure can cause worry and anxiety, particularly for those struggling to make ends meet.   

These challenges directly affect providers, too. When patients are confused, they’re less likely to pay their balance to providers. Patients that have trouble paying off their deductible may delay paying their healthcare bills. Either instance can lead to cash flow problems for providers and strain their relationships with patients.

Here are four tips to ensure payments are collected efficiently – all while helping patients better manage their financial responsibility when deductibles reset.

Clearly Communicate Patient Financial Responsibility

No one likes surprises regarding a sizeable medical bill. Data from the Twelfth Annual Trends in Healthcare Payments Report shows that nine in 10 consumers want to know payment responsibility before a healthcare visit. Yet many patients have no idea how much their treatment will cost, especially when deductibles reset to their annual maximum amount.

When providers set financial expectations up front, it helps enhance the patient experience and improve the payment collection process. That’s why it’s advantageous for providers to give patients an estimate of payment responsibility before they receive treatment. Knowing what’s owed in advance can help patients budget for their healthcare expenses and avoid unexpected bills.

Along with the cost estimate, it’s a good idea to encourage patients to understand what their insurance plan does and does not cover. It’s important for patients to realize which medical services will be paid for by their insurance plan and what they need to pay out-of-pocket.

Conversations about patient financial responsibility present an opportunity to discuss payment options that can help make medical care more affordable, such as payment plans or financial assistance programs. It’s also useful to share this information in written communications so patients can refer to it later.  

Telling patients about their insurance coverage, costs, and payment options gives them a better understanding of their financial responsibility. Remember, it’s important to use plain language for these communications. Technical insurance terms can be tough for patients to understand. Keeping things clear and simple helps patients make more informed decisions about their care.

Save Payment Methods on File and Collect Patient Balances Automatically

Having a system that can save a payment method on file to collect payments automatically helps to ensure that you receive patient payments on time. Many consumers already keep payment methods on file to pay household bills and when making online purchases, and it can work for healthcare services, too.

The payment method information, whether for a credit card, debit card or other option, can be gathered during a patient encounter or via an online portal. Be aware that some patients may have concerns about what security measures are used to protect their stored payment information. When it comes to payment assurance, where you keep your data is critical. You must be prepared to explain how the data is safeguarded against fraud.

Once a patient’s payment information is on file, you can discuss options for automatic payments. These may include payment plans and automatically collecting a smaller balance when adjudicating a new claim. The latter not only guarantees receipt of funds but also frees patients from needing to take the time to make a small payment.

Overall, automated payments can be a win-win for patients and providers. Patients enjoy the convenience of automatic payments, while providers benefit from revenue collection efficiency and reduced administrative workload.

Enable Patients to Set Up Payment Plans

Providers can help patients manage larger balances by offering payment plans. Payment plans benefit patients who cannot pay their bills in full. They allow patients to spread the cost of medical services over time rather than paying the balance at once.

It’s preferable to offer interest-free payment plans. Adding interest to a medical bill puts an even greater financial burden on the patient. Having interest-free payment plans sends a message that you want to enable your patients to pay down their balance over time, without introducing a new expense into the mix. No-interest payment plans also simplify administrative processes for providers. Payment plans that charge interest require a more complex accounting method and are usually managed by a third party. This results in additional fees for the provider and yet another vendor to manage. 

Your billing team can discuss payment plan options with patients and help them choose a plan that fits their budget. The plans can be customized based on the patient’s financial situation and generally include monthly or biweekly payments. As a best practice, communicate expectations and establish policies for payment plans, including a minimum amount a patient must pay each month and an end date for when the bill must be paid in full.

It’s important to clarify the payment plan’s terms and conditions. This includes outlining the payment schedule and any penalties for missed or late payments. The billing staff should be able to address patients’ questions and concerns about these terms and conditions.

Enabling patients to pay their bills over time can help make healthcare more affordable and accessible. Payment plans can reduce the financial stress of medical bills and can help patients receive the care they need without incurring significant debt.

Make it Easy and Convenient for Patients to Pay Their Bills

The key to assuring patient payments at your healthcare practice is letting patients use their preferred payment options – such as online, over the phone or via bank bill pay. This increases the chances of patients paying their bills and fosters patient satisfaction.

When patients can make payments the way they want, they’re more likely to pay. Meanwhile, providers benefit by driving more cash flow and simplifying revenue collection. Learn more about omnichannel payments.

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