Consider your options for helping today’s patient afford treatment.
Changes in insurance coverage and benefits, including larger deductibles and out-of-pocket costs, can be a major factor in determining whether or not patients move forward with chiropractic treatment. Developing a comprehensive financial policy that includes a third-party patient financing program is one way to help patients address cost concerns and get the treatment they need while keeping your practice financially healthy too.
A comprehensive financial policy helps ensure that patients know what forms of payment are accepted at your practice and when payment is expected. Your financial policy should be written and specific, leaving little room for interpretation or misunderstanding. Things to consider might include the patient’s responsibility if their insurance company does not cover care, if there are fees for missed appointments or returned checks, and if you offer a courtesy discount for payment with cash or check.
Having a comprehensive written financial policy can help you:
1. Increase patient satisfaction by minimizing confusion and miscommunication.
Patients are unhappy when their expectations are not met—both clinically and financially. Without a specific written financial policy, both your practice and patients risk incorrectly interpreting both payment responsibility and options.
2. Ensure patients clearly understand how their insurance benefits work within the financial system of your practice.
How insurance is applied to treatment can be confusing to patients. Your financial policy can detail the expected insurance benefits and the patient’s out-of-pocket expenses.
3. Increase treatment acceptance by addressing cost concerns.
Cost can cause a patient to hesitate when it comes to moving forward with recommended treatment. A comprehensive written financial policy can enable patients to quickly identify the payment option that works best for their situation, addressing the issue of cost before it can become a concern.
Your financial policy should include the payment options you accept—including patient financing if applicable. Many practices require patients to pay out-of-pocket costs not covered by insurance at the time of treatment by cash, check, or major cards.
Some practices try to help patients manage deductibles or other self-pay portions by billing patients in-house. Unfortunately, when a practice takes on the responsibility of billing, they also incur the cost and risk associated with it—including late payments, bad debt, and uncollected accounts. A better solution might be to offer financing through a third-party financing program.
Finding third-party financing
A number of third-party financing programs make up the marketplace, and no two are identical. There are, however, many overlapping features among them. Generally, enrolling a patient is simple and straightforward. Once enrolled, patients can apply for a credit card issued by the third-party financer. Upon approval, the patient can immediately access their credit to pay for treatment with convenient monthly payments. Because it’s easier to fit the cost of care into their monthly budget, patients may prefer this option.
In a recent cardholder study conducted with patients who paid for treatment using credit financing, nearly 40 percent said they would have postponed care if the financing plan had not been available, and an additional 10 percent said they would have completed only part of the treatment.1
Evaluate your options
There are various types of financing options available, which can give you points to compare among providers. “No interest if paid in full” promotional financing options (sometimes called “deferred interest”) give patients the ability to pay for treatment over six, 12, 18, or 24 months and, as the name implies, no interest is charged if the promotional balance is paid in full within the specified period.
Some plans have a minimum purchase amount, and interest rates can vary. If you can offer fixed monthly payments for higher out-of-pocket costs (purchases of $1,000 or more), your patients who select this option will have a clear idea of their financial commitment and obligation.
Because financial needs differ from patient to patient, you want to select a financing program that offers a comprehensive range of options. The bigger the menu or variety of choices your patients have to select from, the more likely they may be to find an option that fits their budget.
Another factor to consider when selecting a program is when your practice will be paid. One of the biggest benefits of offering financing through a third-party is that you get paid for your services promptly.
Educating your patients
Once you have added a patient financing program to your financial policy, review it with your team so that everyone understands the terms and options. Staff members can practice with scripts and role playing so they are comfortable and consistent in explaining your financing program to patients. The following example script demonstrates how to do this:
Mr. Jones, the cost for the treatment we’ve discussed is going to be [amount]. As you’ll notice here on our financial policy, we require payment prior to treatment. We anticipate your insurance benefits will cover [amount] leaving you with an out-of-pocket expense of [amount].
We have several convenient payment options to help you get the care you need—let me go over them with you. Of course we accept cash and checks. We also accept Visa, MasterCard, and American Express. We also accept a healthcare credit card that includes special financing options and convenient monthly payments for approved applicants. Would you like more information about that?
While many patients may be more conscious about costs today, you can ease their concerns and motivate them to move forward with care. A third-party patient financing program helps you increase treatment acceptance, reduce outstanding accounts receivable, and improve cash flow while making it easier for patients to fit recommended treatment into their budget and lifestyle.
Rob Morris is vice president of marketing and new business development for CareCredit. He joined CareCredit in 1993 and has more than 35 years of experience, including executive-level marketing and sales positions with leading healthcare companies.
1 Cardholder Engagement Study, Q4 2014, conducted for CareCredit by Chadwick Martin Bailey.