Confused by Medical Bills? Help Is On the Way

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February 20, 2014 by Lisa Brammer

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that no one likes to get a bill. Don’t you just hate when you get your mail and there is nothing but bills? But, do you know what’s worse? It’s getting a bill you aren’t expecting. And even worse than that is receiving one you cannot pay.

Do you know what else no one likes? It’s dealing with a bunch of confusing medical bills and debt collectors after an extended illness or injury. Yet truthfully, many patients find themselves doing exactly that.

As patients continue to pay a greater portion of their healthcare costs it’s more important than ever to have a set of clear, fair guidelines to bring consistency to resolving the patient’s portion of the medical bills.

That’s why early last year two organizations, the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) and the Association of Credit and Collection Professionals (ACA International) voluntarily came together to develop guidelines called “Best Practices for Resolution of Medical Accounts.” The task force was made up of representatives of healthcare finance, third-party collection agencies, consumer advocates and credit bureaus.

On January 15th, 2014 the recommended best practices for managing patient debt was finalized and released. Pat Morris, CEO of ACA International, the leading not-for-profit association for the credit and collection industry said in a press release, “Many consumers are struggling with medical bills today. These best practices are a balanced step forward for all of the stakeholders involved to better resolve patient medical accounts.”

These common-sense best practices were developed as voluntary guidelines to supplement existing local, state and federal laws that govern patient debt recovery.

According to the report, healthcare providers and their affiliates utilizing the best practices will be able to:
1. Lay the groundwork for successful account resolution by educating patients and following best practices for communication prior to the time of service.
2. Make bills and all communications clear, concise, correct, and patient-friendly.
3. Establish policies for account resolution and ensure that they are followed internally and by business affiliates.
4. Be consistent in key aspects of account resolution—from billing disputes to payment application.
5. Coordinate account resolution activities with business affiliates to avoid duplicative patient contacts.
6. Exercise good judgment about the best ways to communicate with patients about bills.
7. Start the account resolution clock when the first statement is sent to the patient.
8. Report back to credit bureaus when an account is resolved (in the event that an account is reported to a credit bureau).
9. Track all consumer complaints.
10. Use best practices, principles, and guidelines to inform their organizational approach to medical account resolution.

Founded in 1950, United Credit Service, Inc. is a full service revenue cycle management and debt collection agency in Wisconsin providing highly effective, customized one on one management and recovery solutions for our business partners. We offer pre-service collection solutions as well as traditional back-end collections. Visit our website at or call 877-723-2902.


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