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Pulse Magazine

Patients Prefer Payment Plans for Medical Bills



As out-of-pocket health care costs continue to increase for consumers, more prefer payment plans to manage their medical bills, according to the “Changing Landscape of Health Care Payment Plans” report, produced by
PYMNTS in collaboration with Flywire. Data on the report is based on a survey of 2,837 patients who checked
into a hospital or emergency room in the previous year.

Key findings include:

57 percent of respondents would prefer a payment plan offered before service or at the time of service with their health care provider.

35.5 percent would prefer a payment plan offered at the time they receive their first bill.

Just 6.9 percent choose a phone call from their provider to ask for a plan.

There is a direct relationship between a patient’s increased out-of-pocket payments and the chance they will sign up for a payment plan:

38.9 percent of respondents used payment plans to manage out-of-pocket expenses ranging from $50 to $250.

When costs topped $1,000, 51.4 percent opted for payment plans.  Payment plan fees influence how patients make decisions connected to payment plans, for example:

33.7 percent choose shorter terms to reduce fees.

17 percent pay balances in full to avoid fees.

25 percent say fees have no influence on their decision on how to pay.

“The study offers important insights for hospitals and health systems seeking to optimize their revenue cycle practices and payment plan strategy, as well as to improve payment behavior without jeopardizing the relationship between patient and provider,” John Talaga, executive vice president, Flywire, said in a news release on the study.  More information: https://bit.ly/2CDJMpH

Why a Patient Friendly Billing and Payment System Matters

 



To boost your bottom line, it may pay to consider patient consumerism when dealing with your patients. Because when a patient schedules a visit for medical care, they’re not simply thinking about the quality of care. They’re thinking about the value they’re getting from the visit, even if they have medical insurance coverage. Here are some of the realities patients and care providers are facing in regards to patient consumerism:

In the past decade, high-deductible health plans have become the norm for millions of Americans, meaning your patients’ out-of-pocket expenses cover the gamut, from $1,350 for individuals to $13,300 for families.  That means even with tools like health savings accounts, patients are more watchful than ever over their health care dollars.

Some of the struggling patients are young: Patients in their late 20s were more likely to have medical debt in collections than older patients, despite the fact they were less likely to use medical services, according to a 2018 study published in Health Affairs. Another surprise: Half the accounts in collections were for less than $600.

Three-quarters of a percent of health care providers saw a rise in patient responsibility for payments in 2015, according to a report in Rev Cycle Intelligence. And health care providers aren’t recovering the full balance from the patient but recouping 50-70 percent of the billable amount.  To work within these new realities, health providers can take proactive steps to make access to medical care more patient-friendly, and one area of focus could be in the realm of billing and collections.

Better front-end procedures: When a patient goes about their daily lives, they have become accustomed to completing many transactions online or with a smartphone app, whether they want to apply for a new job, shop for necessities, order food, get a ride, buy concert tickets, or transfer funds. When a patient wants to see a doctor, patients are still picking up the phone to book appointments and filling out paper forms in the waiting room.

Offering an online scheduling system is a more convenient way for patients to book (and reschedule) appointments. Giving patients the ability to fill out electronic intake forms can reduce data entry errors, speed up the billing process and ensure that your billing department has accurate information about the patient.

Communicate about costs: From a patient’s perspective, medical costs are notoriously difficult to plan for. Health Care providers can help patients prepare by informing them of their payment responsibility upfront. Some providers even supply chargemaster prices, with a strong caveat that the amount could change after their insurer processes the visit.  When patients gain the ability to plan for these expenses, it can reduce stress in patients and build trust.

Smarter collections: The final step in the patient interaction is billing. Accepting online credit card payments makes it easy, convenient and safe for patients to pay their bills. When patients are late with payments, good communication is key to recovery, especially if the phone calls and letters help patients understand their options to catch up on their late bills. Finally, treat past-due patients with respect and compassion. When it comes time to send these accounts to a collection partner, experience and professionalism count.

Health care is a major expense for patients, which is why it’s important for clinics and practices to demonstrate the care just as much for a patient’s financial health as they do their physical health.

Brian Eggert is a business development specialist and writer for IC System. Moreinformation: https://bit.ly/2AZ010l

 

Employer-Based Insurance Premiums Create Growing Burden for Families

  • February 27, 2019
  • Published in Billing



A growing number of consumers are doling out more of their paychecks for health care premium contributions through their employer insurance plans, according to The Commonwealth Fund Report “The Cost of Employer Insurance is a Growing Burden for Middle Income Families.”

“The cost of employer health insurance premiums and deductibles continues to outpace growth in workers’ wages. This is concerning because it may put both coverage and health care out of reach for people who need it most—people with low incomes and those with health problems,” said Sara Collins, lead author of the study and Commonwealth Fund vice president for health care coverage and access, in a news release.

“Policies that would reduce health care burdens on employees include fixing the Affordable Care Act’s family coverage glitch, requiring employers to exclude some services from the deductible and increasing the required minimum value of employer plans.”

Key findings from The Commonwealth Fund include:

In 2017, the average employee premium costs for single and family insurance plans totaled almost 7 percent of the median income in the U.S., compared to 5 percent in 2008.

Combined, the total expense from premiums for workers and “potential spending” on deductibles for single and family insurance plans increased to an annual amount of $7,240 in 2017. 

Employees’ contributions for insurance premiums also increased.  “Between 2016 and 2017, employee premium contributions rose by 6.8 percent to $1,415 for single-person plans and by 5.3 percent to $5,218 for family plans.”

See more information from the report here https://bit.ly/2PV28ah and in Data Watch.

Healthcare Providers Report Status of Revenue Cycle Management

Recent research shows some hospitals are lagging in implementing Revenue Cycle Management (RCM) solutions and consider outsourcing services only as a short-term solution.  “Twenty-six percent of all U.S. hospitals still do not have a viable, effective RCM solution in place, despite all the evidence of their positive impact on revenue, bottom line and efficiency,” according to a news release from Black Book Market Research LLC, which conducted the survey.

Respondents evaluated their technology services and solutions for the survey and of the “1,600 RCM modernization-delinquent hospitals,” according to the news release, 82 percent said they plan on making “value-based reimbursement decisions in 2019 without an advanced software implementation or outsourced partner.”

Results from a 2012 survey on RCM revealed that 35 percent of hospitals did not have an RCM strategy. The decline to 26 percent, “does indicate that there have been workable RCM IT plans adopted and new systems implemented by about 400 hospitals over the past six years.”

While a majority of respondents said they plan to implement advancement in RCM in-house, 85 percent also reported they would work with an outside firm for short-term direction, according to the news release.  

ACA International members interviewed for the January issue of Pulse said RCM is changing significantly based on technology and third-party agencies can provide valuable plan options to meet providers’ and patients’ needs.  (Read more industry insight on RCM in January issue of Pulse here https://www.acainternational.org/pulse.)

Additional findings from the Black Book Market Research Survey include:

Nearly 70 percent of providers said it takes a minimum of one month to collect a full balance from a patient.

They also seek to prevent claim denials through RCM.

However, challenges include staffing resources for RCM software and reimbursement.

More information: https://bit.ly/2T1UbSE

 

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