Mnet Health News delivers the latest news and information articles for the world of healthcare.

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Obamacare Health Exchange Likely to Force Many Into Catostrophic Health Policies

The state of California recently unveiled the structure that’s been put in place to serve as its federally mandated health insurance exchange. This move has been noticed, not only by insurance industry insiders and politicians, but average, ordinary people across the United States. Also, to the surprise of many following the story closely, the executive director of the California Exchange took this opportunity to suggest that insurance premiums would actually be reduced from current health care costs, a statement that was quite opposite the speculation of most. But why, you may ask, would the details of such a health insurance exchange be meaningful to someone living in, say, Texas, Florida, or New Jersey?

California is noteworthy because it happens to be the most heavily populated state within the United States, and, according to the most recent census bureau data, also has the highest number of uninsured citizenry throughout the country. This knowledge was likely instrumental in the state’s decision to embrace health care reform quickly after reform became law in 2010. These points infer that a significant portion of the U.S. population will be eligible to make use of the California health insurance exchange, known as Covered California. In fact, as many as 5 million people could ultimately be eligible to sign up for coverage through the health insurance exchange; making it a model for other states to follow.

However, many are suggesting that the data released by Covered California tells a very different story and that instead of reducing coverage costs as suggested premiums for an individual in California are more likely to skyrocket when the main provisions of the law are expanded on January 1, 2014. Some are calling the data supplied by Covered California spin and rhetoric, designed to camouflage a public relations nightmare. Naysayers point out that the data put forth by Covered California is a misleading comparison, since prices for plans that Californians can buy on the individual market are very different than the highly regulated plans that can be purchased by small employers for workers as group coverage. But what will this mean for young people and those who don’t have any chronic health issues?

Recently, one of the speakers at an ASCA webinar on “How to Train an ASC Biller” suggested that it was very likely that the high cost of premiums would force many into catastrophic policies, such as policies that only cover 60% while leaving the policyholder responsible for 40% up to the point of the out-of-pocket maximum. Although the new law stipulates that such policies with higher patient responsibilities would only be available to those who are 30 years of age or younger; it does appear logical that the personal budget of a large cross-section of Americans will dictate that they choose such a plan since it would be the most affordable option. If this comes to fruition, what would be the effect on the health care system and providers throughout the country?

“It seems clear to me that if we have more people choosing a catastrophic policy for their health care coverage, then it’s very likely that the receivables of a provider will grow because the patients will now become responsible for a greater portion of their medical bill,” said David Hamilton, CEO of Mnet Financial. Given that this scenario will likely come to pass, what would be the best way to deal with a rise in accounts receivables at the facility level?

“If a facility needs help with their accounts receivables, the most helpful thing I could say to them is to try our Early Out program,” said Hamilton. “This program reduces internal costs to little more than the price of sending out one billing statement and then Mnet takes it from there by acting as an extension of the facility’s billing department. We interact with the patient to resolve the bill in full and the facility only gets charged when we collect. The program can actually save a facility up 50% in collection agency fees,” Hamilton further stated.

How will this situation eventually play out? As January 1, 2014, draws closer, the full picture should become clearer. But for now, it seems apparent that when the New Year arrives, more people will finally be insured. Unfortunately, it also seems clear that many throughout the country, will in fact, be underinsured.

Accelerate Your Self Pay Cycle

In the past several years, consumers have become increasingly comfortable with the concept of electronic payment. Financial trends have created a desire for health care providers to consider a fundamental change in the collection of patient payments. In addition, patients have been obliged to accept more responsibility for health care costs by traditional benefit plans and this has become a driving force behind the shift in attitudes toward electronic payment.

One issue that makes electronic payment options more valuable is the recent economic downturn, which has caused an increase in health care costs for the patient as well as the provider. As a result the bad debt of medical offices continues to rise. This current course is expected to continue for at least several more quarters.

New legislature is also expected to cause changes in the industry. This legislature includes President Obama’s recently signed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which will soon extend health care coverage to an estimated 32 million Americans who were previously uninsured. These legislative changes will ultimately increase the percentage of health-insured citizens in the United States to approximately 95 percent.

For providers and medical practices, it appears likely that millions more patients will be receiving health care services and will be personally paying for at least part of it. Many in the industry are wondering how this will impact the system, since so many currently insured patients are already having difficulty in paying for services in a timely manner.

However, many hospitals, surgery centers, and medical practices throughout the country are thinking ahead and changing the way that they work with their patients by using current, stable and reliable technologies, such as electronic payment options, with a proven track record. These technologies are eco-friendly and bring both economic and environmental benefits such as reduced cost for postage; reduction in use of paper; and obviously much less waste.

Stacy Eaton, Business Office Manager for Mnet Financial, noted that “our electronic payment options include online bill pay links that are embedded on a provider’s webpage as well as other technological products designed to minimize the paperwork of self-pay receivables.” Eaton further added “both patients and providers love our MedDraft program which enables providers to accept payments online. With this service, the provider doesn’t have to remember payment arrangements any longer because MedDraft supports a payment plan contract that is agreed upon between the patient and the facility. MedDraft works seamlessly with Mnet Financial to sustain the account through the life of the receivable.”

Lauren Illescas, Client Services Representative for MedDraft, added that “patients are very happy with the service because it makes life a little easier for them since they can pay their bill through automatic deductions, with their credit cards, debit cards, or checking account. At the same time, providers have reduced their liability because they don’t have to store patient financial information and no longer need to keep track of payment arrangements. It’s really great for everyone involved.”

Illescas also mentioned that she recently demonstrated a preview of the latest innovation in electronic payment plans from MedDraft at the 2013 ASCA conference held in Boston, Massachusetts. “Our new online software, known as PayPlan123, gives the provider the opportunity to set up payment plan options for the patient and email them to the patient for review. Upon acceptance of the payment plan terms, a contract is signed electronically, with notification sent off to the provider. MedDraft supports the payment plan and automates communications of payments, balance changes, and other notifications directly to both the patient and the provider. The provider can oversee the status of all of their current payment plans and patients can keep up to date by viewing their account at any time,” said Illescas.

“Providers tell me that our MedDraft service makes it more convenient for the patients and that the system is easy to use,” said Eaton. “Some have even mentioned that they are now collecting a greater portion of the payments on the date of service and since patients who do not pay in full at time of service can use their credit and debit cards, we know that their medical bill will ultimately be resolved much quicker. I’ve had several providers tell me that this service has drastically reduced their bad debt,” said Eaton.

An added bonus to making use of electronic solutions such as MedDraft is that such a service can minimize work in the provider’s accounting cycle. This effectively decreases the administrative time it takes to oversee payment plans and allows staff time to focus on other areas of account receivables. Weekly invoices with checks are submitted to the facility to post and reconcile within their software.

Also, electronic notifications, like the ones sent by PayPlan123, eliminates the necessity for multiple members of a provider’s staff to interact with account receivables, which could possibly lead to errors. Clearly, with so many advantages from electronic payment technologies, medical offices that are not yet making use of electronic payment solutions could greatly be benefited.

Boston Preview: 5 Revenue Solutions

This year the ASCA Annual Meeting is going to be held in Boston, Massachusetts, and no doubt, many in the industry are eagerly finalizing arrangements for their trip this month so that they can attend the conference. In fact, the conference will be attended by ASC owners, leadership, staff and vendors alike.

Mnet Financial, a well-known collection vendor in the health care industry, has released plans to attend and exhibit at the upcoming conference. CEO David Hamilton points out that the focus for Mnet Financial this year will be on a topic that is typically on the minds of most office managers and administrators: revenue solutions. The question, however, is what revenue cycle management tools really work and how can they benefit YOUR facility? Hamilton points out that although there are many options available, there are 5 basic revenue cycle solutions that can and will benefit the savvy and cost-conscious management of a facility. The 5 revenue solutions are:

1. Early Out-Medical debt is one of the fastest depreciating of all types of account receivables, and often is the most labor intensive to recover. Using an accelerated cash flow process, internal costs can be reduced to little more than the price of sending out normal billing statements by allowing the medical collection vendor to act as an extension of the medical center’s billing department. By interacting with the patient to resolve their bill, the facility is only charged when the bill has been collected.

2. Payment Plan Management-Can your patients set up payment plans with you? “Our MedDraft online solution gives providers an instantaneous, customized presence that allows patients to conveniently submit diverse types of payments anytime and from anywhere,” said Hamilton. Another option, payment monitoring, is a service designed for patients who are willing to pay their bills, but who need a monthly payment arrangement so that they can satisfy the bill over the course of time. Collection Manager Stacy Eaton at Mnet Financial says that “with payment monitoring the patients are relieved because they can get the surgery that they need now and the provider is happy because they control the terms of the payment-it’s a great option for everybody involved.”

3. Accounts Receivable Clean Up-This option can be one of the biggest values available to an ambulatory surgery center. Even in times when an A/R department is working at its optimum, it’s important for operations to be cleaned up occasionally to ensure the proper level of cash flow. Purging old patient data that has become outdated and has been stored in facility systems is a great place to start; but even more benefits can be gained by allowing a vendor partner to manage accounts receivables and to recover money that is owed to a facility. This service can be utilized during a change in staff or billing software conversion as well by allowing the vendor to temporarily administrate the billing of the facility for them.

4. Bad Debt Recovery-Third party collection vendors typically offer their services as flat rate or contingency based collection programs. Some providers prefer the flat “fee for services” option; because it allows them to pick and choose what calls are made and when and also to control when and where letters are sent. The most popular choice is the contingency based program because it is commission based, which means that the vendor only gets paid when they collect. The program allows the vendor to contact the patient by phone or mail to offer solutions to resolve the debt.

5. Funding-Medical lien funding is an innovative solution that gives medical providers a risk-free option for dealing with personal injury cases. Medical professionals in hospitals, surgery and trauma centers can receive the funding needed to care for the injured so that they can receive necessary testing and treatment required. Funding enables a center to accelerate cash flow, use newly available cash on hand to expand facility services, or even use funds for operational functions such as paying employees. By accepting funding on medical accounts receivables, a facility can avoid accruing interest and other costs associated with financing. “Even if a lien that’s been purchased becomes uncollectable at some point; it’s no longer the responsibility of the facility. That makes the service completely free of worry” said Mnet Financial CEO Hamilton.

All of the revenue solutions discussed can certainly be extremely valuable to a medical facility. By making use of the solutions mentioned above, the leadership of a medical business office will find that their workload is not quite as heavy. Also, knowing that worry about accounts receivables is no longer necessary should free up some time to focus on new and pressing issues that seem to arise each and every day.

Latest Trend in America-Tax Refunds Used as Tool to Reduce Debt

Tax season has long been viewed by many, if not most Americans, as a time for a windfall that can be used for a much-needed vacation, an indulgent trip to the mall, or a glamorous night out on the town. But a recent study has shown that more than 40 percent of Americans polled who are receiving a tax refund this year plan to use their money to pay down debt. Other recent surveys indicate that a large majority of people who will receive a tax refund this year intend to use their refund intelligently rather than extravagantly.

The implication of these studies is that a large portion of the country plans to use the money that they receive as a refund to take care of financial obligations. This is good news for creditors throughout the country including the business offices of most medical facilities. How, though, should a medical office go about implementing a program that’s designed to help the patient settle their debt?

The latest in communication technologies can play a large part in modern day debt resolution. Because the healthcare collection landscape has changed so rapidly in recent years, new technologies are often used. Technologies such as SMS text messaging, email communication, voice messaging and auto-dialers are now used to help build a rapport with patients and help them to see the advantage they gain by resolving their medical debt.

“Because we know that so many people are going to be receiving a large tax refund and want to pay down their debt, we created a special program called the ‘Tax Season Debt Resolution Campaign,’” said Business Office Manager of Mnet Financial, Stacy Eaton. “With this program, a series of letters and automated phone calls are placed with patients between February 22 and March 31. The letters and phone calls explain that if the patient is able to offer a lump sum payment before the end of the program, they may qualify for a discount.”

“Depending on the balance, we typically begin negotiating by offering a ten percent discount and take it from there. This discount program is offered on accounts with a date of service that is one year old or older; and the patients of our clients are automatically enrolled in the program, so it really is effortless for our clients” said Eaton.

“I think that the reason we are having so much success with our ‘Tax Season’ campaign is that we use not only the latest technological tools to reach out to the patients, but also employ top notch collection agents who actually understand the health care system. Our representatives work diligently to overcome any obstacles that might prevent the patient from resolving their debt,” said David Hamilton, CEO of Mnet Financial.

As the economy continues its anemic recovery, the trend toward fiscally responsible consumerism may well continue into the foreseeable future. How the medical community and ASCs across the country will respond to this trend remains to be seen.

Mnet Announces Personal Injury and Workers' Compensation Funding Solutions

Mnet Financial; a well-known collection agency in healthcare, has just announced another innovative solution to give medical providers a risk-free option for dealing with personal injury and worker’s compensation cases. Under this program, medical professionals in hospitals, surgery and trauma centers will receive the funding they need to properly care for those who have become injured so that they can receive necessary diagnostic testing and the subsequent treatment that is required.

Why Finance Personal Injury and Worker’s Comp Receivables?

This option can be attractive to a medical facility because it enables a center to accelerate cash flow, use newly-available cash on hand to expand facility services, or even to use funds for business operational functions such as paying employees. This choice can also allow a medical facility to tap into new markets by providing care to patients who are currently uninsured.

By accepting funding on medical accounts receivables, a medical center can avoid accruing interest and other costs that are associated with more traditional accounts receivable financing. Even if a lien that has been purchased becomes uncollectable, the problem is no longer the responsibility of the medical center, so the service truly is free of worry. This approach to receivables creates a very real partnership between the vendor and the client because both are working together for a mutually beneficial outcome. Some of the features of the service include:

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