An increasingly large amount of patients are finding themselves facing an insurmountable and overwhelming pile of debt following a battle with a serious injury or illness. This scenario eventually results in repeated phone calls and mailers from debt collectors for many of these patients.
Financial distress or even ruin can be avoided by patients, though, as long as they are willing to pay close attention to the details of their health insurance policy and have a candid discussion with their medical provider or hospital concerning payment options, financial assistance, and available discounts. A change in guidelines coming from the bill collection and hospital industries as well as the government have been designed to make paying bills easier for patients; a necessary move as consumers are confronted with ever growing medical bills.
In 1990, the average health care spending per person was just $2854, but by 2012, the price per person had jumped to more than $8900 according to data supplied by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The latest trend is for employers to offload the costs for healthcare coverage onto employees, by offering plans with less employer contribution, greater monthly premiums, higher co-payments, reduced co-insurance, and larger deductibles which results in the patient inheriting a greater portion of their medical responsibility. Depending on the details of the health plan and employer contribution, the patient portion of a medical bill could skyrocket to more than ten thousand dollars for each event; but the news is still much worse for the uninsured.
A recent survey suggests that the number of working- age citizens who are having difficulty in paying their medical bills has exceeded 75 million, which, no doubt, contributes to medical debt topping the list of reasons for personal bankruptcy in America.
“Many people are surprised at what portion of their medical bill they will be responsible for paying” said Stacy Vink, Collection Manager at Mnet Financial. “That’s why it’s so crucial that the patient speaks with their provider or hospital before a procedure or surgery so they can fully understand what their costs will be and the payment options that are available to them” said Vink.
New industry standards pertaining to the resolution of disputes regarding medical debt have been designed to help patients who are facing financial difficulty. Even though these standards are voluntary, they are expected to be widely accepted because they were developed by the HFMA, which represents financial officers at healthcare facilities and insurance companies, and the ACA, an association of collection agencies.
These new guidelines recommend, among other things, making bills easier to understand; notifying credit reporting agencies when billing disputes are resolved so patient credit reports can be updated; and ensuring that providers and collection agencies are not sending bills to patients at the same time to avoid confusion.
“If patients will just have a frank financial discussion with their medical caregiver prior to treatment, the provider can offer a wealth of knowledge” said Vink. “Our clients know that Mnet Financial has numerous services available to the patient to help them, such as our MedDraft payment plan management service. We work tirelessly to help patients resolve their medical debt so they won’t be faced with a financial catastrophe” said Vink.