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Getting Patients to Pay Up On the Day of Surgery
Learn the keys to collecting out-of-pocket expenses.
Corrie Massey
Publish Date: May 22, 2014
OR Excellence
Corrie Massey, MBA Corrie Massey, MBA

Speaker Profile

  • Director of the 20th Street Surgery Center in Santa Monica, Calif.
  • corriemassey.com

Talking to anxious patients on the day of surgery about out-of-pocket expenses and insurance isn't easy. But if you're not collecting co-pays, deductibles and coinsurance on the day of surgery, you're probably leaving thousands of dollars on the table. You may even be seeing an increasing number of delinquent and collections accounts being converted to bad debts and write-offs. It doesn't have to be that way. As director of the 20th Street Surgery Center in Santa Monica, Calif., Corrie Massey, MBA, knows what it takes to keep that hugely important revenue in-house. You won't want to miss her presentation, "How to Talk to Patients About Their Insurance Benefits." We recently talked to Ms. Massey about some of the key issues involved in getting patients to pay up on the day of surgery.

  • Getting patients to pay what they owe is like pulling teeth. A lot of patients are confused about their health plan coverage, about why charges are so high and how we justify those charges. They don't understand the nuances of their coverage. Communication is essential. I find that some patients only want to know how much they're going to be responsible for. Others want a complete explanation and they want to know how their plan compares to others. We try to give them as much detail as they want without overwhelming them.
  • Yes, but it's awkward talking to patients about finances when they're facing surgery. Kindness is key. It's definitely important to remember that patients are likely to be anxious about their surgery and that any talk about the expense can amplify that fear. We make sure we acknowledge their concerns and try to give them as much information as we can without increasing their fears. Most are grateful when you take the time to explain their costs to them.
  • Is it more than making sure patients understand their financial responsibility? Yes. Insurance plans are changing rapidly in today's marketplace. We have someone whose job it is to monitor those changes. Real-time updates regarding insurance plans and reimbursements are available through various online outlets. The person in charge of that also keeps our billing department posted when we see unexpectedly low reimbursements. That way we can adjust our approach rapidly and avoid leaving money on the table.
  • Jean Roberts, RN
  • On when to keep pushing and when to accept less than the full amount owed. Some patients have very high deductible plans or haven't met their deductibles when they come to our facility. Naturally, we'd like to collect everything from them, but we don't want to lose a case because we were overly aggressive in trying to collect out-of-pocket costs. We have general guidelines for collecting from patients on or before their day of surgery. We're firm, but also fair and reasonable. For example, in some cases, we'll collect as little as half of the estimated amount and establish a payment plan for the remainder. We understand that as the industry continues to change, we have to adapt, too. Patients don't always understand their personal financial responsibility and they may even fight it. The foundation of our approach is to always maintain an attitude of respect and to always educate.