Financial stress is an increasing concern for most as inflation within the past year rose by 8.5%. An Association for Psychological Science 2019 study showed that financial hardship correlated to an increase in depression, anxiety, and drug use. With finances linked to mental health issues, mental health providers wonder why client intake and interest in services are declining. The answer is fear of surprise bills, affordability, and viewing mental healthcare as a luxury. Let’s look at ways your practice can adjust to inflation while decreasing your clients’ discomfort.
Research has shown nearly two-thirds of Americans avoid/delay healthcare each year due to fear of surprise bills being incurred. As providers, we can minimize this through transparent pricing information. Whether your practice takes insurance or is private pay only, a financial agreement is essential. Have a document available for interested clients on various fees associated with treatment. This not only eases worries about what services cost but also demonstrates you understand seeking treatment is a financial decision.
Fees to Outline:
- Intake Session Fee
- Follow-Up Session Fee
- External Collateral Contact Fee
- No Show/ Late Cancellation Fee
- Medical Records Request Fee
- Letter from Provider Fee
Many clients’ first question is: Will my insurance pay in full for this service? As providers, we know insurance claims and reimbursements are anything but easy. If your practice accepts insurance, there are steps you can take to assist clients in feeling financially empowered through insurance education. The average consumer has limited knowledge of the differences between copays, deductibles, out-of-network coverage, and co-insurance. Clients may believe insurance will pay for services because you are “in-network,” only to find they have a substantial deductible to meet first. Educating your clients should lead them to follow through with your services.
Questions to have your new clients ask their insurance company before their first session:
- Is this provider in network?
- Do I have a deductible I need to meet before insurance will cover charges?
- Do I have a copay?
- Do I have a co-insurance amount I will need to cover?
Financial flexibility can be a contentious, difficult topic for practitioners. We, clinicians, are entitled to appropriate compensation for our time and expertise. We may, however, consider ways we can accommodate clients whose socioeconomic level may otherwise exclude them.
Financial flexibility can allow a more diverse range of clients access to mental healthcare. Financial flexibility can mean creating a sliding scale of payment rates based on a client’s financial picture. It can also take the form of payment plans. Perhaps a client cannot pay for a session, cancellation, or documentation fee all at once. Instead, a plan allows a client to make payments over weeks or months.
Questions to ask yourself about your financial policies:
- Can my practice meet my financial goals and allow for a percentage of clients to pay on a sliding scale?
- How will my practice respond if an existing client is unable to pay a treatment bill on time? What are the positive and negative impacts of payment plans?
Providers realize mental healthcare costs can be intimidating. This barrier has only grown with the increased cost of living associated with inflation. To maintain a thriving practice, clinicians should stay mindful of financial barriers that may be decreasing client outreach. However, inflation may not only be impacting our clients but also ourselves as providers living through a time of inflation. Working in the helping field does not necessitate that we put aside our financial goals and needs. It does necessitate we look meaningfully at our policies and procedures.