It always surprises me when I can leave a physician visit without paying the co-pay. “Oh, that’s OK, we’ll just bill you” I’m told.
The co-payments are required by the patient’s insurance policy, and there is no question that the patient will have to pay it directly to you. The co-pay is due for every visit. Given the certainty of the obligation and the amount, why are patients not always asked for payment before they leave the office?
Asking for and collecting the co-payment at the time of the visit is an acceptable and reasonable business practice. This should be part of the check-out procedure. Patients are asked to stop before they leave to give the chart and the encounter record to staff who will (1) collect the co-payment, (2) schedule another appointment if needed and (3) ask if a work or school excuse is needed, and provide it if yes. If there is a balance due on the patient’s account, ask for payment there – check or credit cards are fine. If the amount is significant (to the patient), offer to accept a partial payment. If the patient resists at all and says that they will pay from home, ask if they need another copy of the statement for their records.
Now for my pet peeve of the day: even if a patient isn’t covered by an insurance policy, they may be using one of the so-called “consumer directed” plans, such as an HSA or
My point of this rant is this: billing and collection involves both you and your patients. The dollars involved add up to a lot of money for most people, so help your patients out with what they need. If you haven’t been collecting co-pays at the time of visit until now, start by warning patients by telling them when making appointments, as part of a reminder call or reminder postcard, and with a note to hand them as they leave during the transition period. Over a period of months, on-site collections should improve.