Medical debt is a destructive force that affects millions of Americans every year, especially those without emergency funds or limited access to credit. This unforeseen expense can cause people to spiral into debt and, in some cases, even file for bankruptcy. High medical expenses continue to be one of the common reasons that people file for bankruptcy. The ripple effect from high medical bills is far-reaching— it’s not just about money. It’s an issue that deserves attention on both a personal and societal level. This is especially true if we want to see real progress made toward ensuring everyone has access to quality healthcare at an affordable cost.
Understanding the Impact of Medical Debt
Nearly three-quarters of adults with past-due medical bills (72.9 percent) owe at least some to hospitals, including almost a third who owe money to hospitals and nearly half who are in debt to both hospitals and other service providers.
Despite over 90% of Americans having health insurance, 63% of people with overdue medical expenses incurred debt while having health insurance. Even a minor, unexpected medical expense can be costly. For those who require extensive care, it’s not uncommon to accumulate mounting medical bills over time. With a changing economic climate, finding ways to get out of this kind of debt has become increasingly difficult — presenting a real struggle for many.
Medical debt can have a long-lasting effect on both patients and healthcare providers. A patient who is in debt is more likely to avoid doctor visits and put needed tests or treatments on hold. All in all, this type of financial burden leads to so much more than economic instability.
With nearly two-thirds of adults struggling with medical debt having incomes below 250 percent of the federal poverty line, many people are still left wondering how they will pay for necessary treatments. A patient payment plan will serve as a practical solution for patients who have high medical expenses, need costly procedures, or do not have enough insurance coverage.
Exploring Patient Payment Plans
In a perfect world, patients would pay their medical bills in full as soon as they received them. Unfortunately, a perfect world is not our reality. However, most healthcare providers would usually rather receive a portion of the total amount owed than nothing at all.
Patient payment plans help patients pay their healthcare costs over a certain range of time instead of all at once—allowing them to manage their financial situation. Not only do payment plans benefit patients, but they also bring advantages for healthcare providers. How do payment plans benefit healthcare providers?
Improved Cash Flow and Revenue Stability
Patient payment plans can be a valuable tool to promote and sustain financial stability for healthcare providers. Instead of waiting for the payment in full, these payment plans will provide consistent income over time—allowing your healthcare facility to budget more effectively and maintain its revenue stream.
Increased Patient Satisfaction and Loyalty
Healthcare providers can boost patient satisfaction and foster loyalty by providing access to payment plans that create a more economical route when covering medical expenses. Your patients recognize the value of the care you provide— which motivates them to want to pay off what they owe. Offering a system of installments emphasizes your interest in promoting optimal health outcomes while making sure your patients receive fair medical treatment.
Reduced Administrative Burden
This can simplify the billing process, offering a practical solution to reduce administrative burden and alleviate financial stress. This time-saving measure allows healthcare providers to direct their resources toward improving patient care instead of dealing with complicated paperwork.
Offering a payment plan to patients can make it simpler for them to tackle those medical expenses that may seem out of reach—broken down into more painless amounts over time. A patient who would usually not even open a medical bill due to their inability to pay it in full may be more willing to enroll in a plan that allows them to cover the cost of their treatments.
Key Components of Effective Patient Payment Plans
Creating a payment plan that is both beneficial for patients and healthcare organizations can be challenging. An effective patient payment plan should take into account the different needs, financial situations, and preferences of those involved. It should also acknowledge the goals of providing quality care while ensuring prompt payments to medical providers. To achieve this balance, there are several key components necessary for an effective patient payment plan system.
Flexibility in Payment Options
Depending on circumstances such as income level or health condition, flexibility may be needed when it comes to how much a patient can pay each month toward their bill, as well as how long it takes them to fulfill their portion of the agreement. It’s important that everyone agree upon reasonable terms that work for both parties so that payments occur reliably over time without causing financial hardship for either side.
Clear Communication and Transparency
A successful patient payment plan begins with clear communication between all parties involved. Patients must understand their obligations and what services they will receive in exchange. Healthcare providers must explain fees associated with service delivery, and health insurers must provide information on coverage limits. All conversations should be documented so there will be no confusion or misinterpretation at any point during the process.
Customization Based on the Patient’s Financial Circumstances
To ensure the best outcome for patients, the customization of payment plans must be based on their individual financial circumstances. This includes accounting for income levels and other relevant information (e.g., current debt or savings) in order to develop a strategy that meets the patient’s needs. Healthcare providers may also be able to customize payment plans according to their budget—while also taking into account potential changes in financial situations.
Integration With Electronic Billing Systems
Integrating with electronic billing systems is a must to ensure successful patient payment plans. A well-designed system should offer easy access and provide secure payments—while also allowing patients the flexibility to pay in installments or use various payment options.
Benefits of Reducing Medical Debt
Healthcare providers are recognizing the need to help patients manage their medical expenses and reduce debt by offering patient payment plans. There are many healthcare providers that are realizing how important financial health is—and that is why they are making it easier to pay bills, receive answers to payment questions, and access key resources.
Several advantages come from reducing medical debt, such as:
- Greater financial freedom for patients who are having a difficult time paying off their outstanding medical balances
- Increased access to healthcare services since there will be fewer costs associated with getting medical treatments
- Improved quality of life for patients
- More resources at hospitals, clinics and doctor’s offices could benefit both patients and providers
Best Practices for Implementing Patient Payment Plans
One of the most important elements in successful healthcare management is ensuring that patient payment plans are properly implemented. To make sure your healthcare practice experiences the best results, here are a few best practices to keep in mind:
- Assess patients’ financial capabilities and needs
- Educate patients about available payment options and plans
- Establish efficient and effective processes for enrollment and ongoing management
- Leverage technology and automation for seamless implementation
By taking these steps, providers can ensure a successful rollout of patient payment plans that best meet their individual circumstances.
Overcoming Challenges and Addressing Concerns
Implementing patient payment plans can be challenging for healthcare providers. Some of the common challenges that healthcare providers will face include handling patients with limited resources, balancing the need for revenue with patient satisfaction, and addressing potential resistance from staff or management.
Here are some ways to address concerns when implementing patient payment plans in relation to these challenges:
Handling patients with limited financial resources:
- Provide them with educational materials that will explain how the process will work
- Provide them with financial estimates
Balancing the need for revenue with patient satisfaction:
- Improve patients’ financial experiences to drive payment
Addressing potential resistance from staff or management:
- Make sure there is complete transparency throughout
- Engage staff by letting everyone know you understand they have concerns and are willing to address them
- Have an open channel of communication for feedback
Patient Payment Plans Made Easy With The Right Partner
If your healthcare organization is looking to help mitigate medical debt while improving your practice’s cashflow, offering patients cost-effective payment plans can be a game changer. One of our Happe members, BillFlash, is well suited to assist your organization with options like BillFlash PlanPay, for managing expenses while improving collections from patients in the long run. Using BillFlash services for billing and payments will ensure that your organization makes a real difference when it comes to the patient’s experience— without having to compromise on affordability or convenience. Schedule a demo today to learn how implementing BillFlash services can help your practice (and patients!) thrive.