Marshall Hospital Begins Plan To Bill Patients in Advance of Treatment
Marshall Hospital in Placerville on July 1 implemented a policy that encourages patients to pay "at least some of their hospital bill[s]" prior to receiving services, the Sacramento Business Journal reports. The new policy applies to all hospital and outpatient procedures scheduled in advance, including mammograms, X-rays and surgery.
Under the plan, after a patient makes an appointment, administrative staff at the hospital check health benefits and determine patients' out-of-pocket cost. Marshall workers contact patients before their procedures, inform them of the cost and request payment upon admission. If patients do not prepay, treatment continues as scheduled, and hospital personnel discuss other billing options with patients.
Emergency department patients are asked to pay portions of their bills before they leave the hospital. Hospital employees also help eligible patients apply for Medi-Cal, Healthy Families or other programs that could offset the cost of medical services.
The policy is intended to reduce the hospital's annual bad debt expense of $4 million, the Journal reports. Hospital officials say improved collection of copayments and deductibles from insured patients will improve financial performance at the hospital and help offset the cost of charity care. Karen Dostart, business services manager at Marshall, said, "If we can shave [bad debt] off, that's a good thing," adding, "So far, patients have been receptive" (Robertson, Sacramento Business Journal, 8/6).