Healthcare providers and their vendors may not fully realize that they must answer to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Providers, specifically, are not yet caught in the crosshairs of the bureau, but those providers that do report delinquent accounts to credit reporting agencies, make use of collection agencies (both first and third party), or collect on patient accounts can fall under the auspices of the CFPB.
Patients have the ability to complain to the CFPB about the way providers, central billing offices, or first and third-party vendors engaging in collection activities on behalf of providers carry out their collection activities. When a complaint is sent to the CFPB, the group that the complaint was lodged against is required to provide a timely response to the CFPB. Clearly then, the healthcare industry finds itself within the grasp of the CFPB.
The healthcare community is likely to face such scenarios more frequently due to the rise in self-pay brought on by the uninsured and those with high-deductible health insurance plans. The changes seen in the healthcare field in recent years have created an atmosphere that encourages healthcare providers to rely on vendors to care for receivables while finding ways to improve the revenue cycle. As these issues continue to evolve, it will become even more important to understand the risks associated with compliance that arise from time to time.
Clearly things have changed; it used to be that compliance was managed through a vendor contract, making the vendor responsible for any risks that might arise pertaining to compliance. In those days, it was up to each vendor as to whether they actually followed along with federal and state regulations, which technically kept providers out of the loop. But this is no longer the case.
In our time, the CFPB conducts examinations that take into consideration the entire chain of custody; which doesn’t allow for the blame to be maneuvered back and forth along the chain of custody. This climate makes it imperative for providers and vendors to work together in the best interests of everyone involved.
The CFPB now requires that those taking part in the collection of payments from patients will ensure that their vendor partners comply with federal consumer financial law. Of course, this can be a difficult task to tend to since medical providers are typically focused on providing care for patients. It is clear, though, that the CFPB that there is a substantial risk when debt stemming from medical expenses is being collected or credit reported.
There shouldn’t be any doubt that the healthcare community is now well within the grasp of the CFPB; and the reasons appear to be for the benefit of patients. Medical debt can prove to be quite daunting for many patients and the insurance industry trend of shifting medical costs back onto patients is seen by many as a crisis. Compliance with state and federal laws should be a top priority for your vendor partners and they should be working diligently to ensure that the best interests of your practice are always being met. Are you getting this level of service from your vendors?