While the majority of patients today have insurance benefits to cover wellness services, a percentage of the population remain without healthcare. According to the US Census, in 2018, 8.5 percent of people, or 27.5 million, did not have health insurance at any point during the year. As a result, necessary health care, including preventative wellness services, are often a financial burden for uninsured patients.
For healthcare practitioners, taking on uninsured patients poses a challenge. While these patients need (and deserve) access to quality healthcare, practitioners also need to be compensated for their time.
With the right pricing and communication in place, practitioners can offer self-pay services to uninsured patients that can be beneficial for both parties. Learn how to help uninsured patients access affordable care.
Verify Uninsured Patient’s Status
The first step, while obvious, is to verify that your client does not have insurance coverage. Many people do not realize that they qualify for benefits, or they lack the resources to get coverage. Under Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act, all Americans should have access to “marketplace insurance,” where they can apply and shop insurance plans from a variety of providers and with a variety of coverage. Some of these plans are provided by Health Maintenance Organizations or Preferred Provider Organizations offer lower copays and fees to make coverage more accessible.
In some situations, though, your patients may be contractors, freelancers, or even self-employed and rely on seasonal income. This may prevent them from even being able to afford marketplace insurance on a regular basis, due to inconsistent income. Additionally, you may determine that your patient has insurance, but their benefits do not cover your services, or you’re listed as an out-of-network provider.
In the end, if you’ve truly verified that your patient is uninsured and does not qualify for any form of coverage, you can offer to work together via self-pay services.
Best Practices for Managing Uninsured Patients
✔ Be upfront with your pricing
The best way to avoid any conflicts when charging patients for your services is to be clear about what they owe. Once you’ve determined your self-pay rates, draw up a financial policy that explicitly states them, as well as any fees for last-minute cancellations or missed appointments. Clearly outline what services patients are paying for, and how much each service costs. Have your patient review, and sign, your financial policy.
✔ Offer client packages at a discounted rate
While allowing patients to purchase services in a package still requires them to pay out of pocket, it allows you to offer your bundled services at a lower rate. For example, if you usually charge $50 per session, you can offer patients a 4-pack of sessions priced at $150. Now, instead of paying the full $200 for four sessions, patients without insurance coverage have a more feasible option. You can even market it as getting one session “free,” to make patients feel like they are getting a deal by purchasing the package rather than individual sessions.
This is also a great strategy for keeping your calendar full and ensuring consistent client appointments. With a package, patients are more likely to follow-up sessions and use all of their credits, instead of potentially disappearing after one or two appointments. They will also get a chance to get to see what it is like to work with you and start to make consistent progress. Seeing progress and building a relationship will encourage patients to purchase more sessions or another package.
✔ Introduce Sliding Scale Payments
Some providers offer a slide-scale payments model that can be used when working with patients that do not have insurance benefits and may find regular rates a financial burden. A sliding-scale allows you to work with these patients at a decreased rate. You may find it helpful to allot a specific number of reduced-rate patients that you work with at a time, to keep revenue goals on track.
To determine your sliding scale payment fees, determine your lowest rate, offered to those struggling the most to pay for healthcare services, that is the absolute lowest you can charge without compromising your business’ finances. Then, you can create increments for patients based on their different needs, until you’ve reached a level at which patients can pay your full rate. This allows patients to pay for medical services at a more feasible rate based on their income, and for you to extend your services beyond full-paying patients.
Another way to alleviate the financial burden of your services is to allow patients to pay for their services using a payment plan. They will be presented with the total, and then be charged in increments over a period of time to avoid having to pay a large sum all at once. It’s important to communicate the policies for this payment plan, however, such as indicating what would happen in case of a late or missed payment. This gives patients a bit more flexibility when paying, without allowing them to just “pay when they can.”
✔ Keep a credit card on file
Keeping a credit card on file is important for missed or late payments. Depending on your practice’s financial policies, you may charge a late fee for late payments, missed appointments, or late cancellations. Be sure these fees are all clearly communicated to your client, and that you notify them before charging their card outside of direct payments.
✔ Provide a Superbill
If your client has insurance, but you are an out-of-network provider for them, you can help them utilize out-of-network benefits by providing a Superbill. A superbill is essentially a detailed receipt of the services you provided your client that are recognized by insurance companies. Patients that are not covered providers you are in-network with can submit a Superbill to their insurance company in hopes of receiving reimbursement.
When providing a Superbill, you will still collect payment from patients at the time of service. A Superbill just gives patients the opportunity to receive reimbursement directly from their insurance company. Some providers offer to submit the Superbill on behalf of their patients, but you will not receive any reimbursement for your services from their insurance company.
How to Leverage Healthie to Manage your Patients
Healthie’s comprehensive practice management platform allows you to schedule appointments, build packages, charge patients, and keep track of payments all from within the platform.
- Client Portal: Each client you sign on will sign up for their own Healthie account, where they can access packages, make payments and purchases, and store personal credit card information.
- Packages: Healthie’s packages feature allows providers to build custom packages based on their service offerings. You can also create unique promotional codes if offering a discount for patients.
- Payments: From the payments page, you can keep track of when, how, and for what patients have paid. You can create invoices and receipts for your services, so patients can easily see what they owe.
- Superbills: You can easily fill out and generate Superbills for patients within the Healthie platform. Client information will auto-fill, saving you time and effort throughout the process.
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