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Most healthcare providers in the U.S. accept different types of insurance. While your practice might limit the kinds you accept, your patients can typically feel confident knowing they can get the medical care they need at a lower cost with insurance.
However, healthcare insurance is no longer required on the federal level. Some people choose not to have it for personal reasons. Others can’t afford it. With that in mind, it might benefit your practice to accept certain insurance alternatives.
Of course, there are risks that can come with those alternatives. Let’s cover some of the pros and cons of accepting payment methods besides health insurance so you can determine the best move for your practice and your patients.
Common Payment Methods Beyond Insurance
While your top priority as a healthcare provider is to give patients the care they need, you’re still running a business at the end of the day. You have to keep the lights on and your staff paid. That requires different marketing techniques and ideas that will help you stand out from your competitors.
Offering different payment options that go beyond insurance is just one way to do that. Some of the most popular options and structures besides healthcare insurance include:
- Cash: This is the most popular option by far, since nearly everybody utilizes cold, hard cash. Additionally, a full cash payment means you’ll be in the black without having to send anybody to collections.
- Cryptocurrency: Crytpocurrency and other forms of digital currency are becoming a more popular pay methods every day. The upside to this is that the crypto transactions are secure, verifiable, and effective for paying off large sums of money. They downsides include price volitility and the time it can take to transfer crypto from one wallet to another.
- Sliding scale: A sliding scale fee allows for certain patients, usually low-income or in need of assistance, to pay at an adjusted rate. Getting more people help at a rate they can afford is the goal here.
- Membership discounts: While this isn’t insurance, it works similarly. You can offer discounts on health and wellness purchases for those who pay for a membership. This can be monthly, annually, or in whatever scheme you please.
You might even consider options like offering your patients a health share plan. A health share plan allows them many of the benefits of insurance without having to pay expensive premiums. It covers basic health needs without all of the “extras.” They’re not ideal for everyone, especially people with preexisting conditions who are likely to be denied coverage right away. But, if you’re trying to steer away from insurance or open up more options, it’s a good way to help people who are familiar with insurance but need something that’s easier on their bank account.
Why Your Patients Might Be Interested
Let’s face it, insurance is expensive. Even if you’re able to get a low monthly payment, it’s likely you have a high deductible. Some people can’t afford that, so they choose to opt out of healthcare insurance. Unfortunately, that can be a scary position for a patient to be in when so many medical services are expensive.
Offering health insurance alternatives can be incredibly appealing to the average patient — especially someone without insurance. You’re more likely to improve patient retention when you’re showing you care about their financial needs. You can actually use your health insurance alternatives as a marketing tool, letting your audience know exactly what you accept when it comes to payment. You can even go one step further and offer specific financing options so patients can pay over time.
Not sure what type of insurance alternatives your patients are interested in? Part of bolstering your brand includes doing market research. Collect data by asking your existing patients. Include a short questionnaire after every appointment or in an information packet to fill out before their appointment. Additionally, collect more data through email surveys and social media questions. People are quick to be very vocal and opinionated when it comes to spending their money. It shouldn’t take long before you have plenty of information to work with.
Are Insurance Alternatives Right for Your Practice?
It’s easy to see why patients might be interested in health insurance alternatives, but is it right for your practice? As with most changes, there are pros and cons to consider before you decide to offer different payment options. Some of the biggest benefits your practice might see include:
- greater freedom
- continued care
You can also customize the patient experience with individualized payment plans without having to jump through hoops with an insurance company. You can even improve patient retention by offering membership plans, where your patients pay a specific fee each month to have full access to your services as often as needed.
The biggest potential “con” to insurance alternatives is payment delays. When you work with an insurance company, you’re likely to receive the amount you billed them quickly. Individuals are often less reliable, and you might need to hire a staff member just to stay on top of payments and contact people who haven’t paid.
How can you be sure if offering health insurance alternatives is right for you? Start by conducting a cost-benefit analysis. Is it a sound investment? Will you end up making money from it, and how long will it take? Once you have a better understanding of how the change will affect your business, think about how it might affect your patients.
These alternatives can give more people access to healthcare who might not be able to afford insurance on their own. If your practice doesn’t already offer these alternatives, consider exploring them further to determine if they’re a good fit for you.