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Medical Coding and Billing: How to Deal with Patients Who Can’t Pay

As a medical coder or biller you’ll occasionally need to interface with patients. In these interactions, your diplomacy skills come in handy, especially when they can’t pay their bill to the provider.

In a way, patients are payers of sorts because, in many cases, they’re responsible for at least some portion of the bill you code. For example, a patient may be responsible for a 20 percent co-insurance, meaning she has to pay 20 percent of what you code and bill.

In a small office setting, you may be the same person who receives a call from the patient who can’t pay her bill, and these issues can be very difficult to address. In this situation, remain professional but be sympathetic to the patient’s dilemma. Here are some suggestions:

  • Follow your employer’s rules about contacting patients. Providers let you know when contacting a patient is okay and what method they prefer for this communication.

  • Identify yourself upfront. When you call patients, always let them know that you are with Dr. Smith’s billing office or the billing office at Smith’s Clinic.

  • Be a listener, not a talker. You don’t need to impart too much information about the inner workings of your client or employer’s office to a patient, if any at all. For example, providers don’t necessarily want their patients to know when the billing company or representative (you) is off site.

  • Explain any available payment plan options. If your office accepts credit cards, installment payments, or financing options, explain those to the patient.

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