Withholding Care

November 1, 2008

Can a doctor refuse to see an established patient until he pays his account balance? Would this be considered withholding treatment?

Question: Can a doctor refuse to see an established patient until he pays his account balance? Would this be considered withholding treatment?

Answer: You can set a written policy, communicated to patients in advance, that you will refuse to see established patients who have not met their financial obligations. You’ll want to define this very clearly - any bill left unpaid after three months? Account balances exceeding $500?

You’ll also want to define what you’ll do when the patient is re-instated. Do they need to pay for all services in advance, for example? Are they dropped from the practice if they go into arrears again? If so, promise to see the patient for the next 30 days, on a cash basis, until they can find another physician or arrange a payment plan/pay in full.

Download our sample dismissal letter to use as a guide.

You might also want to confirm that your malpractice carrier agrees with this advice.