The pandemic brought a financial onslaught to every healthcare organization. Many providers have been hit hard financially, with their revenue cycle landscape significantly changed.

Given the job losses during the pandemic, an estimated 3.5 million people will become uninsured according to the Urban Land Institute.

A 2020 Kaufman Hall survey of hospital executives revealed that nearly half of respondents have seen bad debt, uncompensated care, and self-pay patients increase since the start of the pandemic.

Providers are already experiencing increased difficulties in collecting payments from newly uninsured and other patients.

Many providers are now implementing changes in their patient collections and bad debt, making the process not only more efficient but also more patient-focused and compassionate.

Effects of Covid-19 on Patient Collections at Healthcare Facilities

According to a recent survey by the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA), 88% of healthcare providers indicate that COVID-19 has impacted their approach to patient collections in some way. For example:

  • 70% of healthcare providers have increased patient payment options
  • 74% have adjusted bad debt placement timing
  • 61% have delayed credit reporting

Providers are also allowing patients to extend payment terms and delay payments. They are also increasing resources dedicated to financial assistance like patient financial advocates to initiate more patient contact and outreach.

They are also increasing charity care write-offs, expediting presumptive charity care programs and moving more bad debt into charity care.

We have also found that some providers feel reluctant or don’t want to write off accounts to collections because of the pandemic.

Why is it still a good idea to write off accounts even during Covid-19?

With economic uncertainty, patients are facing challenging financial times. Compassionate customer service and patient-friendly solutions are essential, especially as many patients struggle with the anxiety of the unknown.

However, healthcare facilities must remain focused on key revenue cycle functions, such as patient collections, so they can bring in funds and remain financially viable.

1. Patients have positive sentiments toward healthcare providers.

During the pandemic, patients have shown a positive sentiment toward healthcare providers. Patients are showing their gratitude for hard-working medical professionals and frontline workers by paying their financial responsibility.

Consumers may have more than one debtor to whom they owe money. This is not a time to go dark with your patients.

Let them know exactly what the situation is so they can plan accordingly.

Patients have demonstrated a willingness to pay their outstanding balances despite other financial obligations they may have. This shows the value they place on healthcare services.

Mnet’s experience has been that we have received more thanks and appreciation for the medical staff who attended them in our calls with patients.

2. Consider the long-term financial health of your facility.

Healthcare facilities need to be financially strong in order to serve their patients and their employees.

Collections are often the last thing anyone wants to do.  However, getting paid is how your facility keeps cash flow coming in and operational.

Suspending billing for 30 or 60 days, forgiving a monthly payment, or putting on hold the placement of accounts to collections are commendable short-term strategies for patient collections.

These efforts show compassion and understanding to patients’ current situations, but they are not viable in the long term.

Facilities need the cash flow to reinvest in their healthcare systems and communities so that patients can get, and pay for, the care they need.

The longer the account stays in your A/R, the harder and more expensive it is to collect it. If this continues for a significant period, your facility would face a mountain wave of delinquencies.

3. Medical collection accounts are treated differently in credit reporting.

During these uncertain times, more patients want to protect their credit. Nearly one-half of Americans (48%) are concerned the virus-induced recession would impact their credit score, according to a Harris Poll.

However, not all debt is created equal. Medical bills are treated differently than other bills sent to collections as medical debt is treated more leniently in credit scoring.

  • Less weight: Newer scoring models such as FICO 9 and VantageScore 4.0 weigh medical collections less than other types of collections.
  • Grace period: The three credit bureaus must wait 180 days before listing medical debt on credit reports. This grace period gives patients time to settle payment before the debt affects their credit scores.
  • Removed once paid: While most collections remain on credit report for seven years, medical debt is removed once it has been paid or is being paid by insurance.

4. Patients are using their stimulus checks to pay debt.

A survey by Money Done Right and Google Consumer Surveys showed that 43 percent of Americans plan to use their stimulus money to pay off debt.

At the same time, banks are ramping up credit management capabilities to help support consumers weather the financial aftermath of the global pandemic.

Consumers are changing their behavior as they spend less on vacationing and eating out. Instead, they are using their money to pay down debt and keep their credit lines open.

During this pandemic, Mnet has found that more patients paid in full, made larger payments and established payment plans.  Mnet saw an increase in total patient payment by 1.6% compared to the period prior to Covid-19.

During these uncertain times, your facility’s commitment and approach to meeting patients where they are financially will build loyalty long after the pandemic is over.


About Mnet Health

We believe every patient deserves a helpful, transparent, easy to navigate financial experience in healthcare.

Mnet is the premier revenue cycle management & technology provider to the surgical industry. We provide custom patient-pay solutions to surgical hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers. As of 2020, Mnet Health partners with over 700 surgical facilities nationwide and is the preferred vendor of both United Surgical Partners International (USPI) and Surgical Care Affiliates (SCA) – both directly with and in support of centralized billing offices.

Mnet’s custom brand, PaySUITE, is a white-labeled payment technology platform that helps surgical facilities and their providers grow their business by helping patients pay. Mnet’s patient-pay solutions significantly increase self-pay collections while creating a better financial experience for patients. For more information, visit https://mnethealth.com.