Top 5 Questions from Innovative Collections Webinar

Lea Chatham February 28th, 2013

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In the free webinar 3 Innovative Strategies to Improve Collections Rochelle Glassman discussed collecting patient due amounts at the time of service as part of your medical billing strategy. She reviewed how to find out what they owe and what to collect. She suggested collecting deposits for high dollar services or getting authorization to charge a credit card for balances due after the time of service. While this was just one of her strategies, participants had a lot of questions. We’ve selected the top 5 related to this section of the webinar and provided Rochelle’s answers.

  1. How long does the credit card agreement remain in effect? Does there need to be an expiration date?
    A: A payment agreement stays in effect until the balance is paid in full. When an agreement is made, it spells out the length of the agreement and the patient signs that agreement with the understanding of the length of the agreement. Recurring payments can be set up using a payment processing service. If you already accept credit cards, your merchant services department may already have a service in place which you can add to your current plan. Many banks such as Chase and Wells Fargo offer this option to their merchants for a monthly fee. This service is also available through other vendors such as Paypal, Chargify and
  2. Is it legal to charge no-show, administrative, late, and processing fees?
    A: This is not a legal question but a payer contracting question. The answer depends on what your payer contract dictates related to charging the health plan members administrative fees. It is highly recommended that you review your contracts. With that being said, it is recommended that all of the practice’s administrative fees be described in the practice’s financial policy that all new and existing patients should read and execute every year or every time there is a financial policy change. It’s good to have policies reviewed by your accountant, attorney, or a qualified healthcare consultant.
  3. What is the timeframe for returning overpayments to patients?
    A: I tell people within 30 days. Most payer contracts define this for you so you can check your contracts, but I think within 30 days is a best practice.
  4. Are there any legal requirements with regard to keeping credit information on file?
    A:  Yes, the merchant must be PCI DSS (The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) compliant. When compliant, you can legally store credit card information, with the exception of the CVV code. You can never, store the CVV
    code. Your merchant services provider should meet these standards. Details on the requirements can be found at PCI Security Standards
  5. Can you give patients’ discounts on their copay and deductibles? I thought that most payers didn’t let you do this.
    A: Initially, most payer contracts prevent you from offering discounts. However, I use Medicare as my guideline and they say that you should do what you can to collect payment from patients. I believe that after the practice has tried to collect any outstanding balance by sending out at least 3 patient statements over 90-120 days and if the patient hasn’t paid or made arrangements for a payment plan, that you can offer a discount to encourage the patient to pay something. This is better than not getting paid at all. If the patient has a legitimate financial hardship you can reduce the fee and/or write it off. I recommend that you use the standard Medicare financial policy to identify those patients that have a legitimate financial hardship. These financial statements provided by the patient should be reviewed and analyzed by a manager or practice owner who has the authorization to discount or write off fees based on the practice’s financial policies. It is recommended that the practice remains consistent with their financial policies and keep within the Medicare guidelines. The patient’s financial statement(s) should become part of the patient’s permanent financial record for 7 to 10 years in the event the practice is ever audited.

Check out the recorded webinar to get all of the great information provided there. And take a look at our next event, Medical Practice Marketing for Profitability.

About the Author: Rochelle Glassman

Rochelle Glassman

Our guest speaker is Rochelle Glassman, a passionate advocate for physicians and medical practices who has devoted her career to helping doctors get paid. Rochelle is the President & CEO of United Physician Services, and is a nationally recognized healthcare consultant known for her candor, tenacity, and vision.

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