Setting Up Payment Plans

June 1, 2009

Are medical practices more or less likely today to offer patients a payment plan to help them cover their increasing out-of-pocket costs? Such doctor-arranged payment plans would have significant advantages for so-called “self-pay” patients, many of whom charge out-of-pocket costs on high-interest credit cards.

Question: Are medical practices more or less likely today to offer patients a payment plan to help them cover their increasing out-of-pocket costs? Such doctor-arranged payment plans would have significant advantages for so-called “self-pay” patients, many of whom charge out-of-pocket costs on high-interest credit cards.

Answer: Yes, most practice offer payment plans. And there is increasing interest as there are more self-pay patients or even just insured patients with high-deductible, consumer-driven plans.

Anecdotally, though, I’d say that practices actually are getting increasingly frustrated with having to offer credit to patients. They need the cash now, and basically feel like the fact that the system is broken should not be their fault. In addition, physicians are notoriously poor at collections. At a time when so many are struggling to pay the mortgage you can guess what priority patients place on some bill from a nice doctor they haven’t seen for six months. In addition, practices are not equipped to follow the rules established for fair lending.

Many practices are pushing patients to services like carecredit.com to get lines of credit instead.

A movement in the payer community toward real-time claims adjudication means more physicians will check upfront what patients owe, and when reasonable, won’t perform services unless the patient pays at check-in.