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.