Don't Write off Unpaid Bills with a Deceased Patient – Tips on How to Collect Them
By Delly Parham, CPC, CLA — Sarasota, FL
How do you collect an unpaid account upon the death of a patient and keep your revenue cycle alive? Many of us might take the easy way out and write off accounts owed by a deceased patient instead of using simple collection procedures. A few simple tips have helped me increase the cash flow in a large lab.
- Make sure that the patient (or estate), and not insurance, is responsible for the bill.
- Subscribe to a publication in your locality which compiles records of deaths and decedent’s estates.
- Send a letter requesting payment to the person named in your records as next of kin or to the person named in the estate records (executor or personal representative) to be responsible for the final bill.
- If the bill is not paid and you determine there is an estate proceeding, file a claim for the balance owed with the estate of the deceased patient. It is important to know the principal residence of the patient. The court or your attorney can obtain a claim form for you. You must file the claim within 30 to 90 days; ascertain from the court the deadline for submitting a claim. File it within the proper timeframe!
- The claim should be paid within a short period of time. In all cases, claims must be paid before the estate assets can be distributed to heirs. If the assets are not sufficient to pay all claims, you may receive a pro rata share.
- Then and only then, write off the unpaid balance. REMEMBER, the claim must be filed within the time set by the court. Otherwise it will be lost forever!