Coding Coach’s Corner: What happens when a patient keeps the insurance check?

Handle lack of payment in a professional manner

Sep 25th, 2013
Duncan Coach Corner

Q:We have a patient who kept her insurance check and will not return my calls. What can I say when I leave her a message? We only have her business number. Should I send a letter? Should I consider collections? - R.P.

A: What a frustrating situation. Judging by the fact that she is not returning your calls, she must thing she just received an early holiday bonus! You should send her a letter stating that since the check was sent to her she is responsible for the charges. I would not leave a detailed message for her via voice mail. In the message state that you need to talk to her regarding her account and that it is a time-sensitive matter.Leave another message saying that if you do not hear from her you have no choice but to move forward with her account. You can also send an email asking her to call the office regarding her account. Leave a vague message – if this is her first time to be delinquent with payment (to anyone), she’ll wonder what is going on. However, if she’s familiar with this she may be very aware of the consequences of not calling back.

If you threaten collection action (and you should send her information to collection if she does not want to pay) then you should follow through. It's actually illegal to repeatedly threaten collection. In the letter you can state that her name will be turned over to the county for non-payment of services rendered, and the county will decide if they want to pursue it as theft. Reference the fact that you have a signed agreement (her initial paperwork) from her that states she agreed to pay balances.

PREVIOUS COACH'S CORNER BY TERESA DUNCAN:
The importance of asking for ID and preventing fraud in the dental practice
When to use primary and secondary insurance
The hygienist’s role in dental insurance coding

Once you send a patient to collections, don’t forget to flag his or her chart in your practice management system so that the person cannot be scheduled for treatment. You should also send a letter via certified mail notifying the person that you are terminating the patient-doctor relationship. Check with your state dental society for rules regarding information that should be included in the letter.

Teresa Duncan, MS, FADIA, FAADOM, is an international speaker who addresses topics such as insurance coding, office manager training, and revenue growth. Her company Odyssey Management, Inc., provides virtual, customized training in these areas. Contact her at Teresa@OdysseyMgmt.com.

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