ACA International and HFMA Release New Best Practices for Resolution of Medical Accounts

09/17/2020 09:00 AM

The updated best practices build off the work of a 2014 task force and reflect an ongoing commitment to help patients resolve their medical bills.

Tags/Topics: Press Release

Minneapolis, Minnesota – September 17, 2020 – ACA International and the Healthcare Financial Management Association Medical Accounts Receivable Resolution Task Force reconvened this year to update best practices for the fair resolution of patients’ medical bills and address financial assistance policies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and potential future public health emergencies.  

The report reflects the task force’s consensus on the current state of best practices related to the equitable resolution of the patient portion of medical bills.

ACA and HFMA jointly published the 28-page report, which updates and extends guidance that was originally published by HFMA in 2014. The report emphasizes the importance of educating patients and ensuring that they understand the account resolution process.

Serving on the task force are ACA’s CEO Mark Neeb, ACA’s Vice President and Senior Counsel of Federal Advocacy Leah Dempsey, and ACA members from State Collection Service Inc.: Tim Haag, president, and Steve Beard, chief business development officer.

“ACA members have been working with consumers over the past several months to help them understand their options and provide solutions to financial challenges,” Neeb said. “We greatly appreciate the collaboration with HFMA and the other partners to develop best practices for fair resolution of medical debts that document ACA members’ compassionate approach and their commitment to continue serving consumers throughout the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.”

With a focus on patient education and communication, the best practices are designed to help patients engage in their health care and become active participants in resolving outstanding accounts.

“This year was a critical time to revisit and update these best practices on behalf of health care providers and accounts receivable management companies with the goal to help consumers resolve and understand their medical bills,” Neeb said.

The report includes best practices for modifying financial assistance policies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and recommended safeguards to implement before initiating actions, such as credit bureau reporting, that some hospitals and their business affiliates may elect to pursue in accordance with account resolution policies that have been approved by the hospital’s board of directors or other authorizing body.

The framework for the best practices includes:

  • Patient-Friendly Billing – The task force’s goal was to identify a common set of account resolution best practices that align with federal requirements.
  • Patient Education – Education should be designed to engage patients and help them understand their financial responsibility with regard to their account balance, including what it is made up of and how to resolve it.
  • Communications – Providing a clear understanding of what to expect at every stage in the process helps patients engage in their health care and become active participants in resolving outstanding accounts.
  • Price Transparency – Providing patients with access to price estimates is a core part of the education and engagement process. The price estimate allows for tangible discussion of the patient’s obligation and facilitates discussion of potential sources of coverage, financial assistance and payment plans, as necessary. When hospitals have highly reliable price estimates for scheduled services, these estimates should be provided to patients proactively.

“We know medical debt sometimes comes with added challenges and uncertainty, and it is the mission of the accounts receivable management industry and its health care provider partners through these best practices to work together to offer solutions, education and guidance,” Neeb said.

The report was developed with the support of State Collection Service.

“The creation of best practices will enable health care providers, their business partners and patients to work collaboratively, in a consistent manner, to resolve outstanding accounts,” Haag said. “Our goal is to provide empathetic, knowledgeable assistance to both providers and patients by offering all possible solutions in account resolution.”

Members of HFMA’s 2020 Medical Accounts Receivable Resolution Task Force include a diverse group of providers, consumer advocates and collection agencies.

Access the report and additional resources from the task force here:

ACA International (ACA), the association of credit and collection professionals, is the largest membership organization in the accounts receivable management industry. Founded in 1939, ACA brings together third-party collection agencies, law firms, asset buying companies, creditors and vendor affiliates representing industry professionals. ACA produces a wide variety of products, services and publications, including educational and compliance-related information; and articulates the value of the accounts receivable management industry to businesses, policymakers and consumers.

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