How to Help Uninsured or Underinsured Patients

Quality healthcare services do not come cheap in the United States. Most patients who can afford it take out insurance policies to help pay for healthcare services, especially in times of emergency. This leaves those without sufficient funds uninsured. Even the insured are not completely protected, however. In fact, those who are underinsured must pay for healthcare with out-of-pocket expenses because the insurance policy cover rarely meets expectations.

The High Cost of No Insurance

As a result, many patients are reduced to foregoing treatment, taking loans for treatment, or abandoning follow-up checkups after treatments to cut down on bills. Some even go opt for the dangerous route of halving the dosage of prescribed drugs, so they can stretch their prescription, and others don’t visit the doctor at all. All of these actions cause more problems than they solve.

A report by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that deductibles for insurance policy holders were between $1,000 and $1,300 per month for an individual and more than $2,500 for a family. At the end of the day, these deductibles are insufficient to cover costs, leaving patients with the option of making out-of-pocket expenses, which could be as high as $16,000 for healthcare treatment.

How Can Doctors Help?

Healthcare providers also feel the pressure because their Hippocratic Oath puts them in a dilemma. Should they tell patients in need of healthcare that they cannot offer their services without payment, thus closing their doors on those in need, or should they offer their services without cost? Neither of these options seems palatable, leaving healthcare providers with the tough task of brainstorming creative solutions that help the uninsured and underinsured, yet ensuring they get paid for their services.

Below are some creative solutions healthcare providers can help uninsured and underinsured patients.

  • Address the Elephant in the Room:
    You may be a very good doctor, but the chances are your business skills are not as developed. You’ll need to work on them, though, because the issue of money will not go away.
    From your first meeting with a patient, take time to address the elephant in the room—finance. Tell the patient upfront how much their treatment will cost. This will allow you both to agree on a convenient plan that will ensure payment. For instance, the treatment could be rescheduled to a later time of the year when some lump sum (e.g. office bonus or insurance) is expected, or the treatment could be broken down in stages and paid in monthly instalments.
  • Show Empathy and Offer Guidance on Alternative Options:
    You’re in the best position to your demonstrate empathy to your underinsured and uninsured patient while guiding them on alternative cost-effective options for treatment. This does not mean you have to sacrifice quality. Another way to offer cost-effective alternatives is to allow short special consultations. Instead of a $300 one-hour consultation, give cheaper, shorter alternatives during your slow periods.
  • Offering Discounts Based on a Sliding Scale:
    These are discounts provided for under statutes including the Federal Poverty Guidelines. They work by offering discounts based on a family’s income. There are different ways to create a sliding fee scale, but what’s important is the financial freedom it offers to the uninsured and underinsured.
  • Go Pro Bono:
    This should be an option only if your healthcare practice business can handle the cost, and the patient is in serious financial difficulty. If you are not in a position to such help, you could refer your patient to an alternative option.
  • Barter:
    We are not suggesting you try anything inappropriate or illegal. Who says you must collect cash for your services? There’s no law that mandates money is the only payment option. A creative solution for your uninsured and underinsured patient might be to offer an alternative service in exchange for your health care. If your patient is a technician, for example, you could reach an agreement where he provides his services for your healthcare establishment for a duration equivalent to the cost of services you provided. All you have to do is reach an agreement on what the services are worth, and then enter that value in your financial records as income for tax purposes.

You have a range of available options to help your uninsured and underinsured patients, and those that benefit will be sure to tell others. Make the most of positive word of mouth with Comiere’s e-referral solution.

About the Author
Dr. Amjad Safvi
Dr. Amjad Safvi
Dr Safvi M.D. is Board Certified in Interventional Radiology: Board of Phlebology, Vascular Ultrasound. He is also a diplomat of the American Board of Phlebology. Dr. Amjad Safvi has been practicing medicine for over 15 years.


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