How to Increase Your Medical Billing Collections With These Six Important Steps

Medical billing collections use is growing, as many doctor’s offices, medical facilities and hospitals confront ever-increasing past due debts from slow paying patients and back-logged insurance claims. Along with over 40 million Americans without any health insurance, a slow economy due to recession, and growing unemployment, means shrinking positive cash flow for medical professionals. Given that prognosis, there are a number of things you can implement to increase your internal medical billing collections. By putting these six tactics into place, you can greatly improve your financial bottom line.

1. Be sure you have a clear payment procedure, placed visibly at the front of your office. New patients need to understand clearly what, if any, payment is expected upfront, in regards to co-pays, etc. This should be understood BEFORE rendering service.

2. It’s very important that you get accurate patient information during that first doctor visit. Get the patient’s full name, address, date of birth, home, work and cell phone numbers. Get their work information: address, phone number(s), position/title, manager/supervisor, etc. Clearly, the more information you can get here, the better. While some patients may balk at giving their social security number, its still a good idea, especially if the account has to be turned over later to a collection agency.

3. If the patient has health insurance, its important to verify at this point. While a doctor’s office can get quite hectic, this crucial step shouldn’t be overlooked. Verifying coverage will avoid headaches later on.

4. In the initial patient application, be sure to clearly detail the patients’ responsibility for payment. You might also consider including language that should the account have to be turned over to a collection agency for non-payment, the patient will be responsible for collection costs. In some states, the business can recoup their costs for hiring a collections agency, if it is stated in the patient-signed application upfront. (Check with your attorney about this, as state laws vary)

5. Allow patients to make payment arrangements for those going through financial difficulties. Because so many are either uninsured or under-insured, making reasonable payment arrangements via installments gives them more options, and greater peace of mind. It will also help generate cash flow to your practice.

6. Know when its time to relinquish those difficult problem accounts, and turn them over to a debt collection agency. As discussed earlier, many patients are facing greater financial burdens, because of higher unemployment, a slow economy and recession, making it increasingly difficult to pay for the high costs of health care.

Most people intend to do the right thing and honoring their debt obligations. But the reality is that some others are less responsible. By using the before-mentioned procedures, consistently and early on, you can better identify the patients experiencing temporary financial problems from the “problem” delinquent accounts. Payment arrangements, and continued communications can better address those problems. With that, the more problem, non-paying clients have to be identified earlier as well. These are the ones to be outsourced to professional collection agencies who are better equipped to handle these types of accounts.

Failing to do so means wasting valuable time, labor and money dealing with difficult accounts. You can’t afford to waste time here, because the longer an account goes unpaid, the lesser the likelihood of getting paid at all. By placing these accounts earlier, you greatly increase your opportunity for getting a great deal, or at least some of your money. As a general rule, after 90 days of non-payment, medical billing collections should be turned over to a collection agency. These simple, but very important tips are very effective in shrinking your medical billing delinquencies. Put into consistent practice, you can greatly improve your medical billing collections.

How Universal Health Care Impacts Medical Debt Collections

The health plan that President Obama is proposing is going to be efficient and effective. In order to be efficient it would have to be streamlined and working well, for example, there couldn’t be loads of bad debt sitting on the books. In order to be efficient, the bad debt would have to be collected and always try to be up to date or very minimal. Currently 5% of hospitals gross revenues are written off to bad debt and charity and this is before the implementation of the health care plan.

Some collectors have told me that they are worried that third party collectors or collection departments receiving payments through the proposed plan may take longer than an outside insurance agency or a personal payment could take to get paid. As debt collectors we are used to slow payers but always working on new ways that payments can be obtained more quickly rather than slower. With this new program, many collectors are worried that payments will be slower which we will be forced to accept since it is a government program. On November 25, 2008, InsideARM said that “Debt collectors who currently specialize in medical receivables shouldn’t expect fewer accounts, but the balances forwarded to them by clients may be smaller.” According to Kaulkin Ginsbergs Health Care Analyst Michael Klozotsky, “Just because you insure more people, it’s not going to drop people’s co-pays and deductibles”.

According to Paul B. Ginsburg, Ph.D, “For payment reform to reach its potential, Medicaid programs and private payers of medical care such as insurance companies should participate in developing new Medicare payment methods and follow them to the extent possible. Many health care providers have substantial market power and the ability to offset Medicare payment reductions with increases for private payers, so creating payment structures that are uniform across payers can increase the potential of payment reform to change provider behavior. If a public health insurance plan is a part of health reform, then an all-payer rate-setting structure could help establish a level playing field for all health insurance plans.”

The White House.gov website says, “The President has vowed that the health reform process will be different in his Administration – an open, inclusive, and transparent process where all ideas are encouraged and all parties work together to find a solution to the health care crisis. Working together with members of Congress, doctors and hospitals, businesses and unions, and other key health care stakeholders, the President is committed to making sure we finally enact comprehensive health care reform.”

The Administration believes that comprehensive health reform should:

o Reduce long-term growth of health care costs for businesses and government
o Protect families from bankruptcy or debt because of health care costs
o Guarantee choice of doctors and health plans
o Invest in prevention and wellness
o Improve patient safety and quality of care
o Assure affordable, quality health coverage for all Americans
o Maintain coverage when you change or lose your job
o End barriers to coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions

What does it mean for your business if this health care plan protects families or consumers from bankruptcy or debt due to the costs of maintaining their health. How will consumers avoid the debt of health care costs to stay healthy when they cannot afford it? I am all for helping consumers stay out of debt, but have concerns about how this new bill protects consumers from the debt of medical bills and how will this affect third party collectors.

Small businesses are an important source of job growth in the United States. Firms with fewer than 20 employees accounted for approximately 18 percent of private sector jobs in 2006, but nearly 25 percent of net employment growth from 1992 to 2005. Many collection agencies are small businesses, and have many questions on how this plan will affect how they collect debt, how much debt they are able to collect and how much time they will have to wait to get paid if they get paid at all. Recently, during my consulting calls I was working with someone who is considering starting a medical collection agency and is worried there won’t be a demand for his services or any debt out there to collect based on this healthcare plan. In my opinion medical collectors should not worry about repercussions of the Universal Healthcare plan, there will still be plenty of work.

You can take steps now to prepare for this new plan, consider how you accept other government payments or deal with their offices and this may be similar. Set up policies and procedures now to use when the plan goes into affect. Once you start working with your policies when the plan is in place, you can tweak it to fit your billing and accounting practices. Just talking about it with your employees will help everyone to feel more comfortable with the plan once it is in place, everyone will have heard about it and will have an idea on how to handle those accounts immediately. The more efficient and effective you can be, the quicker you may get paid. Agencies can also assist with the insurance collections and will find an increase in that line of business, the providers will find it hard to educated, train and hire staff to deal with the additional follow up and if they move or shift workers from dealing with self pay accounts this would not compensate for the increased workload of collecting from the insurer. As one reader stated, “Anything the Government gets involved in becomes more complicated and complex, clients will need their collection agencies to help them deal with this even more.”

Free enterprise will always prevail. The insurance companies that are out there now, aren’t going to go away once we have this new healthcare option. The biggest impact I have found that debt collectors foresee with this new plan is how slow they may be paid or how slowly their clients may be paid. Start working with your medical clients and help them work with their patients so that they can serve as an advocate and show empathy for each individual situation and help them to work on a realistic payment plan – your job as the collector – enforce that payment plan. The longer you wait, the worse off you are – catch accounts that need help early and you will be ahead of the game.

How Do Beekeepers Collect Bee Pollen?

Although beekeepers generate the bulk of their income from sales of honey, most supplement this income with other bee-related activities. The sale of bee byproducts such as bee pollen is one method of supplementing income. It is marketed as a high-value health food product, and can command good prices, whether the beekeeper sells the pollen as unbranded raw granules at his own local facility, through local grocers and health food shops in his community, or to dealers who process the bee pollen into capsules or other branded health food products, distributing the capsules nationally or globally.

Bees, of course, have a reason for collecting pollen, and beekeepers who sell pollen must be sure to collect the pollen without disrupting the life of their hive. Bee pollen is the male seed of flowering plants, required for plant fertilization. Some pollen is air borne, but the pollen that bees collect comes from a variety of plant blossoms. Bees collect pollen to feed to their young back at the hive, but much of the pollen is scraped off their legs as they fly from blossom to blossom, thus accomplishing the crucial task of pollination.

Beekeepers, then, must be careful not to “steal” too much pollen from the worker bees who collect it; the bee larvae back at the hive, after all, must be fed so that the bee colony can continue to thrive. Beekeepers therefore devise a drawer in the bottom of the hive called a “pollen trap.” These drawers slide in and out and have a wire mesh bottom, allowing for full air circulation. A new entryway to the hive is then cut out, such that worker bees exiting and entering the hive must pass through the pollen trap first. If the bees have been accustomed to using another entryway, that older way is closed off, and it may take a few weeks for the bees to learn the new route.

As bees fly through the pollen trap, some pollen naturally falls off their legs, falling onto the wire mesh at the bottom of the trap. Most pollen traps are designed such that bees must then pass through a narrow space to get to the brood box, the part of the hive where larvae are raised. Passing through this narrow space, about one-third of the pollen on their legs will brush off onto the wire mesh.

Although collecting bee pollen in a responsible manner does not jeopardize the nutritional needs of the colony’s larvae, worker bees may have to work a bit harder to provide food, as they are losing a third of their collected pollen with each trip. Bee pollen traps work best with strong, healthy hives, with an abundance of worker bees.

It is important for beekeepers to collect pollen from the traps every single day. its raw form is an extremely perishable product. It needs to be refrigerated immediately after collection, and can also be frozen for long-term storage. Some beekeepers dehydrate bee pollen at their own facilities before selling it to the public; dehydration has no negative effects on the nutritional value of bee pollen. Dehydrated bee pollen does not require refrigeration, but if you purchase raw granules from your local beekeeper, be sure to refrigerate the granules at home and consume them relatively quickly; or, freeze some yourself if you purchase more than you can use in the short term.