A medical center is hoping a recent change to the way its patients are billed will help cut down on debt.
It's called a pre-visit payment plan and Gundersen Health System is now using it to bill all of its patients. Officials at the medical center are hoping it not only increases transparency but also helps reduce the sticker shock when patients get their bill.
Nicole Halverson, a financial counselor with Gundersen Health System, definitely doesn't have an easy job.
"I have patients that come in here and bring in their bill,” said Halverson.
Halverson will be the first one to tell you a hospital bill can be overwhelming for a patient
"They are shocked, they are confused, they are thinking how am I going to pay for this,” said Halverson.
However, Gundersen is trying to make the billing process easier for the patient by getting rid of old habits.
"The way the conversation used to go is folks would show up for their care, we would check them in, they'd have their services, their visit, their procedure, then go home and sometime later receive a bill,” said Michael Allen, the chief financial officer with Gundersen Health System.
Gundersen is trying to start the conversation about money a lot sooner by asking patients to start a pre-visit payment plan.
"We have the conversation before the surgery or appointment, we're able to connect with the patient and let them know what we charge for our services and what they are going to owe,” said Halverson.
Now even before you step foot in the door you will know approximately how much the medical visit will cost you. You can prepare to pay the day of the procedure or prepare for the future.
"If the procedure is two to three months away, let’s work on saving money. Let’s work on putting money aside so when the bill comes, you are going to have the funds available,” said Halverson.
Not only does this unique approach make Halverson’s job easier but it also makes for a better experience for the patient.
"We are asking you if you can pay today at the time of the service or before the service, but we are also asking you to work with us,” said Halverson.
Officials said the pre-visit payment plan at Gundersen Health System will also help cut down on bad debt, which is the amount of money patients owe the hospital and often times that is well into the millions.
A spokesperson with Mayo Clinic Health System says the pre-payment plan at Mayo is only for elective procedures, for example cosmetic or other non-covered procedures.