By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer
The Patient’s Champion helps work all the options that bring services within financial reach
Nearly all of our highly successful professional practice clients have at least 1 person on staff whose singular mission is to find ways to make elective procedures affordable.
The staff member (often more than 1 person) takes the role of counselor and champion for the patients, and sits side by side with them considering all the options that, singularly or collectively, can bring the professional services the patients want to within their financial reach.
Often there is a big difference between PRICE and AFFORDABILITY, even if the number of dollars is exactly the same. PRICE, according to Dictionary.com,1 is the amount of money for which anything is bought or sold, while AFFORDABILITY is believed to be within one’s financial means.
Anyone who has ever shopped for a car knows the dealer talks in terms of monthly payments. Few of us can write a lump-sum check for a 5-figure sticker price. Let’s assume that healthcare insurance does not apply. Other than third-party financing, what are some of the options…those extra-effort methods that your staff can use to help make elective care possible?
Here are a few of the common money options. The added key to success is in using more than one resource. It pays to be creative in finding a comfortable and affordable combination.
Company Flex Plans
Some employers sponsor Flexible Spending Accounts that might cover medical expenses that are not normally covered by other types of health insurance. The individual’s plan may include procedures and out of-pocket-health, dental and vision options. The employer can provide details.
Full Cash Payment
The “time value of money” is an accounting term meaning that a single cash payment today is more valuable than some-now-and-some-later payments. There may be mutual benefits to having a slight discount for full cash payments made in advance.
Pre-payment: Cash Plus Time
Consider this scenario: Schedule the procedure for 3 months from today. Accept an initial payment now, a final payment at the time of the procedure, and 1 or 2 intermediate payments scheduled between now and then.
Progressive payments are another variation on this theme and an easy connection when the procedure has multiple steps. Simply having a predictable pace of payments makes them affordable.
Multiple Credit Cards
Individuals often have more than 1 credit card in the family, but often overlook the option of putting part of the charge on more than 1 credit card. This is also a useful option if parents or family members are sharing in the cost, perhaps as a gift.
For example, we know of a family–7 individuals in total–who invested in orthodontics as a graduation gift. More than 1 relative picked up a portion of the cost with the payment applied to the account.
There are more options if your office accepts a range of cards including VISA, MasterCard, Discover and American Express.
Consider ways to provide the patient with a creative combination of part cash, part credit card, part multiple credit cards and a paced schedule of payments over time. This is a technique that helps to spread the total cost over several resource “pockets” and sometimes over an extended period.
There’s usually a solution available without cutting the professional fees. The objective, of course, is to find the pathway to delivering the elective care and service that the patient wants. And that’s a win-win solution…even if it requires looking at several options and packaging the right balance and combination that best serves the patient and the business.
1 Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1 )