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Keeping Track of Patient Payments During an Economic Recovery

Many economists are pointing to a substantial growth in 2021 as the United States continues a slow recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) forecast points to a 1.7% average annual increase in gross domestic product (GDP) between 2020 and 2024, including a 4.6% boost in 2021. However, the same projections point to employment not returning to pre-pandemic levels until 2024.

While unemployment is on a downwards trend, the high-deductible on health plans have not. Patients that struggle paying for their deductible/ copays are faced with the decision between paying their bills or paying for doctor visits.

Ways that practices can address this situation include:

  • Using the federal poverty level (FPL) as your guide: Measures of income are issued every year by the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), used to determine eligibility for reduced-cost coverage on ACA marketplace plans. Providing helpful resources to patients will increase the likelihood of trust.

  • Payment conversations: While many conversations about payments often occur at a front desk, it may also be helpful to have a “private and enclosed space” for sensitive conversations for patients that might feel uncomfortable with their economical situation.

  • Having a patient portal: This will provide patients with additional information on the insurance, location and providers in your practice. Providing them with paperwork to fill out before walking into the clinic will decrease your patient waiting time and the time they have to be off work.

  • Switch from paper to online payment options: As more consumers get comfortable with nontraditional payment, practices should expand their payment models. PayPal, Venmo, Zelle have shown to be trust worthy companies.

  • Prior balances : Be proactive when talking to a patient. When a patient that has a high balance has an appointment, be sure to call them ahead of time to let them know to be prepared to make a payment. If the patient is not able to pay, make sure to make a payment arrangement. This will provide them with an extended period of time to pay their balance off.

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