When you work in urgent care, you need to decide how to handle patients who don’t pay their bill. There are certain laws and rules that you must follow, so it’s important to keep that in mind while taking action to get the payment owed to your urgent care facility.
What Does Urgent Care Mean?
Urgent care clinics are available for injuries, sicknesses, and other ailments that require immediate medical care, but aren’t life threatening. It’s used mainly for patients who require medical attention, but do not need to go to the emergency room. Urgent care is where you might go if you can’t get into your doctor’s office, but still require a medical professional’s opinion about an injury or illness.
Should You Send Urgent Care Patient Accounts to Collections?
If a patient doesn’t immediately pay his bill, your best bet is to send him one to two statements showing his account is past due. Your next step would be to call the patient to try to collect the debt. If that doesn’t work and you feel you’ve done everything you can to retrieve a payment, you can then send the account to collections, as long as it has been at least 60 to 75 days from the date the balance was the patient’s responsibility.
To efficiently handle delinquent patient accounts at your urgent care center, you must first have a strong financial policy and be sure that all of your staff is properly trained to handle patient questions regarding payment. A good financial policy should include the following steps:
- Verify insurance eligibility. The front desk should check a patient’s insurance when the individual walks in the door, before service is provided. If they have insurance, then your staff can collect any applicable copays or deductibles at that time. If they don’t have valid insurance, they can be considered as a self-pay and managed appropriately, whether that means collecting the balance in full or setting up a self-pay rate.
- Collect past due balances. If a patient arrives for new services, but still has a balance from a previous visit, your staff can collect payment prior to rendering new services.
- Add collection charges to patient bills. If it’s allowed in your state, you can add the cost of the collection agency to the service if a bill goes to collections. You can have patients sign that they understand that there will be an additional fee beyond the balance due – the percentage charged by the collection agency – if the account goes to collections. However, it’s important to verify that this is not prohibited in your state first, as different states have different laws concerning collection processes.
Utilizing credit card preauthorization will help you decrease non-payments and improve your revenue flow. This technology has patients grant you permission to charge their credit card when a balance becomes their responsibility. There is no waiting for payment or chance that a patient simply forgets to pay their account.
Your focus should be on maintaining a clear internal collection process starting at your front desk, and most collection agencies can help you set up an effective system. An internal system will help to reduce the number of accounts sent to collections. If you mishandle the collection process based on your state’s laws, there is a possibility for liability issues, so it’s important to discuss the process with a collection agency.
How do I protect my urgent care center from liability when working with a collection agency?
Your urgent care center will want to be represented by an ethical collection agency that is highly knowledgeable and skilled in what they do. Research area agencies and be sure the one you choose is familiar with state and federal guidelines and follows the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).
The collection agency that you choose should offer a detailed process for tracking accounts that they receive. This process should include the following:
- Verification of which patient accounts that should go to collections
- Verification of all account balances
- A method of marking which accounts are in collections so that the front desk can collect if those patients return to the urgent care center
- Regular updates from the collection agency as to the status of each account in collections
- Reports of payments received and which accounts have paid in full
Working with a collection agency can help you process all collections within the legal limits set up by the federal government and your own state’s laws. You will be working hand-in-hand with a professional service whose sole goal is to ensure that you get paid the funds due to your urgent care facility.