Healthcare transactions took a step into the modern age this summer when a major carrier became the first to add a bill pay option to its website.
UnitedHealthcare teamed up with health care payment processor InstaMed to enable employer-insured customers to make electronic payments online toward any claim-related bills. UnitedHealthcare, the nation’s largest health insurance company, says it’s the first payer to supply a service of this kind. The option is available to more than 21 million plan participants nationwide.
Though the online payment technology isn’t new in general, it is to carriers. Only two-thirds of physician practices take credit cards, and the ability to accept electronic payments from patients on provider websites is common only among larger hospitals and physician practices.
The added utility, announced ahead of time to plan members via email, has seen immediate wide acceptance according to the company, with more than $3 million in payments processed since the July 25 rollout. Feedback has been gratifyingly positive, said Tory Bogatyrenko, vice president of product and innovation for UnitedHealthcare.
“MyClaims Manager does a great job in helping me understand why I might owe something, but now I can finish the job and actually pay the doctor. So it’s making it easier for me to get that job done, saving me time and money,” Bogatyrenko said of participants.
“All of that kind of feedback in that vein is what we are hearing. It’s nice to see the thank you,” she added.
Once a claim is adjudicated, a plan participant gets an email to let her know an explanation of benefits is available to view online. Along with other navigation choices the company says are designed to make understanding claims simpler, a link at the customer portal explains what outstanding charges the customer may be responsible for, and offers the option to submit the payment there for any of those charges.
On the receiving end, medical providers can choose to register for the service or not, but either way they will be credited with any payments their patients make online.
“If you’re a doctor, registration allows you to be paid electronically through MyClaims Manager using a credit card. A doctor would get that payment electronically as they would any other credit card payment,” Bogatyrenko explained.
“If a doctor hasn’t registered, I can still go out and pay the doctor using MyClaims Manager. I can’t use my credit card, but I can use my bank account. That will go to [the provider] not electronically, but through the mail. Both of those transactions are free to the consumer,” she said.
InstaMed confirms that the new offering is going over well with UnitedHealthcare customers, and CTO Chris Seib says it’s because the intent of the project has been to simplify the health care experience.
“We’re thinking about things from a consumer perspective,” Seib said.
He said weekly payment activity on the site has “more than doubled in about a month,” and generated in excess of 30,000 payments thus far.
“We’re getting really, really positive consumer feedback on this,” he said.
And he said the expectation is that more and more providers will choose to register when they see how it will improve their bottom line.
“The easier it is for the consumer to pay, the more likely it is they will,” Seib said. “It’s naturally much faster [than traditional billing methods].”
As for plans to partner with other carriers? Maybe soon, InstaMed said.
“InstaMed is focused on continuing to deliver a successful program launch and looks forward to expanding its market adoption to more payers and providers in 2014,” Seib said.