Navigating Increased Patient Financial Responsibility

The percentage of insured patients who have high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) is set to increase significantly in the coming years–both because more patients are selecting these plans from their available options, and because employers are increasingly offering these plans as the only option available to employees. And although the number of uninsured patients appears to be declining, there is still a large population of uninsured patients.

The confluence of these trends means that providers will be responsible for collecting a larger share of the total cost of care from patients, rather than from institutional payers.

Donna Marbury of Medical Economics recently asked ZirMed Product Manager Nate Davis how HDHPs are affecting solo practitioners and small practices today, and what providers can do to prepare for the continuing rise of HDHPs. Nate identified a few key approaches and tips:

Estimate and communicate
It’s important for the patient and provider to be aware of expected financial responsibility upfront–and to have an open, honest discussion about those numbers. The fear that practice owners have of HDHP patients–namely, that these patients have a lower propensity to pay–is something that can be addressed through practice management, Nate says. Create an environment that encourages and supports HDHP patients meeting their responsibility, not one that inherently penalizes them or makes them feel stressed about their coverage (or lack thereof).

Stop chasing payment
It’s more imperative than ever to discuss patient financial responsibility before treatment is delivered, and collect a predetermined portion upfront. As Nate explains, “physicians need to get out in front of the payment…this is a big change in mindset for the industry. Providers won’t be able to afford to collect payments after service for much longer” due to the large number of newly insured patients on high-deductible plans and the increasing cost to collect as A/R ages.

Train and anticipate
Ensure that your staff knows how to communicate the amounts patients owe upfront, Nate says, and provide tools that educate, engage, and accommodate patients–such as printed brochures outlining financial responsibility, automatic payment plans, and online payment portals.

How has your practice approached discussing patient financial responsibility with HDHP patients? What’s been the biggest obstacle when collecting from patients? You can read the full article including Nate’s interview here–and if collecting from patients is a challenge for your practice, learn how to engage patients and increase upfront collections with early estimation.
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