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How Should You Discuss Medical Bills with Patients?

Rene Letourneau, for HealthLeaders Media, November 4, 2013

A stakeholder-led initiative presents best practices intended to provide guidance to provider organizations for discussing insurance coverage and financial responsibility for co-pays and deductibles with patients.

Determining when and how to speak with patients about their medical bills is often a tricky dilemma for hospital and health system finance executives who want to be sure their organizations receive payment for services rendered but who also know they can't risk appearing insensitive.

Last week, the Healthcare Financial Management Association released best practices for provider organizations to use when communicating with patients about their medical bills. These best practices are intended to provide guidance to provider organizations for discussing insurance coverage and financial responsibility for co-pays and deductibles with patients.

Joseph J. Fifer, HFMA's president and CEO recently told me that he sees the best practices as a "patient-centric effort" to make the process of paying for medical care easier to understand.

"Anybody who has gone through the revenue cycle process either for themselves or for a loved one knows it is very complex and hard to understand. It's bewildering because of the level of complexity," he says. "If you add to that a lack of any real standards or criteria for how providers communicate with patients about bills, it yields a lot of diversity and inconsistency around the industry, and that just adds to the confusion for patients."

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