The cost of healthcare can be a substantial concern for many individuals, especially in the United States, where healthcare costs are often high. In order to help manage these costs, many health insurance plans include co-pays and deductibles. These two terms can be confusing for people who are new to healthcare insurance terminologies. So, in this article, we will explain what co-pays and deductibles are and how they work.
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What Are Co-pays?
A co-pay, or co-payment, is a fixed amount a patient must pay at the time of service for certain medical expenses. Ideally, the insurance plan's terms will dictate how much a patient must pay. It is usually a small fraction of the entire service cost. Overall, the purpose of a co-pay is to encourage patients to seek medical care when they need it while also helping to manage healthcare costs.
For example, if an individual has a co-pay of $20 for a doctor's visit, they will pay $20 at the time of the visit, and the insurance company will cover the remaining cost. Co-pays can vary depending on the type of service patients choose. Higher co-pays are a part of specialist visits, and lower are largely associated with primary care visits.
What Are Deductibles?
A deductible is an amount an individual must pay for healthcare services before their insurance coverage takes effect. Deductibles can vary depending on the insurance plan, with higher deductibles often connected with lower monthly premiums.
For example, if an individual has a $1,000 deductible for a year, they will pay for healthcare services out of pocket until they have spent $1,000 on those services. Soon after they meet the deductible, their insurance coverage begins, with the insurance company covering everything that falls under the plan.
How Do Co-pays and Deductibles Work Together?
They work together to help individuals manage healthcare costs. Typically, co-pays are due at the time of each visit, whereas deductibles are due annually. Once an individual has met their deductible for the year, they will pay a co-pay for each visit or service, and the insurance company will cover a portion of the cost.
For example, if an individual has a $1,000 deductible and a $20 co-pay for a doctor's visit, they will be required to pay $20 for each visit until they have met their deductible for the year. Once they complete their deductible, they may still be required to pay a $20 co-pay for each visit, but the insurance company will cover a portion of the cost.
It is important to note that not all healthcare services require a co-pay or deductible. preventive care services, such as annual physical exams and certain screenings, are typically covered at 100% by insurance plans, with no co-pay or deductible required.
Why Do Co-Pays and Deductibles Exist?
Co-pays and deductibles exist to help manage the costs of healthcare. By requiring individuals to pay a portion of the cost of their healthcare services, insurance companies can keep premiums lower and provide more affordable coverage. Co-pays also encourage individuals to seek medical care when needed rather than delay care due to cost concerns.
Additionally, deductibles allow individuals to manage their healthcare costs by choosing insurance plans with higher or lower deductibles based on their needs and budget.
8 Best Practices to Collect Co-Pays and Deductibles From Patients
Now that we've covered the basics let's dive deeper into the tips for collecting co-pays and deductibles. Especially for practices looking forward to building a foolproof strategy around it.
1. Educate Patients About Their Financial Responsibilities
One of the essential steps in collecting co-pays and deductibles is to educate patients about their financial responsibilities. This should begin in the early stages of care delivery, where staff should clearly explain the practice's payment policies. It also includes the co-pay or deductible amount, the payment methods accepted, and the consequences of non-payment. By setting expectations upfront, patients are more likely to understand the importance of paying their share of the cost.
2. Verify Insurance Coverage
Before patients receive any medical services, it is essential to verify their insurance coverage. This includes checking their co-pay and deductible amounts and any exclusions or limitations that may apply. Verifying insurance coverage upfront can prevent any surprises for patients and reduce the likelihood of non-payment.
3. Collect Co-Pays at the Time of Service
To ensure that you receive co-pays on time, it is important to collect them during service. This can be done by having patients pay in person, over the phone, or online. By collecting co-pays upfront, practices can avoid the time and expense of sending out multiple bills or following up with patients who fail to pay.
You can also set up a payment plan with your patients, so it's easier for them to stay on track. A platform like Denefits organizes and manages flexible payment plans to help patients afford their medical bills without defaulting or pausing their treatment.
4. Use Technology to Streamline Payments
Using technology to streamline payments can make the process more efficient. This includes using online payment portals or mobile apps that allow patients to pay their bills securely and conveniently. By providing multiple payment options, practices can increase patients' likelihood of paying their bills on time.
An example of popular streamlining software would again be Denefits. It is a software that helps clinics offer payment plans and features to manage the entire process. Denefits works collectively with providers to ensure their patients receive the best service and affordable payment plans. It helps patients stay on track with their upcoming payments and provides a safe and secure way to make payments from the comfort of their homes.
To learn more about how Denefits can help you stay on track with your patients' costs, book a demo by clicking here.
5. Develop a Collection Policy
Developing a collection policy can ensure that co-pays and deductibles are collected consistently and fairly. The policy should outline the steps that you will take to collect payments, including reminders, late fees, and collection agency referrals. By having a clear collections policy, practices can avoid misunderstandings or disagreements with patients.
6. Provide Financial Assistance When Possible
In some cases, patients may be unable to pay their co-pays or deductibles due to financial hardship. In these situations, it is essential to provide financial assistance when possible. Some examples include offering payment plans internally or externally or referring patients to local organizations that provide financial services for healthcare costs. By being compassionate and understanding, practices can build trust with patients and increase the likelihood that they will pay their bills over time.
7. Follow Up With Patients Who Have Outstanding Balances
Following up with patients who have outstanding balances is an important step in collecting co-pays and deductibles. Among these are sending out reminders via phone and email. Or else offering payment plans to patients who cannot pay in full. By maintaining regular communication with patients, practices can reduce the chance of non-payment and build stronger relationships.
8. Train Staff on Collections Policies and Procedures
Finally, it is essential to train staff on collection policies and procedures. This encompasses providing staff with clear guidance on collecting co-pays and deductibles and handling situations where patients cannot pay. By ensuring the team is confident in their ability to collect payments, practices will manage medical bills successfully.
Keep Your Customers Happy and Boost Sales with Hassle-Free Payment Plans
Collecting co-pays and deductibles from patients is integral to running a successful medical practice. Similarly, providing patients with flexible payment options to ensure loyalty and satisfaction is crucial for overall growth. To ensure the same, it is advised to use software that helps manage high volumes of patients while ensuring a smooth process of payment collection. You can learn more about the benefits of healthcare payment plan software and how Denefits can help by clicking here.