With medical collections costing doctors millions upon millions of dollars in unpaid bills and collection fees, many people have just one question: Who are these people who are trying to stiff the doctors who delivered them from great physical pain (or the flu, hypochondria, not-so-white-teeth, or a nose that didnít look enough like Brad Pittís)?
Well, Iím here to tell you who these people are, or at least some of them.
Yes, I admit it: I left a dentistís bill unpaid for three months.
OK, so dentistry isnít technically considered ďmedical,Ē but itís the same situation: a doctor left in the lurch.
Why did I do such a horrible thing, especially when I, a small businessperson myself, know how difficult unpaid debts can make cash flow, and how it could very easily make me persona non grata in that office?
Why Medical Collections Happen
Or, Possible Reasons for Me Being a Deadbeat
Here are reasons commonly advanced for why people like me might not pay a doctorís bill.
They donít have enough money, plain and simple. After all, if they couldnít afford insurance, they probably are going to have trouble with the bill.
They donít care about the poor doctors and either donít know about or donít care about the potential for damage to their own credit ratings.
They are chronically lazy, stupid, or just donít know what theyíre doing. OK, the terms used arenít quite that specific, but thatís the general idea.
All of these possible reasons why a patient might not pay could be pretty discouraging for a practice looking to get the money itís owed. After all, thereís not much even the best doctor can do about a patientís poverty, venality, or fecklessness.
But is there really so little hope for collecting on medical debt?
Why Medical Collection Isnít Necessarily So Hopeless
Or, The Real Reason I Didnít Pay My Dentistís Bill
I just signed and mailed a check for my outstanding dentistís bill. That just goes to show the situation isnít so hopeless after all, doesnít it? Hereís at least one case of a healthcare practice getting its money back., and after three months at that .
No, my financial situation did not improve dramatically, nor did my slothful ways correct themselves.
Wondering what the dentist did to make me pay? Plead? Cajole? Shame? Threaten to put the tartar back?
Actually, the dentist didnít do anything, and thatís the problem.
Hereís what happened: I remembered I had the bill to pay.
I had forgotten ever owing the dentist money. Since I wasnít expecting the dentistís bill, unlike all the bills that come every month, it got lost in a pile of credit card offers, appeals to help save trees being cut down to make paper, and news about really great products for writers. The follow-up letter reminding me to pay met a similar fate. It probably didnít help when I took a trip to Las Vegas and then threw away the junk mail en masse when I got back.
I finally remembered the bill when someone asked me to write an article about medical collections. Sure enough, the follow-up letter (though not the original bill) was there in the pile of newsletters and friendly reminders from various businesses to schedule this or that appointment.
The moral of the story
If you are a patient, make sure to check your mail for letters from the doctorís office. If youíre running a healthcare practice, follow up with your patients who have outstanding invoicesóa phone call is preferable, since itís less likely to get lost at the bottom of a pile of correspondence.
Donít have time for that? Worried about the legal issues of collection law compliance? Donít let that stop you. Go to a company that specializes in medical collections and accounts receivables management for healthcare practices.
Itís not about ďputting debts in collectionĒ anymore. Many of these companies offer everything from sending out a few polite phone calls and letters to end-to-end accounts receivable management. None of this has to impact your patientsí credit rating or cost you a fortune.
Your office can go back to healing people. Isnít that why you got into this business in the first place?
Steve Austin is a regular contributor to Let No
Debt Remain Outstanding (http://www.let-no-debt-remain-outstanding.com/),
a website with articles on choosing a collection
agency, along with recommended the best collection agencies.