Reporting patients' bad debt to the credit bureaus

June 6, 2008

I'm frustrated with patients who refuse to pay their outstanding bills. I'd like to report their overdue balances to the three major credit bureaus as bad debts. What do you think of this idea?

I'm frustrated with patients who refuse to pay their outstanding bills. I'd like to report their overdue balances to the three major credit bureaus as bad debts. What do you think of this idea?

Unfortunately, it's not practical. You can't just send letters to the bureaus detailing those debts; you must use specific software to report the information in a format that's understood by the automated system the credit bureaus use.

In addition, you must pay for the software-either directly or through an initial fee to join a credit bureau's reporting program. There's also a quarterly fee (at least $21) for using the automated system. Some bureaus charge monthly or annual fees as well and require you to report on a certain number of accounts. TransUnion, for example, charges $85 a month (in addition to its $200 sign-up fee) and requires at least 100 account reports monthly. So besides creating extra work for your staff, you could end up spending more to report the overdue bills than you'd collect from patients.

This answer to our reader's question was provided by Judy Murray, Clayton L. Scroggins Associates, Cincinnati.

Send your practice management questions to: PMQA Editor, Medical Economics, 123 Tice Blvd., Suite 300,Woodcliff Lake, NJ 07677-7664, or send an e-mail to mepractice@advanstar.com (please include your regular postal address).