The deductible reset is looming in January, and it’s poised to wreak its usual havoc with cash flow. Cash-flow impact could easily be even worse this year, given that deductibles have likely increased and become more of a problem for many of your patients.
Naturally, alerting patients to the possibility that they will be responsible for a significant portion or even all of their service costs at the time of booking is a necessary first step — as is ensuring that front desk staff are trained on taking payments at the time of service.
But, if you are a primary care practice or other specialty that offers preventive services, there’s one more thing you can do to protect your cash flow: you can identify patients who are due or overdue for preventive services, and encourage them to book during Q1. Because services identified as preventive by the Affordable Care Act almost always* carry no patient financial responsibility (not even copay), patients may be more eager to use these services — especially if they’ve recently started paying for coverage and haven’t perceived much value for their premiums.
Annual/scheduled preventive care can be a win-win for patients and practices. The revenue is often higher than a standard office visit, and it’s usually reimbursed promptly. Reaching out to patients to remind them about preventive care is a way to communicate that you care about them. And, you’ll be giving them good news about their health plans — some patients may not realize that they can get a preventive service such as an annual well-adult exam, screening colonoscopy or mammogram without cost-sharing.
One caveat: be sure that patients understand that some lab tests your physicians may want to utilize may not be covered. Patients also need to know they’ll be responsible for their normal portion of costs if a visit scheduled as ‘preventive’ actually turns out to be a problem-oriented visit. And it’s always a good idea to remind them that these payment terms are part of their health plan and the ACA — not the whims of your practice.
*grandfathered plans may be exempted from the ACA mandate — but, even so, employer plans typically covered preventive services without copayment or deductible even before the ACA. Plus, the number of grandfathered plans is dwindling. Most patients will not pay any copay or deductible on ACA-defined preventive care.