Knowledge Center

Maintaining Collections During a Pandemic – Part 2

As hospitals across the country continue to battle COVID-19, the financial crunch is hitting as hard as the virus. In fact, an American Hospital Association report estimates that over the four-month period from March 1, 2020 to June 30, 2020, American hospitals and health systems will experience $202.6 billion in losses, or an average of $50.7 billion per month, due to the Coronavirus.

In the first article, we talked about some of the causes for the painful revenue losses hospitals and health systems are experiencing. From the cost of treating COVID-19 patients and increases in PPE prices to the downturn in elective surgeries and additional support some are providing their workers, it feels like hospitals and healthcare systems are being hit from all sides.

While the outlook may seem quite bleak, there are some factors that are working in favor of hospitals and health systems during the Coronavirus pandemic. Because many states have established stay at home orders or at least suggested them, people are not shopping like in the past. In fact, a report by the Visual Capitalist shows that between late February and mid-May, consumer spending was down nearly 30-percent year over year. With non-essential shopping closed, restaurants relying on takeout and delivery, and travel nearly nonexistent, people are not spending money at the same clip as they have before. While online shopping has increased, it hasn’t fully replaced going to the mall or their favorite store. This means in general, people have more of their income available for other expenses, such as past due medical bills.

Another positive factor is the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Hospitals and healthcare systems did receive $100 billion in funding, but workers who were forced on to unemployment are also receiving an additional $600 a week, which in many cases actually increased their take home pay.

A recent study by the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics at the University of Chicago found that the additional $600 a week received on top of regular unemployment insurance, known as Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, has actually more than replaced lost wages for the majority of people currently unemployed. The study showed that 68-percent of unemployed people exceeded lost revenue and the median replacement rate across the nation was 134-percent. The additional unemployment compensation is currently scheduled to last through July 31, 2020.

What does this mean for hospitals and healthcare systems? It means that even though we are seeing record unemployment numbers, consumers are not necessarily feeling the negative impact that was expected to hit. Increased unemployment benefits and lower consumer spending means there is a unique opportunity to speak to patients about paying their past due medical bills.

That said, this does not mean we recommend having your collections partners double down on more aggressive collection efforts. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone differently and there are patients who are unable to pay their bills, but with the majority of the workforce still on the job and a good number of the unemployed receiving benefits greater than their normal pay, it’s important to continue contacting your patients. Additionally, it is important to keep your inbound communication options strong, making it easier for patients to reach out to you with any questions or payments.

Additionally, there are steps we recommend your collections partners take to help minimize the impact health issues will have on your patients during the Coronavirus pandemic:

  • Flag Accounts – Add a notation to accounts that are suffering financially due to the Coronavirus in both your system and your collections partner(s) system. An example of this is Epic users adding a Billing Indicator to track the accounts and ensure that collection activities cease until the pandemic has subsided.
  • Credit Reporting – Have your collections partner(s) temporarily stop reporting to the credit bureaus. With so many other issues occurring surrounding this pandemic, it is not the right time to affect an individual’s credit. This will also ensure that Coronavirus-related charges do not accidentally get reported. We do not know what will happen with these charges in the future.
  • Legal Action/Garnishments – Have your collections partner(s) pause all new legal action and new wage garnishment efforts. As with credit reporting, this is simply not the right time to pursue these types of actions.
  • Insurance Check – Reviewing, identifying, and verifying that insurance was correctly applied to your patient’s accounts is another step you and your collections partners can take to help maximize your revenue. Some accounts may be payable but were not correctly covered by the insurance company. Having your collections partners help identify missing insurance and follow up on these accounts could lead to the insurance company paying, which is a major patient satisfier.
  • Explore All Avenues of Additional Reimbursement – Look for opportunities to apply for COBRA with patients who may have recently lost employment. Additionally, backdated Medicaid or disability will become a greater revenue source for hospitals.
  • Financial Assistance – More patients will qualify for financial assistance, so working to qualify these patients as efficiently as possible will be extremely beneficial. This includes Medicare patients who will also qualify for Medicare Bad Debt. 

COVID-19 has changed the way we look at our world. It is important to stay on top of local and state regulations to ensure you are staying on the right side of any new rules and laws that are put in effect. And talk to your collections partner. They should have the knowledge and expertise needed to help guide you through these ever-changing times.

 

McLaughlin Earns HFMA Certified Revenue Cycle Representative Designation

Nick McLaughlin, part of the Americollect Ridiculously Nice Sales Team, has earned his Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) Certified Revenue Cycle Representative (CRCR) certification. Prior to receiving this certification, McLaughlin completed the Certified Healthcare Financial Professional (CHFP) course through HFMA and has earned the HFMA Fellowship through his financial expertise and leadership.

The HFMA CRCR certification gives holders a broad understanding of today’s revenue cycle and is the only program available that provides a national-level certification that addresses the contemporary patient-centric revenue cycle.

For Nick, the ability to understand all sides of the revenue cycle is important when working with clients.

By adding the CRCR certification to his arsenal, he is able to do that even better.

“Change is the one constant in our world,” said Nick. “The HFMA CRCR certification is an exciting addition to my knowledge base and will help me bring successful outcomes to current and future clients.”

Americollect firmly believes that everyone deserves to be treated Ridiculously Nice, all the time, no matter what. Collecting only for the healthcare industry, we utilize our Ridiculously Nice approach to open communication lines and build trust with the patient, providing the same compassionate approach that they expect from their healthcare organizations. We partner with over 130 hospitals and health systems and over 7,000 physicians to collect more money than our competition while creating an unparalleled patient experience.  

The Debate: When Will Hospital Volumes Return?

The other day when we were gathering around the virtual water cooler, the topic of hospital volumes and the impact COVID-19 has had on them came up like it has a lot lately. After a little light banter, the discussion zeroed in on when hospitals will return to normal. We imagine you have thoughts on that topic, too!

The Coronavirus has had a major impact on our healthcare systems. According to a May report from Crowe, current inpatient admissions are more than 30-percent below normal levels when compared to January 2020. Emergency room visits are down 40-percent, observation services have seen a 47-percent decline, and outpatient ancillary services and surgeries are down 62- and 71-percent respectively, in the same time period. 

As we continued to talk about when hospitals would return to even 75-percent of their previous caseloads, two voices started to rise above the others. These two had extremely different opinions, about as far apart on the spectrum as you can get, like just about everything else they start talking about. We’ll call them Mr. Optimist and Mr. Pessimist. (And yes, you know he’s a pessimist if he’s ok with being called “Mr. Pessimist.”)

Mr. Optimist and Mr. Pessimist disagreed on how soon hospitals would see an influx of patients for nonemergent/elective surgeries and other visits. Both had arguments to back up their sides and why they were right. When it comes to when hospitals will be back to 75-percent of their caseload, Mr. Optimist believes that will happen sometime in August or September. Mr. Pessimist believes it will happen in November-December, if not later. Here are just a few of their arguments:

Mr. Pessimist

1) The elderly utilize a large percentage of healthcare and they are the most at-risk. The elderly will be the last to seek non-life-threatening treatment since they are the “tough it out” generation.


2) Even when healthcare providers are allowed to begin performing elective procedures, the majority of the population will not have elective surgeries done until significant progress is made against COVID-19.

3) Common appointments like dental, vision and dermatology visits will continue to be postponed until there is herd immunity, the virus is under control, or testing is widely available.

4) With sports being canceled and people are generally out less, there will be fewer non-Coronavirus emergencies for hospitals to deal with. This will also lead to a decline in common illnesses like influenza.

Mr. Optimist

1) The elderly like to see their physician more than any other age group. Not because they’re necessarily sick, but because they want to be told they’re healthy. Those routine physician visits give them the mental confidence that they are healthy. Mr. Optimist’s mom wants to get this confidence back and he is sure others do to.

2) Pain is pain and people that have tried to hold off on surgery may not be able to do that much longer. They’ll want to reschedule as soon as possible. Plus, employers may want their furloughed employees to take care of these surgeries before coming back to work when things open up.

3) For many people, staying on top of their overall health is important. That includes dental, vision and/or things like dermatology. As soon as they can, they’ll be back to see their doctors because they believe in finding problems before they start.

4) While there may not be sports and travel causing injuries, staying at home can be just as dangerous. Cooking, honey-do lists and even trying to make a funny TikTok can cause plenty of problems!

Both Mr. Optimist and Mr. Pessimist have their arguments, but what do you think? Join our water cooler discussion and let us know in the poll below when you believe we will see hospital volumes returning to at least a 75-percent case load and why.

Americollect “gives back” to teammates by helping local businesses re-open

Americollect recently distributed over $7000 in Chamber Bucks and gift cards from locally owned restaurants to its teammates as a way to say thank you and provide a much-needed boost to local businesses.

The gesture not only helps teammates who may have experienced a hardship within their family during this time, it will also help the community as local businesses begin to reopen.

“We wanted to help our Americollect families while also supporting local businesses,” said Kenlyn Gretz, CEO of Americollect. “Use the gift card at a favorite small business in your community because they need our patronage now more than ever.”

“During this challenging time, Americollect has been fortunate enough to continue our business operations because of the work-from-home capabilities we had in place prior to the Safer at Home order,” said Shawn Gretz, Americollect President. “We can’t thank our teammates enough for the efforts they have made to keep us operating with little to no interruption.”

Americollect’s corporate office is located in Manitowoc, Wisconsin and the company employs approximately 300 people.

Shawn Gretz Earns Fellowship Designation from HFMA


Shawn Gretz, President of Americollect, has become a Fellow of the Healthcare Financial Management (FHFMA).

To be awarded the FHFMA distinction, applicants must be credentialed as a Certified Healthcare Financial Professional (CHFP); be an HFMA member for at least five years; complete a bachelor’s degree or 120 semester hours from an accredited college or university; and volunteer in HFMA or the healthcare industry. More than 1,700 HFMA members nationwide have achieved this accomplishment in the organization’s 68-year history.

Shawn has been an HFMA member since 2003, including Wisconsin Chapter President in 2016-2017 and Region 7 Regional Executive since 2017. He was recently appointed to the HFMA National Advisory Council (NAC) which began June 1, 2020. In April, Shawn also became a Certified Healthcare Financial Professional, allowing him to qualify for this coveted recognition.

“It is a bittersweet moment for me as I earn my Fellowship from HFMA. As much as I have volunteered and given to this great organization, I have received so much back,” said Shawn. “I have created friendships that will last a lifetime. I have watched and learned from great leaders of their respected organizations. And I have received world-class education on the business of healthcare.”

Earning the HFMA Fellowship attests to one’s financial expertise and leadership. HFMA Fellows act as ambassadors to the profession by raising the standard of practice through consistent participation in professional development activities and service to the healthcare finance industry.

Funding COBRA for your Patients during the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Funding COBRA for your patientsIn early May, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that the April unemployment rate reached 14.7-percent, and a Forbes article claimed that number could grow to 30-percent as a result of the ongoing health crisis. In addition to lost wages, these same people are finding themselves without health insurance during the Coronavirus pandemic, leaving them struggling to find ways to continue paying healthcare premiums through COBRA or other offerings.

This is impacting hospitals that are trying to stretch every dollar to stay solvent while dealing with COVID-19, which is not an easy task. Combine that with patients who are finding themselves newly unemployed with no insurance, the level of care can decline – but it doesn’t have to.

Some patients may be eligible for Medicare or Medicaid, which can provide some coverage, while others could qualify for plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Hospitals may also bill the patient in the hopes that they elect to pay for COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) coverage.

But what if none of these options work or the patient is unable to afford their COBRA payments? Hospitals may consider helping cover these costs through their foundation or other charity entity to ensure a higher payout from the commercial insurance company. Paying a few thousand dollars to receive several times that amount for care can be a way to stay closer to the black. An article by BLR titled, “COBRA Continuation Coverage: Who Pays?” laid out several examples where someone other than the beneficiary pays premiums, including hospitals and Medicaid. In the article, it states that,

“Although COBRA does not require that employers pay for COBRA coverage, COBRA also does not require that a qualified beneficiary actually be the one to pay for coverage–that is, someone else can pay for the qualified beneficiary’s coverage.”

This is not to say you should start paying for every person that walks through the door. To the contrary, you need to review each situation to ensure you are following the correct path. In a Linkedin article, Brent D. Magers, Executive Associate Dean, Texas Tech University HSC School of Medicine, says that,

“any provider that wishes to pay the health coverage premiums for an individual should consider the type of health care coverage, the legal structure of his or her entity that is seeking to provide such payments, applicable state laws and insurance contract terms. Finally, tax-exempt entities should also think of private benefit issues.”

He also gives further advice on having clear policies and procedures to guide the entire process while also securing the approval of legal and compliance professionals before starting this practice, so be sure to work with your legal department to avoid trouble later on.

At Americollect, we understand that a larger segment of your patients may be dealing with COBRA coverage for the first time. We reviewed our already Ridiculously Nice COBRA information and added new training for our staff designed to help first-time COBRA patients better understand their rights and how it works. By taking the time to talk with them, we hope to maximize the use of COBRA during the COVID-19 pandemic, which will positively impact your bottom line.

There are many things to consider when it comes to paying COBRA premiums for your patients, but as COVID-19 continues to impact our world, it may be worth your time to consider this option when working with patients that unexpectedly find themselves without insurance coverage.

 

Hospitals to receive an additional $75 Billion in the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act

Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act

On Friday, President Trump signed the $484 billion Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act into law, the fourth economic stimulus package since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The new package’s goal is to augment the Paycheck Protection Program and Healthcare funding of the CARES Act that was passed in March and quickly ran out of funds.

This new bill contains $370 billion to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), $60 billion of which is set aside for medium, small and community lenders. Healthcare facilities with fewer than 500 employees are able to utilize this program like the first round. Another $75 billion has been set aside specifically to reimburse providers for the cost of treating COVID-19 patients. These funds will be available through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) like the previous round of funding. Finally, $25 billion has been authorized specifically for developing and implementing testing protocols.

Like many other businesses, healthcare providers may have found themselves unable to receive funding from the initial round of PPP, since the initial funds were depleted by April 17. The Small Business Administration resumed accepting applications on Monday, April 27 for the current act. The Department of the Treasury has released a Frequently Asked Questions to help navigate the PPP.

According to the bill itself, “the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund will receive $75 billion to remain available until expended, to prevent, prepare for and respond to coronavirus, domestically or internationally, for necessary expenses to reimburse, through grants or other mechanisms, eligible healthcare providers for healthcare related expenses or lost revenues that are attributable to COVID-19.”

The bill lists eligible healthcare providers as public entities, Medicare or Medicaid enrolled suppliers and providers, and for-profit and not-for-profit entities that provide diagnoses, testing or care for individuals with possible or actual cases of COVID-19. Like the CARES Act, funds from the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act can be used for temporary structures, leases, medical supplies and equipment, testing supplies, increased workforce needs, emergency operation centers, retrofitting existing facilities and extra surge capacity needs.

The current act may help reduce some of the confusion around what organizations can access the $75 billion in healthcare funding for by providing $25 billion specifically for testing. Previously, states and other groups were able to access the healthcare funding portions for testing, but now they can work directly with HHS for the necessary expenses to research, develop, validate, manufacture, purchase, administer and expand capacity for COVID-19 tests. It also requires states, localities, territories and tribes to outline their own testing plans and plans to ease coronavirus mitigation strategies. The bill also lays out the use of $1 billion from this fund to cover the cost of testing for the uninsured.

While there are still a lot of unknowns as to how the Coronavirus will continue to impact our world, Groups like the American Hospital Association are applauding these and other efforts. In a release from April 21, AHA president and CEO Rick Pollack said, “The initial CARES Act funds are already being used by hospitals and health systems to increase capacity and provide care, and in some cases to keep access to care available by keeping the doors open. This additional funding will help ensure that critical care can continue to be provided by front line providers throughout the country.”

The CARES Act: $100 Billion in Healthcare Funding and Your Hospital

When the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) act was announced in late March, the funds promised were to be distributed to many areas, including, arguably the most negatively impacted area, the healthcare field. The CARES Act funding hospitals is not only important for healthcare, but for the nation as a whole.

The Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund, which usually works with an annual budget of $2.6 billion, received $100 billion to reimburse both non-profit and for-profit hospitals for expenses and lost revenue cause by the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has been tasked with dispersing these funds as quickly as possible to minimize the impact COVID-19 is having on our healthcare providers.

Originally, hospitals believed they could apply for money to use towards a range of Coronavirus-related expenses ranging from medical supplies like masks, gowns and gloves, to larger equipment and buildings like beds, ventilators and temporary structures to house patients, but during an April 3rd Coronavirus Task Force Press Briefing, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said that at least a portion the $100 billion fund will be used to reimburse hospitals at Medicare rates for uncompensated COVID-19 care for the uninsured. Additionally, a condition to receiving the reimbursement is that hospitals cannot balance bill uninsured patients for Coronavirus care.

While $100 billion is a lot of money, if it were to be evenly disbursed across the country, it would mean about $108,000 per hospital bed in the United States. But with hospitals not knowing how much will go to covering uninsured patients, and without a lot of additional guidance, an article in Health Leaders suggested hospitals prepare to submit quantifiable information as soon as possible.

Groups like the American Hospital Association have taken notice to the addition of covering uninsured patients and the ramifications this will have on continuity of service. In a Revcycle Intelligence article, AHA president and CEO said:

“Because hospitals and health systems, and our dedicated caregivers are on the front lines of this pandemic, we continue to urge the release of the CARES Act emergency relief funds as soon as possible. This critical funding will help ensure that our health care providers can continue to be there for everyone and have the support and resources that are needed to deliver care to their patients and communities.”

If you have concerns about this shift in funding, contact your associations and have your voice heard. Let them know how this will impact your ability to survive.

As we continue to navigate these unprecedented times, it will be important to stay fluid and find as many options as possible to strengthen your bottom line. Between the CARES Act funding hospitals with $100 billion and the Paycheck Protection Program that can help with payroll needs, hospitals can find a few more tools for the fight against COVID-19.

 

How the Paycheck Protection Program can help your Hospital

 

When the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was Paycheck Protection Program helping hospitalssigned into law on March 27, the news focused on the money to be sent to each American to help ease the financial impact of the COVID-19 crisis. But what about the businesses that are feeling the crunch? An important part of the CARES Act is the Paycheck Protection Program, which allocates nearly $350 billion to support emergency loans to qualifying businesses – including some hospitals and physicians, intended to help business keep their staff employed through these uncertain times.

This program, which is administered by the Small Business Administration, makes loans of up to $10 million available for organizations with less than 500 total employees (i.e., both full and part time). The money can be used for salaries and wages, leave and health benefits, rent, and/or retirement obligations, among other uses. For-profit and non-profit hospitals that meet the affiliation rules are eligible for these loans. Even more enticing, these loans may be forgivable if certain guidelines for use are met. The American Hospital Association estimated that 700 hospitals may be eligible to apply for $7 billion under the loan provisions.

According to a handy guide put together by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, loans can be up to 2.5 times the borrower’s average monthly payroll costs that fall under the $10 million threshold. These costs can include:

♦  salary, wage, commission, or similar compensation
♦  payment of cash tip or equivalent
♦  payment for vacation, parental, family, medical, or sick leave
♦  allowance for dismissal or separation
♦  payment required for the provisions of group health care benefits, including insurance premiums
♦  payment of any retirement benefit
♦  payment of state or local tax assessed on the compensation of the employee

There are a few things this money can’t be used for. Annual salaries of $100,000 or more, payroll and income taxes, employees who live outside of the United States, and qualified sick leave wages that were allowed under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, sections 7011 and 7033.

One of the most important aspects of the Payroll Protection Act for any business, but especially health care facilities, is the fact that borrowers are eligible for loan forgiveness if they use at least 75% of the money for payroll costs, including retaining or quickly rehiring employees and maintaining salary levels. Loan funds can also be used for other expenses, including mortgage, rent, and/or utilities.

Applications will be accepted between April 3 and June 30. You can find more information about the Paycheck Protection Program requirements and how to apply on the Small Business Administration website. In a recent Modern Healthcare article, SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza said, “Speed is the operative word; applications for the emergency capital can begin as early as this week, with lenders using their own systems and processes to make these loans.”

The Coronavirus is impacting us all. It is time to utilize the tools offered to ensure the strength of your staff during this difficult time.

 

Maintaining Collections During a Pandemic

In late January the Coronavirus reached the United States, radically changing the trajectory of 2020 in ways we won’t soon forget. No area has experienced more disruption and uncertainty than healthcare. From shortages of personal protective equipment and ventilators to reductions in elective procedures, from expectations of additional strain on emergency services to unclear revenue outcomes with questions about collections during a pandemic, the concerns for healthcare providers right now seem endless.

Hospitals can expect to feel financial pressure from this pandemic on several fronts. First, according to Rhett Brown, Managing Director, Research Analyst at Lazard Asset Management, in an article in The Bond Buyer, patients will choose to forgo profitable elective procedures this year, and the resulting excess capacity may or may not be replaced with treatments for patients with Coronavirus. And those treatments will end up costing hospitals additional revenue. Health Leaders predicts that nearly all hospitals would lose an average of $2,800 per Covid-19 patient case if reimbursement rates are not increased from the currently proposed rate.

We are hearing these same concerns directly from our clients. One shared that they are already experiencing a 30-percent reduction in their daily census, and if it continues, they predict a 50-percent drop in revenue.

Costs for supplies are also on the rise due to shortages in both the normal supply chain as well as the Strategic National Stockpile. New York Governor Andrew Como shared that masks that normally cost around 85-cents each were now costing $7 when they could be found. He, like others, have called for the government to nationalize the medical supply chain to help hospitals afford much-needed supplies. Hospitals will also see a rise in personnel costs as additional cases of Coronavirus are diagnosed that require a higher level of care.

Price gougers are also appearing in the critical drug and medical supplies markets, trying to cash in on the pandemic. In recent weeks, investment bankers and others have pressed healthcare companies to consider ways that they can profit from the crisis. If allowed, that profit will come in the form of higher costs passed on to hospitals and patients.

Compounding these rising costs are stories of mass unemployment spreading across America faster than the disease. Prior to the passing of the CARES Act, Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin had claimed that the unemployment rate could reach as high as 20-percent if lawmakers did not take action. While these are eye-opening numbers, the flip side is that if this awful scenario comes to be, 80-percent of the US workforce will remain employed without a major income disruption.

With the challenges the Coronavirus is creating, the last thing healthcare providers have time to worry about is their revenue stream. But in these uncertain times it’s never been more important. With significant reductions in incoming revenue, some hospitals – especially those in rural and smaller community settings – could be forced to close their doors. Alan Morgan of the National Rural Health Association recently told Kaiser Health News that if short-term cash isn’t addressed, we’re going to see hundreds of rural hospitals close before this crisis ends.

Considering the ramifications of these factors, it’s imperative that hospitals continue to collect any and all revenue possible during the Coronavirus pandemic, including self-pay balances, but the key is to do it in the most patient-friendly way possible.

First and foremost, empathy is paramount to collecting success and sensitivity to those affected by Coronavirus is essential. The unknown can cause emotions to run high, and there’s no place for anything less than kind, understanding words and actions. When on a call, and a patient says that they are experiencing financial hardship due to the Coronavirus, it is best to thank them for their time, mention any financial assistance options they may have available, apologize and end the call.

Here are a few additional steps that we recommend your collections partners take to help minimize the impact health issues will have on your patients during the Coronavirus pandemic:

  • Flag Accounts – Add a notation to accounts that are suffering financially due to the Coronavirus in both your system and your collections partner(s) system. An example of this is Epic users adding a Billing Indicator to track the accounts and ensure that collection activities cease until the pandemic has subsided.
  • Credit Reporting – Have your collections partner(s) temporarily stop reporting to the credit bureaus. With so many other issues occurring surrounding this pandemic, it is not the right time to affect an individual’s credit. This will also ensure that Coronavirus-related charges do not accidentally get reported. We do not know what will happen with these charges in the future.
  • Legal Action/Garnishments – Have your collections partner(s) pause all legal action and wage garnishments. As with credit reporting, this is simply not the right time to pursue these types of actions.
  • Insurance Check – Reviewing, identifying and verifying that insurance was correctly applied to your patient’s accounts is another step you and your collections partners can take to help maximize your revenue. Some accounts may be payable but were not correctly covered by the insurance company. Having your collections partners help identify missing insurance and follow up on these accounts could lead to the insurance company paying, which is a major patient satisfier.
  • Explore All Avenues of Additional Reimbursement – Look for opportunities to apply for Cobra with patients who may have recently lost employment. Additionally, backdated Medicaid or disability will become a greater revenue source for hospitals.
  • Financial Assistance – More patients will qualify for financial assistance, so working to qualify these patients as efficiently as possible will be extremely beneficial. This includes Medicare patients who will also qualify for Medicare Bad Debt. 

We have to remember that while there will be some patients who are unable to pay their bills, many will still have the means to pay. These are the patients you will want your collections partners to focus on communicating with during these times. Additionally, it is important to keep your inbound communication options strong, making it easier for patients to reach out to you with any questions or payments.

Though the nation is in turmoil, it is important to ensure that letters and responses required by law are still sent to patients regarding disputes, payment plans or receipts in a timely manner. Stay on top of any changes on a national and state level to remain in compliance, even when dealing with Coronavirus fallout.

Here in Wisconsin, Governor Tony Evers enacted a “Safer at Home” order, which closes any non-essential business. Hospitals from across the state have shared with us why it is important for collection agencies to remain operational during the Coronavirus pandemic. One such letter said,

“With respect to the COVID-19 response, [collections] are a critical function to [our facility] and our patients.  Patients during this trying time will need assistance planning their financial future, and [our facility] needs to continue to utilize [collection] services to maintain adequate cashflow.” 

The truth is, the Coronavirus is going to impact hospitals for the foreseeable future. There are several topics you will want to discuss with your collections partner/agency now to ensure they are prepared to support you during the pandemic.

  • Remote Workforce – Validate that they have made provisions for their staff – especially collectors – to be able to work from home. Stay-at-home directives will quickly shut down call center-based collections, making it harder, if not impossible, for them to continue operations.
  • Technical Infrastructure – If your partner/agency says that they are prepared to have their collectors work from home, ask for information on their technical infrastructure. A remote workforce has drastically different needs than office-based staff, and their system may not be able to handle this change.
  • Essential Business Status – While many jobs can and will be done from home, there are responsibilities (printing, incoming/outgoing mail, payroll, etc.) that will have to be handled from the office. If your collections partner(s)/agency does not have “Essential Business” status, any shelter in place orders will stop them from working on-location.
  • Remote Training – Collections can be a high turnover industry, and with the uncertainty caused by the Coronavirus, there will be a need to add and replace collectors. Make sure your partner/agency has the ability to hire and onboard new employees remotely. If not, you may see a decrease in revenue due to a dwindling workforce.

Nobody knows exactly how the Coronavirus will impact our country in the long or short term, but your survival may depend on ensuring a consistent collections revenue stream. Please take the time to review your current partners and agencies to safeguard your employees and patients during these uncertain times.