A/R from Patients

March 1, 2005

What percentage of my accounts receivable should be personal balances?

Question: What percentage of my accounts receivable should be personal balances?

Answer: The Medical Group Management Association surveys report on gross charges by payer type - not exactly what you are looking for, but close.

It reports that family practices have a median of:

  • 19.93 percent in Medicare fee-for-service,
  • 5.05 percent in Medicaid,
  • 55.23 percent in commercial FFS, and
  • 4.90 percent as self-pay.

I have never seen a norm in terms of balances.

If self-pay patients represent a large portion of your business, it would follow that you can expect that balance to be relatively high. That is not necessarily a problem except that it is very difficult to collect from individuals as the accounts age.

Make timely collections from patients a high priority.

Collect copays and deductibles at the time of service. Many groups now collect these at check-in, when possible. Tell staff to keep a report of when a copay is not collected - they should collect them all. Offer staff a script to work from.

Set up payment plans for patients with large bills - before they leave the office.

Send only three collection letters before sending a patient to collections (some offices send 10 or more; the eighth will have little more effect than the fourth.)