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Archive March 2020 XXI, No. 3

Help Patients Pay for Surgery

Understanding how healthcare credit cards work will help you select the one that's best for your facility — and those who come to you for care.

Monica Ziegler, MSN, CASC


Monica Ziegler, MSN
DONE DEAL Offering patient financing plans lets you avoid last-minute cancellations of profitable procedures.

Cash flow is as important to your facility's fiscal health as it is for your patients' household budgets. Today's high-deductible healthcare plans can threaten both, as many patients stress to obtain the thousands of dollars they must pay out of pocket on the day of surgery. That's where patient financing plans can help. Patients who struggle to cover the cost of their care when they arrive at your facility can sign up for a medical credit card, which they can use to charge their deductibles. About 20% of our patients take advantage of the service to receive the care they need. The financing plans also allow our facility to get paid in advance of procedures, a key factor in ensuring we run in the black. Here's how we've designed our process to ensure we're providing access to care in a way that allows us to run a profitable business and support our patients.

1. Know the processing fees

Patient financing companies charge various processing fees on the amount patients borrow. We allow our patients to choose from three plans offered by our vendor. The most popular is a six-month plan that allows them to pay back what they borrowed at no interest. The other two allow the patients to repay over a 24- or 36-month period at moderate interest rates. We're charged about 3% of what the patient owes us by the financing company. In other words, we receive the amount of money the patient borrowed from the company — minus the 3% processing fee — within 24 hours of the patient signing up for the plan.

Our patient financing company also offers a 24-month, no-interest plan that we could offer our patients, but the company would take a whopping 13% of what the patient borrowed as a processing fee. We can't run a business that way and decided not to make that plan available to patients. There are other plans that would allow the vendor to take 9% off the top, which is still high. You must be very careful about which plans you accept from your vendor and offer to your patients. Knowing the details of the available plans is important, as some of the best plans for your patients come at your facility's expense.

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