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With Medical Debts Rising, Doctors Are More Aggressive About Payments

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Soon, patients will be offered an even faster payment option. They’ll be handed a tablet computer in the waiting room with a credit card swiper attached, and given the option to store their payment info for future bills. The upfront payment model is working; bad debt at Mid State Orthopaedic has gone down by 25 percent over the past two years.

But when patients hand over that kind of cash, Michael says they expect to get what they paid for. Like the fancy new building, which, he acknowledges, drives up the cost of care.  “But that’s the expectation of patients these days. And if we can’t make that happen, they’re going to go where they can get that,” he says.

Jackson-Price says it’s the quality of the doctors she cares about, not the amenities.

“I’m old, don’t you know that? Old people don’t get concerned about buildings. We figure we’re paying for it. Oh boy I gotta pay more ‘cause the building is nice!” she says with a laugh.

After nine surgeries over the course of her life, she says she’s used to paying a portion of her medical bills. So she always sets $1,000 aside in case something happens. But, she says, that kind of money can cramp your style.

“I never thought I would look forward to Medicare, but I do. Yes I do,” she adds.

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Tue, Apr 15 2014

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