A Medical Debt Collection Task Force led by the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA), ACA International and a group of stakeholders including medical providers and consumer advocates Wednesday announced new best practices to help make medical bill payments easier and more fair for consumers. 

“Many consumers are struggling with medical bills today,” ACA International CEO Pat Morris said. “These best practices are a balanced step forward for all of the stakeholders involved to better resolve patient medical accounts.”

The task force sought to identify common methods for resolving the patient portion of medical bills and provide a framework for educating patients about available financial assistance programs and the account resolution process.

These new practices are intended to be voluntary guidelines and complement existing federal, state and local laws governing the recovery of patient medical debt.

“These best practices provide a much-needed blueprint for hospitals, physicians, and our partners in account resolution to coordinate their activities in ways that respect and benefit patients,” said Joseph J. Fifer, FHFMA, CPA, president and CEO of HFMA. “Patients want information that is timely, clear, and concise and deserve a consistent, fair process for resolving payment issues.”
The following are some of the best practices. More information is available at www.hfma.org/medical debt.
· Improve Patient Education and Communication. Take responsibility for educating patients about their payment options and responsibilities. Be proactive about communicating available financial assistance policies and procedures.
· Make bills patient-friendly. All financial communication should be clear, concise, correct, and patient friendly. See HFMA’s Patient Friendly Billing Project.
· Establish policies for account resolution and ensure that they are followed. Make sure that key account resolution activities are governed by your organization’s board-approved policies.
· Report back to credit bureaus when an account is resolved. If a past-due account is reported to a credit bureau, the reporting entity should report back to the bureau when the account is satisfied.
· Track all consumer complaints. This information should be shared between the business affiliate and the provider to improve customer service, hasten account resolution, and avoid reoccurring grievances.
· Use established HFMA and ACA best practices, principles, and guidelines to inform an organization’s approach to medical account resolution. This includes HFMA’s Best Practices for Patient Communications; HFMA’s Patient Friendly Billing Project; ACA’s Health Care Servicing Guidelines and ACA’s Code of Ethics.


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