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Give patients options for their prior balances
Some problems are easy to fix
When attempting to collect prior balances, registrars at Fairview Northland Health Services in Princeton, MN, often come across patients who are unprepared to pay the amount or don't realize they have a balance.
"We have found that if patients are not aware of prior balances, then the likelihood of collecting on them decreases," says Steph Collins, manager of patient access.
For this reason, patients are given the opportunity to meet with financial counselors who offer options, including payment plans, to take care of prior balances. "Our long-term goal is to include registration staff in making payment plans," adds Collins. "The main challenge is training and having the registrar feel comfortable doing this."
Offering payment plans can be tricky, especially if software goes down or an amount has to be negotiated, says Collins. "We have a guide to help us determine the acceptable amount of time allowed to pay off a balance and the required monthly amount," says Collins. "When patients cannot meet that, then staff have to feel comfortable enough to negotiate."
Process for rebills
If a past due balance is large, and the patient is found eligible for Medicaid, the balance might be covered if the visit was within the retroactive coverage time period, adds Collins.
"We also have a charity care program. This could possibly help patients where the Medicaid coverage did not cover the past due balance," she says.
The department also has had success with rebills due to the patient's failure to return requested information to the payer, therefore making the patient liable for the entire balance, says Collins.
Patients often weren't aware of the requested information, often involving accident or coordination of benefits information, or didn't understand the implication of them not returning it, says Collins. "This is an easy thing to fix and, therefore, get paid," Collins says. "We are able to connect the patient with the insurance -- sometimes right in our office -- and get the claim reprocessed by their insurance and paid. These are win-win situations for all."