Accounts Receivable Management

The best way to manage your accounts receivable, where to focus first, and what to check...

Your ability to manage insurance and patient accounts receivable is a huge asset to bring to any employment opportunity. In other words, knowing how to get your claims and patient statements paid in a timely manner is a great way to ensure your job security.

Although the term "accounts receivable," or "AR" is long and ominous-sounding, it really just means collecting balances. Some of these balances will be due from patients, and others will be due from insurance companies (in the form of unpaid claims).

Depending on your specific job responsibilities, you may be in charge of managing patient AR, insurance AR, or both. This is an important difference: the ways you manage either of these types of AR differ depending on which one you're working on.

For example, if you manage patient AR you have to handle patient statements and call patients regarding bills. If you only handle insurance AR, however, you have to follow up on old claims and make sure they are paid in a timely fashion.

Keep an eye on your accounts

Get those claims paid!

The whole point of managing accounts receivable is to make sure your claims get paid and your patients pay their balances.

This means that no matter which type of AR you handle, you have to keep an eye on the time frame of your balances. The time frame is one of the most important aspects of managing accounts receivable. Depending on your practice policies, this time frame will tell you:

  • how many times patients have been sent statements,
  • how long it has been since they last made a payment, and
  • when you need to send them to collections.

It also tells you:

  • how old your insurance claims are,
  • how close they are to reaching their timely filing limit, and
  • makes it easy to see if a large batch of claims did not go through.

Accounts receivable reporting

Usually it's easy to see the time frame of balances in your AR by looking at your AR Report.

This is the document that you use when handling your AR. It gives you all the necessary information regarding your balances, and you can customize it according to your exact needs and specifications.

For example, if you're concerned about the age of claims for a specific insurance company, you can create a customized AR report that includes all the outstanding insurance claims for that insurance company.

If your practice management program includes a system in which you can create your own reports, then it's easy to create and use specialized reports. But if, on the other hand, it doesn't, then you'll have to use the entire AR report to manage your balances.

This means, then, that the way you manage your AR will depend on the type of report that your practice management system can print.

Using your AR report

Knowing how to manage balances is a very useful skill, one which employers seek out.

Your printed AR report is the document that you use to manage all the unpaid balances in your practice. Usually, it prints out like a ledger, with a long list of:

  • patients,
  • a small of amount of the patient demographic data, like a phone number and the patient's account or chart number,
  • the balance on the account,
  • whether or not the balance is due from insurance or the patient, and
  • the age of the balance.

Before you start going through the list and calling every patient that has a balance or checking on every unpaid claim, you first need to decide your priorities. This means that you need to decide if you need to focus on:

  • the very oldest of claims, which may be in the last stages of appeal,
  • the mid-range of unpaid claims, which may be reaching their timely filing limits
  • the oldest of unpaid patient balances, which may need to go to collections,
  • the newest of patient balances, so you can verify the patients mailing address and that claims are going out correctly,
  • the mid-range of patient balances, to make some phone calls to patients to remind them of their bills, or
  • payment plan patients, and whether or not they have made their monthly payments.

If you are working in a small practice and you are responsible for managing all accounts receivable, you will most likely have to check all of these balances, for all ages. If you work in a larger practice, however, you may have to focus on only a small portion of these balances.

Looking at the age of the balance

Usually, you don't need to worry about any balances that are under 60 days. This means that they are either still pending processing by the insurance company, or the claim has already been finalized, and now the patient will begin receiving bills.

Most claims and patient balances are resolved before the balance passes the 60 day mark. Focusing on them too soon will only be more work than is necessary. When balances pass the 60 day mark, however, it's likely that the claim didn't go through or has not been paid correctly, meaning that you need to look into it and see what's going on.

Looking at the age of the balance also shows you what you need to tackle first and what's most important. But you always need to determine what your main responsibilities are in regards to the accounts receivable, and make sure you go over each and every account that has a balance over 60 days old.

Being able to effectively manage your accounts receivable is the best way to ensure that your claims are going out and that they are being paid correctly, and that your patients are paying their bills.

If your office is not bringing in any money then there's not point in being in business. Managing accounts receivable is the best way to make sure your practice gets all of its money, and in a timely fashion as well.

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