Investigations into hospital debt collection practices continue to be a growing concern. With the increase in patient responsibility, more and more consumers are struggling to pay their medical bills. These unpaid bills are then reported to credit agencies, which results in angry consumers that seek legal counsel. A Missouri hospital was recently investigated over concern that the debt collection practices were too aggressive and sufficient information about financial assistance was not provided to the patient. An HFMA article stated that only 42% of hospitals notified patients of financial assistance policies prior to attempting to collect unpaid medical bills. The Missouri hospital investigation concluded with a range of policy changes implemented, including a direct notification of financial assistance 180 days prior to sending bills to collections.
I understand the need to alleviate the financial burden that is now placed on patients for their medical expenses; however, expecting the hospital to write off a significant portion or wait up to six months before attempting to collect is not sustainable. A recent Modern Healthcare article emphasized the increased number of consumers with unmanageable medical bills. The shift to high-deductible health plans has caused financial stress on patients seeking routine care as opposed to previously the majority being uninsured patients who developed a major illness.
"Medical debt is now a reality for tens of millions of low- and moderate-income families."
Transparency into pricing and payment options is critical for consumers to understand what they owe and what their options for payment are. The investigation into the Missouri hospital will certainly not be the last. As hospitals and other providers revamp their policies to ensure transparency, they should consider the addition of a patient account financing option like MyLoans. Transparency and upfront conversations help inform patients but do not guarantee patients can pay their medical bills in a lump sum. Modern Healthcare concluded by urging providers to find the balance between collecting what's due and not punishing low and moderate income patients; MyLoans can help you achieve this balance by enabling patients to pay their bills over time while the provider receives upfront payment.
About Epic River
Since its inception in 2005, Epic River has been providing financial institutions with software and services for process and revenue improvement. MyLoans, our Patient Lending solution, partners financial institutions and healthcare providers to offer low interest loans to cover patient balances. Practices, surgery centers and hospitals get immediate funding of their patient’s outstanding balances and patients avoid financial harm.