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New payment option for patients: 8 things to know about healthcare installment loans

If you have worked in an ASC over the past several years, one trend that has been hard to miss is the shift of financial responsibility from payers to patients.

 

Depending upon the procedure, patients may now be expected to cover hundreds to thousands of dollars of costs. And those expenses show no signs of slowing down. A recent TransUnion Healthcare analysis noted that patients experienced an 11% increase in average out-of-pocket costs during 2017 alone, increasing from $1,630 in the fourth quarter of 2016 to $1,813 for the same period in 2017.A 2017 Black Book survey found that since 2015, patients have experienced a nearly 30% increase in deductible and out-of-pocket maximum costs.

Collecting from patients used to be a relatively small concern for surgery centers when the bulk of payments came from payors. But now patient collections require a significant area of focus as a failure to collect in full could turn a once-profitable procedure into an unprofitable one that may even end up costing an ASC substantial money. With surgery centers already feeling pressures from tightening reimbursement and increasing expenses, few can afford to start losing money on cases.

These factors have served as significant motivators for ASCs to explore new patient financing options to offer that will help patients cover their costs and better ensure surgery centers are paid what they are contractually owed. One such option garnering significant consideration from and adoption by ASCs is the provision of a healthcare installment loan.

Here are eight things to know about this innovative offering.

1. It’s an easy, no-risk option for patients. To obtain an installment loan, patients only need to fill out a short online application prior to their procedure. They learn their approval status within moments and applying has no impact on their credit. This application process is much easier and faster than applying for a loan from a traditional lender, such as a bank.

2. Out-of-pocket costs are known in advance. If patients are approved for the loan, they will know exactly how much they will owe for their care prior to receiving treatment. Considering that one survey showed that nine out of 10 consumers want to know their payment responsibility prior to a procedure, receiving a secured loan eliminates this uncertainty and provides patients with the time often necessary to effectively plan for their payments. Healthcare installment loans also typically offer very competitive approval rates.

3. Patients have options. The terms of the loans are customizable to better fit patients' budgets and financial profiles. Monthly payments do not fluctuate, which helps with budgeting. Another perk: If your ASC chooses a healthcare installment loan program developed for surgical patients, options such as loans designed to cover multiple procedures performed over multiple visits may be available.

4. There are no delays in care. Finalized loans are processed on the day of the procedure, so there's no need for patients to delay treatment.

5. Lender does the work. The lender is responsible for managing collections activities. There's no need for ASC staff to manage the loan, follow up on payment delays, monitor ongoing payments, or send patient balances to collections.

6. ASCs get paid fast. Immediately following a patient's procedure(s), the ASC receives funding to cover the patient's balance. This helps keep accounts receivable (A/R) days and unpaid balances downwhile providing ASCs with greater flexibility concerning their cash flow. If patients default on payments, there is no recourse to the facility or to the providers.

7. Staff can tackle other responsibilities. When business office staff are not required to spend as much time and energy on patient collections tasks, they can be reassigned to handle other critical revenue cycle needs, such as reviewing and responding to denials and following up on outstanding claims. These efforts will positively impact an ASC's bottom line.

8. Surgical volume may increase. When patients are unsure about what their treatment will cost and whether they can pay for the services, they may be inclined to postpone or even cancel care. A healthcare loan helps address both concerns and may provide the certainty some patients need to move ahead with treatment. The availability of loans customized for the healthcare industry may also be attractive to patients weighing where to receive a procedure, tipping the scales in favor of ASCs with such an offering.

Are Healthcare Installment Loans Right for Your ASC? Yes!
ASCs have nothing to lose but, as highlighted in this article, much to gain by offering a variety of healthcare financing options, including installment loans. When patients have choices for how to cover their surgical care, including one designed to address significant concerns such as uncertainty and budget planning, they are more likely to receive the critical treatment they need. With installment loans, ASCs can address some of their own top objectives, such as getting paid for services, reducing A/R days, improving staff productivity, and boosting volume. Research your options for healthcare installment loan services and choose a provider that understands the specific needs and challenges facing ASCs and their patients. You and your patients will be happy with the results.

Randy Bishop (rbishop@surgicalfunds.com) is a partner with Surgical Funds, which facilitates patient financing solutions to supplement out-of-pocket expenses for ASC procedures.

 

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