Improving accounts receivable management through addressing cost concerns early

An up-front discussion on the cost of care can help avoid bad-debt.

The relative success of the Affordable Care Act means that many Americans who couldn't previously afford insurance coverage have begun seeking treatment once more. While this helps the many practices that have sought to increase their patient base as a result of shrinking reimbursements, it has also created challenges for some accounts receivable management professionals.

Many patients who recently obtained coverage had previously existing conditions, that they put off seeking treatment for due to cost concerns. Depending on the plan they purchased and their understanding of their coverage, this can create problems when they are unprepared for the cost of their care. The rise of high-deductible plans means that patients can encounter large up-front costs, which they may have not anticipated. 

"The best strategy to boost relationships with patients is to begin the financial conversation at the earliest appropriate opportunity," Sandra Wolfskill, director of healthcare finance policy and revenue cycle management for HFMA told Health Care Finance News. "For scheduled patients, that means explaining prices and patient financial obligations prior to service. For all other patients, once the provider knows the patient will have a financial responsibility for the current visit or service, start the conversation and give the patient information and options."

By quickly addressing any potential reimbursement concerns, care facilities can better protect against the negative influences of bad debt. This helps to ensure that the patient-provider relationship remains healthy. 

The decision to outsource receivables management can also result in a drastic reduction in the dollars written off to bad debt, as well as provide a more manageable claims load for in-house staff.