Coping with High Deductible Health PlansLove them or hate them, high deductible healthcare plans (HDHP) show no signs of going away. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the number of workers subscribing to HDHPs has increased by 22 percent since 2009, with about half of all U.S. employees purchasing them today.

On paper, HDHPs should mean faster payments for medical practices since revenue is less reliant on the claims submission process. This is because the patient is responsible for a greater portion of the bill, which ostensibly means that the healthcare practice would see a bigger cut of the payment tendered at the point of service. In practice, though, HDHPs have shaken out a bit differently.

A recent report from the Peterson-Kaiser Health System Tracker found that health plan cost sharing and deductible spending have outpaced wage increases in the past decade. This is troubling for healthcare practices, as they increasingly rely on the patient's ability to cover his or her portion of the bill. In fact, patients are now covering, on average, one-third of all healthcare expenses, according to HealthcareITNews. If patients are unable to pay their bills, two problems emerge:

  • Those bills go to collections and ultimately degrade revenue cycle billing health.
  • Patients that might otherwise receive preventative care will procrastinate, allowing a potential health issue to escalate in severity, further bloating the size of their final payout.

As disconcerting as both outcomes seem, specialty practices can take certain proactive measures to prevent either from coming to pass.

Solving Problem 1: Introduce New Payment Options

One of the simplest and most effective ways to cope with the challenges of HDHPs is to present patients with a payment estimation prior to delivering a service.

This improves transparency and makes patients aware of their financial responsibility prior to the point of service so they can make the necessary preparations to cover that payment. It also presents patients with the option to pay prior to the visit, which helps reduce total charge lag days (the average amount of time between services rendered and payment).

Another viable payment strategy is to incentivize patients to keep a credit card on file that can be automatically charged at the time services are rendered. This makes it easier for patients to cover their portion of the bill without having to go through the motions of filling out their card information in an online payment form or pulling out their wallet at the front desk.

To make this possibility a reality, practices can leverage an automated eligibility verification function of a digital practice management solution like AllMeds Practice Manager. Seamless integration with your practice's EHR system makes it easy to preemptively document services and provide cost estimate to patients prior to the visit.

Solving Problem 2: Proactively Engage Patients

When patients wait to see a specialist until a problem becomes serious, that risk ultimately transfers over to the healthcare provider. Reacting to a severe health condition that has been allowed to progress will almost always cost more than preventing it or managing it. Consequently, there's a greater chance that a higher payout will be asked of the patient. In turn, this increases the chances that a patient with a high deductible won't pay the full amount at the point of service.

By contrast, engaging patients to make sure that they are receiving the care they need is cost-effective for the patient and financially less risky for the provider.

How do you achieve this? Some methods include:

  • Allowing patients to update symptoms and medical conditions via an online patient portal.
  • Actively reaching out to patients who have not contacted your practice in a while.
  • Facilitating easier, online communications between patients and providers for appointment requests and secure messaging activities.

AllMeds RCM for Your PracticeAllMeds Practice Manager enables all of the above functions, and more. For further information about how our PM technology can improve revenue cycle management, even in the age of HDHPs, click here, or contact us today.

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Coping with High Deductible Health Plans

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