Healthcare in the United States is expensive and residents in Missouri are deeply affected by the burden of heath care costs. According to the Commonwealth Fund state data center, Missouri is ranked eight worst in healthcare among the fifty US states.
Healthcare workers such as doctors, hospitals and clinics face accounts receivable problem since their medical bills do not get paid on time for the services they provide. This can result in severe cash flow issues for the doctors. They are forced to transfer accounts to a collection agency after 60-90 days of non-payment.
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A survey conducted by the Research Triangle Institute showed that about twenty percent of adults between the ages of 19 to 64 are uninsured in Missouri. This means that about a million people, including children live in households which carry the burden of medical debt. The process of medical debt collection greatly affects both patients and medical providers such as doctors, clinics and hospitals in Missouri. They provide very valuable services to the patients and it is important for them to be reimbursed appropriately to continue providing high quality clinical services. Healthcare workers and debt collection agencies in Missouri should clearly understand the laws and regulations for medical debt collection to avoid getting sued in case they violate a federal debt collection law.
Missouri does not have state specific laws for medical debt collection. Debt collection agencies that operate in Missouri need to comply with the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This law protects patients from undergoing harassment and abuse as a result of debt collection.
Under the Fair Debt Collection Practice act, debt collectors are not allowed to call a person before 8 am and after 9 pm. They are also not allowed to call the individual at work if they do not want to be contacted. Debt collectors are required to keep the information about the debt private and cannot disclose that they are a debt collection agency via mail etc.
When patients are unable to pay for the services they receive, lowered provider reimbursements can result in poorer care with poor patient outcomes resulting in a vicious cycle. Medical practices and hospitals can hire collection agencies to recover lost money from non-paying patients.
Along with a lack of insurance coverage, other reasons for nonpaying patients include patient’s lack of education or knowledge about their insurance coverage, rise in healthcare costs, Medicaid cuts, high deductible health plans, other consumer debt such as student loans and credit card payments etc.
If you are a hospital or a doctor’s office, you may choose to use a debt collection agency to ensure you get paid for the services you provide. This is because the staff in a medical setting might not be well trained in the laws of debt collection. Another reason why medical offices and hospitals choose to use a debt collection agency is because they may not want their name associated with ethics associated with the actual practice of debt collection from patients who were sick. Here are somethings you should remember when sending patient’s accounts to debt collectors:
- Hospitals and doctors’ offices should have a policy stating when they can send a patient’s account to collections. This policy should ideally be shared with patients and signed by them. This is typically 30-60 days.
- Patient’s accounts should be sent to collections after their final insurance coverage is determined.