10 Tips for Collecting Every Dollar Clients Owe
Healthcare reform has led to a rising number of high-deductible health plans, even in employer-sponsored plans, where deductibles have risen 67% in the last five years.1 This means even insurance clients are becoming increasingly responsible for more of the costs of their care. In response, we must up our game when it comes to collecting copays, deductibles, and any other client balances.
With this in mind, here are 10 tips to collecting every dollar due:
1. Collect upfront — every time. One study found that only 21% of client balances that aren’t collected at the time of service are will ever be collected.2 That means you may never see 79% of the money you don’t collect upfront. This is especially important since clients often leave treatment unexpectedly — sometimes in anger.
2. Communicate expectations. Clearly communicate (verbally and in writing) what you expect from clients regarding payment. Inform them when scheduling the first appointment how much they will need to pay, what forms of payment you accept, and that payments will be due at the session.
3. Verify eligibility. If you are a network provider, contact the client’s health plan before the first visit to verify coverage, copayments, claims address, deductible, etc. (Note: For a complete list of the essential questions to ask when checking coverage, see the worksheet in my book). Not making this call may be the biggest cause of later claim rejections, since charges often go to a deductible, or the client doesn’t have the coverage she thought she had.
4. Submit insurance claims quickly (online is best). This will let you know without delay if you collected the wrong amount at the session.
5. Don’t let debt build. If a client with a balance asks for an appointment, say you are happy to schedule one once the bill has been paid. Perhaps explain this is a practice policy to avoid building up debt, which can negatively affect therapy. Let them know payment options, such as dropping off or mailing payment or credit card payment (by phone or online via sites like PayPal).
6. Save credit card info. At the start of treatment, ask to put credit card information on file, and get a signed authorization that allows you to charge missed/late-cancelled sessions or other balances owed. Collections may lose their sting when a credit card is used, and when a client is not required to take action.
7. Consider financing options. Consider allowing clients to make specific partial payments until the debt is paid off.
8. Address client balances yourself. The ACA International reports that medical practices recover less than $14 for every $100 owed once turned over to a collection agency.3 Therefore, establish consistent collections policies, outlining when to send letters, e-mails, and voicemail messages attempting to collect, and what to say in each. Collection requests should be no more than 30 days apart, and escalate in message tone.
9. Don’t let non-payment slide. If the client forgets payment, hand them a self-addressed stamped envelope and ask them to mail a check or to drop off cash before their next session. Or use PayPal Here or Square to swipe their credit card in session, or charge their on-file credit card after the session.
10. The biggest enemy to getting paid? Ourselves. We get busy, sloppy in our bookkeeping, don’t write down amounts owed for missed sessions, don’t notice overdue balances, and let balances slide without following up. When a client incurs a balance, immediately document and/or take care of it. Check all client charts at least monthly to check for and address overdue balances, and send out collections letters.
This article adapted from this article
Footnotes: 1 — cited in this article; 2, 3 — cited in this article