More and more patients are bouncing checks more than ever because of the economic situation. It’s really important to focus on prevention and also to have a plan in place if you do receive a bounced check.
Having a financial policy in place is a good start. Right away patients know their responsibility and they are also informed of the consequences of violating that policy. The policy should every so often be updated and every time there is a change, the patient should sign the new policy upon arrival for their appointment.
The staff should also be active in efforts to make sure patients pay their bills. They need to be well trained and keep the lines of communication open about the financial policy.
It’s important to copy the patient’s insurance cards and driver’s license when they first arrive to the office front desk registration. Having the patient’s driver’s license helps to identify the patient and also it shows the correct address of the patient, which should be matched up against the address on the check. If the address does not match, it would be wise not to accept the check. Accepting company checks is something you may want to avoid also because a company is usually a protected entity, so if the check were to bounce then the practice has very little recourse when trying to collect payment from that patient.
The financial policy should also include what the consequences are when a check bounces. If there are bank charges, make sure the policy indicates that the patient will be responsible for those charges. A good website to see what laws for each state is www.ckfraud.org/penalties.html. This website is the National Check Fraud Center and it lists bad check laws. Also in the financial policy it would be helpful to reference the laws straight from the website itself.
Consider using a check-scanning system from a company that guarantees that the check has been cleared. The money is immediately deposited into the practice’s bank account and there is no need to visit the bank with a paper check for depositing. Common reasons why a check is bounced is due to insufficient funds, closed account, stop payment or because they have been forged. When any of the above situations happen, it’s good to investigate to determine if this is the case and also making a phone call to the patient and document the phone call.
If a patient bounces a check and the check is settled eventually by the patient, it’s a good idea to convert the patient to self-pay by cash, credit card or debit card.
These few steps can help to recover and prevent checks that have bounced and keep the cash flow going.
Marina Hall is a Certified Medical Reimbursement Specialist (CMRS) and founder of MariAnn Medical Billing Service. To read a full “Interview with Marina Hall” visit her website at http://www.inscoding.com/aboutus.php
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