When Hospitals Send Patients a Bill For $0.00

By Pete Heydt, VP Business Developmentpendinginsurance250

Every month, one of my co-workers receives a bill in the mail from Comcast for $0.00.

No joke. She told me that her cable bill is bundled into her rent payment, which the landlord presumably pays to Comcast. This is even noted on the bill, according to my colleague,  in a tiny box in the bottom right-hand corner that says my landlord is paying this bill.

And yet, Comcast mails her a bill for exactly $0.00. Every. Single. Month.

Producing B2C (or B2B) business documents and mailing paper isn’t cheap. Someone (or some company, or some robot) printed the statement with paper and ink, and someone else hand-delivered this declaration of….well, nothing. And Comcast footed the bill for this bill, which was presumably greater than $0.00. Ironic!

The funny thing is, healthcare providers do the same thing. They send a bill that is not really a bill and requires no payment action. It’s called a pending insurance statement or “summary bill”.

They cost money. They confuse patients. It certainly did for the 10 out of 10 people I straw poll surveyed in the past 24 hours.  Yet, they keep coming.

Look at cost, for example. Providers increasingly struggle with cost to collect; yet some still pay the printing and postage for a statement that is guaranteed to not be paid- because it’s not actually executable. Why spend the money on a communication that has no ability to drive a resulting payment?

Do patients really benefit from getting another piece of paper that requires no action? The “this is not a bill” paper is a complete path to confusion/dissatisfaction. They know they have insurance and the fact that they provided their insurance information gives them a level of comfort that the provider will be billing the insurance. This only creates confusion when the patient receives the real bill revealing the true amount he or she owes.

If you confuse the patient, you are decreasing your likelihood to get paid. Providers are already seeing the revenue impact of patient-friendly billing; pending insurance statements is a step backwards. Browse through some legal advice forums and you will quickly find examples of patients who think they do not have to pay due to receiving misleading non-bills.

I’ve heard it 50 times in the last year from various providers and the exchange goes something like this:

Provider: “but that’s just what we’ve always done” or “that’s what our patients are used to”.

Me: “You’re talking to me because you need to become more effective at getting paid by your patients, right?”

Provider: “Yes”.

Me: “Have you surveyed your patients to understand if that non-bill will positively impact their decision to pay you?”

Provider: “hmmmm”

It happens all the time, but to be effective in an ever-changing healthcare world, you have to challenge “the way it’s always been done” and think differently.

At Patientco, we don’t have a single hospital client that has kept their summary bills once we made these arguments. For example, Meadows Regional in Vidalia, GA stopped sending those bills and they are not only saving 20% + against their previous cost-to-collect, but they’ve INCREASED their patient payments by 11%.

So why spend any money to collect $0.00? I’ll be asking my cable company the same question.

 

 

 

 

Tags: