When billing practices become bad PR

As healthcare patients pay an increasingly large portion of their medical bills, providers not only must do a better job of managing their revenue cycles, they must learn to proactively communicate with consumers about what their treatments cost and why.

Failure to do so could lead to delayed payments, frustrated and angry patients, and – as some hospitals in Colorado recently experienced – bad publicity.

As Healthcare Finance News reports, a news station in the state asked viewers to email copies of their medical bills, resulting in a segment critical of the providers in question – Centura Health, Health One, SCL Health and UCHealth.

The providers declined an offer by 9News in Kusa to respond to reporters on air about their billing practices, prompting this somewhat sarcastic segment from the station. However, the hospitals did deliver a joint written statement to the station.

In the statement the hospitals highlighted several challenges facing providers and patients.

“Healthcare is one of the most highly regulated industries in the country, and the complex billing process is in large part a result of federal law, state regulations, industry standards and insurance regulations and contracting,” the hospitals wrote. “In recent years, the insurance market has shifted to more high-deductible plans, which can offer lower premiums while placing far greater financial burdens on patients when they need care.”

The problem, they add, is that “many patients are unaware of this shift and of the specifics surrounding their current coverage.”

Barbara Tapscott, vice president of revenue management at Pennsylvania-based Geisinger Health System, tells Healthcare Finance News that a provider’s billing processes and technology matter.

"Everything we do in revenue cycle management has got to be supported by a strong technology base, and then the rest of it is people and process," Tapscott  said. "As a provider becomes larger and expands its services, you cannot expand humans at the same rate, so technology provides economy of scale."

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