How to Ensure Co-Pay Collection at Your Front Desk

Are the front desk staff at your eye care practice collecting the correct co-pays from each patient? Chances are, they aren’t.

In a recent study of patients, 63 percent said they didn’t know out-of-pocket financial responsibility prior to their visit with their provider. Failing to collect co-pays up front slows your revenue cycle and puts a big dent in your revenue overall because it puts you on the road to a series of invoices, some of which you’ll have to send to collections or write off as bad debt. With higher deductibles and co-pays becoming the norm, more of your revenue than ever before is coming out of pocket.

In a recent study of patients, 63 percent said they didn’t know out-of-pocket financial responsibility prior to their visit with their provider.

Collect more co-pays at your front desk with these tips from the experts:

Train your front desk staff to verify insurance eligibility and co-payment amount when the patient makes the appointment. Make clear that patients need to pay co-pays when they check in at the appointment.

Ban this question: “So nothing’s changed since you saw us last?” I can’t tell you how many times I hear front desk personnel in medical offices ask me this question. Because I don’t have a good memory and because I’m probably feeling sick and tired, so my go-to response is going to be, “Yes, it’s all the same.” It’s probably not.

Better for the front desk staffer to ask, “May I see your insurance card to make sure we have the correct information” or “You still live at 101 Oak Lane and the best number to reach you is still 555-555-555?” Front desk staffers who ask these questions with a friendly, efficient tone actually make patients feel like the practice is taking good care of them.

Check the insurance card every time to make sure it is current and you have the correct co-pay information. The patient may have the same insurance as he did at the last visit to your practice, but the co-pay may have changed.

Collect co-pays at check-in. If you collect at check out, it’s easier to patients to slip out with no one noticing.

Make it as easy as possible for patients to pay. Accept credit and debit cards, checks, or cash.

Tip: Make sure your front desk staffers know the location of a nearby cash machine, recommends Barbara Cobuzzi. That way, if the patient claims to not have any cash, the friendly front desk staffer can tell her where the nearest ATM is and not to worry, she’ll hold her place open while she goes and gets the cash. Train your front-desk staff how to handle a patient who balks at paying the co-pay “because she has insurance.”

While terms like “deductible” and “co-pay” may seem obvious, only a small fraction of your patients truly understand most insurance jargon, estimates a Journal of Health Economics study. Your front desk staff should know how to explain the basics—that the insurance company requires your practice to collect the co-payment at the time of the visit.

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