MANAGING OVERDUE PATIENT BILLS
Debt collection not only hurts and agitates your patients, but if handled poorly, can also damage your hard earned relationship with your dental patients. Have it in mind that dental practices are not immune to patients not paying their bills on time. Late or overdue payments affect your business cash flow, thus affecting your ability to pay your debts on time.
Here are some basic and straightforward guidelines that can help you navigate this uncertain territory:
- Be Proactive: When your patient makes their appointment, establish a system whereby the dental staff must obtain and verify the insurance information of the patient. Also, before the patient’s appointment, the dental staff should call the patient and inform them on what their co-pay or deductible may likely be. This helps eliminate the patient’s portion even before the service is provided which equals no need for debt collection.
- Check and document the patient’s estimated balance payment before the dental service.
- Sometimes, insurance estimates can be called off, thereby leaving a patient balance even after the co-pay is collected up front. The patient should be informed of this development at the time of their dental appointment, in that way, if they receive a bill later, it won’t come as a surprise.
- The aforementioned is why it is important to have all patients’ sign a waiver notifying them of their financial obligations in case of insurance denies or underpays the claim.
- If there is a patient’s balance due after the time of service, there must be a system that sends monthly bills to the debtor until the debt is paid in full. Phone calls can be made, but unless your staff is trained in FDCPA guidelines, if not, you might put yourself at risk of a lawsuit. There is a red line here. Most people consider a bill only sixty days overdue to be a minor issue and would be offended that you called.
- With every interaction with your patients, double-check, confirm and update their demographic information.
Debt collection and management services are also available for outsourcing and might be a wise decision for your business if you see accounts receivable delay past ninety days. If you decide to outsource your debt collections to another firm, have ample time to investigate them thoroughly beforehand. Ensure they do not have any valid and evident complaints against them (all debt collection companies always receive complaints because people do not like paying their dental bills). Also, check up on their certification update, regulations followed and how often their staff goes through training. The world of debt collection is filled with many rules that are always changing. It is important you place your business in the hands of people that are not running up and down with lawsuits throughout the year. More importantly, hire a debt collection company with dental experience – they need to know how to read and understand insurance information as well as insurance companies if that becomes necessary.