COVID-19 Sparks Need for Patient Payment Plans

posted on Monday, May 4, 2020

Just a few months ago, the nation’s unemployment rate was near a 50-year low. As of February, the nation hit an all-time low of 3.5%. Then COVID-19 hit our nation in a way that Americans and businesses are still trying to come to grips with. And the skyrocketing unemployment rate is just one of those hits.

The healthcare industry has suffered in a multitude of ways. Many providers have had to reduce hours, limit patient visits and furlough staff. Some practices and providers are eligible for economic relief from the Department of Health and Human Services Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund and the CARES Act. (However, that does not cover all lost revenue.)

As they begin to slowly reopen they will find themselves treating patients who are experiencing financial hardships as well.  Now more than ever, being flexible with payment plans might be the only way to collect money from some patients during these unprecedented times.

Prior to this pandemic, POS Professional Offices shared a lot of statistics and research about patient financials as it related to healthcare. For example, a survey conducted by Kaiser, shows 1 in 5 Americans already have trouble paying their medical bill. Thirty-eight percent of patients already used payment plans for out-of-pocket expenses according to HealthLeaders.  An unexpected $500 medical bill is a hardship for many Americans.

The pandemic is causing fiscal pain across our country. We know that once things return to some sense of normalcy, there will be a growing percentage of patients with high-deductible plans that will be struggling to pay medical bills. Just as concerning is the fact that Porter Research reports that 37% of patients will delay care if they aren’t being offered an interest free payment option. 

Inova Health System in Northern Virginia is an example of an explosive usage of payment plans. In 2018, Inova counted 3,000 payment plans and last year that number more than quadrupled to 13,000 plans. Now, more than ever, is the time for medical practices to implement automated financial systems including offering automated patient payment plans.

Here are some simple steps to make it easier for patients to pay and to begin collecting some of the patient-owed balances.

  • Allow patients to easily pay their bill online
  • Offer the option of automated payment plans
  • Set up auto-pay for reoccurring balances
  • Adopt mobile payment options
  • Send electronic statements

Today’s patients need and want to have choices in whom they see and how they manage their healthcare and that includes the financial side too. It’s a digital world. Healthcare billing and payment technology allows for the administration and tracking of automated payment plans. 

This cloud-based system is accessed through a secure portal. Once a payment plan is created, the technology eliminates the need for staff to process payment plans, and patients don’t have to worry about falling delinquent.

Just as healthcare practices and providers are seeking flexibility during these times, patients are seeking the same for payments. There is no better time than now to give patients some comfort in knowing they can see a provider, and not worry if they can’t pay their entire bill at one time.

The world has changed. And as a result, our behaviors and approaches to doing business changes too.

POS Professional Office Services has partnered with practices around the country for 50 years. Our Patient Payment Services allow practices to seamlessly bill and collect patient-owed balances.