Ron Shinkman, Editor of Fierce Health Finance

Every now and then we come across a “wow, we couldn’t have said that better ourselves!” news or opinion piece on a topic we’ve been beating the drum about. That was our reaction this week when we read Ron Shinkman’s spot-on editorial, “5 much better ways to collect patient debt,” in response to an avalanche of recent media coverage exposing bad billing and debt collection behavior by hospitals.

Shinkman, writing for an audience of hospital executives, doesn’t mince words:

“It seems perfectly reasonable that highly educated professionals with advanced degrees in hospital or business administration want to be proactive about collecting unpaid bills….

But hospital patients didn’t buy a flat-screen television from you; most sought care because they had no other choice. And unlike the neighborhood Best Buy, there is likely not a single price for a single procedure posted anywhere in your institution.

In such an environment, dunning and then suing patients with low incomes and few resources to respond is extraordinarily short-sighted, if not mean-spirited.”

He then calls on hospitals to adopt five humane and commonsense proposals for hospitals around billing and debt collection (note: go to the editorial for full details on each proposal):
  1. Don’t charge an uninsured patient more than 150 percent of Medicare. Period.
  2. Start listing your prices. Immediately.
  3. Don’t sue. Ever.
  4. Don’t report to credit agencies. Ever.
  5. Retrain and expand your social worker staff. Yesterday.
Well put. It’s refreshing to see a strong voice – and one with such keen insights into the hospital industry – calling for much-needed and smart reforms to hospital billing and debt collection practices so patients’ health and financial security isn’t jeopardized when they seek needed care.

— Kathy MelleyCommunications Director