Ways to Pump Up Your Bottom Line (Despite Healthcare Reform)

Leigh Page


October 25, 2012

In This Article

4. Improve Your Collections Process

As more patients flock to high-deductible plans, defined as at least $1200 for an individual or $2400 for a family, practices are under increasing pressure to collect out-of-pocket payments from patients just to meet their bottom line. Orrick says that collecting large deductibles is a bigger problem for procedure-oriented specialists than for primary care practices, which charge mainly for office visits and minor procedures. But failure to routinely collect even a $30 copay could put any type of practice in the red, he says.

America's Health Insurance Plans, the trade group for health insurers, reports that about 13.5 million people are covered by high-deductible policies in 2012, an 18% increase in just 1 year. The ACA imposes a maximum on out-of-pocket charges, but it is set quite high. The current limits are $5950 for an individual and $11,900 for a family.

Viewing the trend toward high deductibles, Orrick advises practices to be more vigilant about payments. "You may end up seeing patients who are basically going to tell you after the fact that they are not going to pay their deductible or copay," he says.

To make sure they will be paid, practices need to collect out-of-pocket fees at the time of payment, which means providing many payment options as possible, including credit and debit cards. However, up to one third of medical practices did not accept credit or debit cards in 2010, according to the American Medical Association (AMA).

Many practices don't accept credit cards because they don't want to pay the added cost for swiping them. This charge, called the discount rate, typically ranges from 1.5% to 3% of the transaction, plus a flat, per-transaction fee measured in cents. By looking around, practices may be able to find a rate at the low end of that range. Costco Wholesale, for example, offers card processing for 1.64% plus $0.20 per transaction, and AMA Solutions, a subsidiary of the AMA, offers AMA members 1.63% plus $0.05 per transaction in an arrangement through First National Bank of Omaha.