No one likes to get a bill in the mail, particularly one that isn’t routine. Since most of us don’t expect to get sick or hurt, medical bills usually aren’t something we plan for in our monthly budgets.
But if a bill does arrive from Mercy, patients can rest assured Mercy has taken steps to make sure everyone understands their bill and gets the answers and assistance they need.
The Leapfrog Group, an independent national health care watchdog organization, and Money magazine teamed up to release a list of Best Hospitals and Surgery Centers for Billing Ethics. They looked at criteria including clear descriptions of services billed, instructions on applying for financial assistance and options for getting bills sent in the patient’s primary language. To qualify for the list, Mercy also had to have high marks for preventing medical errors and harm to patients.
“This honor is due to our co-workers’ relentless commitment to service, in keeping with Mercy values,” said Sterling Coker, Mercy chief revenue cycle officer. He says a change in Mercy’s billing practices in 2017 has also helped patients. “We used to send one bill for hospital-based services and another for our doctor’s offices. We were able to combine the two, which eliminated a lot of confusion for patients, who often worried they were paying twice for the same thing.”
While the ethical billing honor is an achievement, Coker acknowledges there can still be misunderstandings about balances due. “Payments can cross in the mail or insurance payments can be a bit delayed,” he said. “When that happens, we work quickly to resolve the issue.”
He says it’s important for patients to reach out if they disagree with or don’t understand their bills and ask for financial assistance if they need it. “Don’t ignore a medical bill,” he said. “We’re here to help. You may qualify for financial aid to help pay the bill, and while that does mean completing some government-required paperwork, it’s well worth it in the end. If nothing else, we can set up a payment plan you can afford that can even improve your credit.”