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When a payer started allowing patients to pay is providers directly, collections improved almost overnight for one practice.
Franco Rizzolo, partner and administrator of Suburban Orthopaedic Medical Center, LLC, in Newark, N.J., feels the pain of every practice billing department that has to chase payments.
And given the recent rise in patient payments, which Practice Notes blogger James Doulgeris pointed out in a recent piece, getting paid may become even tougher: Out-of-pocket expenses not including premiums have increased to an average of $768 for each privately insured consumer in 2012, according to the Health Care Cost Institute, and are projected to skyrocket as much as 50 percent in 2015.
"It's tough when you have to send out statements because it's time consuming and it gets expensive for the amount of money you're chasing," Rizzolo told Physicians Practice of the all-too-familiar process of sending out statements, waiting for payments, and processing checks and claims.
But new technology implemented by one of Rizzolo's payers, UnitedHealthcare, could be part of a new trend that will benefit small practices like his.
Rizzolo is one of the first users of a new online member payments system UnitedHealthcare recently rolled out, which is based on payment technology provided by InstaMed.
The secure, online electronic bill-payment service allows consumers to pay their medical bills and manage their healthcare claims and related expenses all from one location. The online service, known as myClaims Manager, is available to more than 21 million UnitedHealthcare plan participants nationwide.
Specifically, the bill-pay feature is the latest enhancement to UnitedHealthcare's plan participant portal www.myuhc.com, and helps consumers to pay medical bills electronically by entering their credit card, debit card, health savings account, or bank account information. This, according to Rizzolo, translates to faster payments to his and other participating physician practices (only two-thirds of which accept credit cards, according to a recent report from SK&A Information Services).
Using the new system has helped Rizzolo's seven-provider, two-location practice reduce collection costs and reduce days in A/R by reducing the traditional, cumbersome process of sending out bills and collecting payments (which can take up to 20 days). As a result, Rizzolo said he wishes more of the payers the practice works with would put similar systems into effect.
"With the new process, we can get paid in five days," said Rizzolo. "It's a big difference. Also, we're able to see our payments online, and it's direct deposited into our bank account."