Primary Care Doomed - what does it take to get paid?
Seeing this list of patients who just won't pay their bill is usually a shock for the doctor. All of these statements were first sent to insurance companies. The insurers delayed as long as possible (60 days or more) and either made a partial payment or paid zero because it was applied to the patient's deductible, or the patient wasn't even insured at that time.
The patient received an explanation of benefits (payment or lack of payment) from their insurer at the same time the medical office received it. Bills are then sent to the patient for the balance due. Most billing services (which is part of the doctors' exorbitant overhead) sends a statement month after month after month. It is a rare doctor who would send someone to collections.
These amounts are small for a general internist. The amounts due range from $21 to $455 (that is obviously multiple visits over time). When physicians see a patient, they do not usually know their account status. A good doctor DOESN'T WANT to know and that may be one reason many primary care physicians are struggling financially.
Available primary care physicians are few and far between. Many are not accepting new patients . I am asked for referrals all the time and I am hard pressed to know who would take a new patient. In the San Francisco Bay area, fewer and fewer primary care doctors are accepting insurance, but instead are asking for payment at the time of service. As others start looking at their accounts receivable, they will be doing the same.