Collections, payment arrangements can head off temptation to withhold patient records

April 10, 2011

Learn how to handle patients who run up large balances and then switch physicians.

Q: With health plans increasing co-pays and deductibles, more patients are running up large balances and leaving my practice without paying and then request their records to go to different providers. Can we do anything to hold them responsible for what they owe?

A: It sounds as if what you would like to do is withhold records for payment. No sale. That is against the regulations in just about every state. The thing to do is notice the first time the patient share is not paid and discuss it directly. Most practices send statements and hope. That is a recipe for disaster. When the share of cost is not paid, it is OK to make arrangements if it can't be paid all at once, but the patient must honor those arrangements. If a patient does not pay after a couple of calls, authorize sending the balance to collection. Send a dismissal letter to the patient following the state regulations on record at the time of the notice.