Co-pays can be a tough nut to collect

Friday, June 30, 2006

WATERLOO, Iowa - As tighter Medicare constraints amplify an HME provider's every lost revenue dollar, VGM and Associates has taken a step toward helping members recover those lost dollars.
Under a new contract with Homecare Collection Service, VGM members now have discounted access to the Akron, Ohio-based agency's specialized patient collection services. Unpaid patient debts represent an estimated 7% to 10% of a provider's accounts receivable, said David Bargmann, HCS general manager.
"This is an amount that could mean the difference between profit and loss," he said.
HCS focuses specifically on HME patient collections, which, Bargmann admits, can be an unpleasant and time-consuming task.
"Most companies don't want to touch patient receivables with a 10-foot pole," he said. "It's a whole different ballgame collecting from patients than from insurers. Rather than risking alienating patients and referral sources, most HME providers just write it off rather than try to collect."
Currently, HCS has 65 clients in the HME and infusion markets and classifies itself as an extension of the provider's collections department. HCS representatives take a "kid glove" approach to dealing with patients, explaining in detail the complexities of Medicare deductibles and beneficiary out-of-pocket expenses. The goal, Bargmann said, is to give the beneficiary a solid context on why they owe the provider money.
"They don't understand why they get bills," he said. "But we have been successful in educating them about the process and we can usually recover anywhere from 54% to 87% of a client's outstanding patient receivables."
In just a couple of months, California HME in Foster City has seen a 30% increase in patient receivables from HCS' efforts, said CFO David Strunk.
"We've been growing rapidly and we just don't have the resources to focus on collecting from the patient," he said.