Pressured by Congress and the Internal Revenue Service, healthcare providers and the debt collection firms they use are working to standardize the process for resolving patient debt.
The Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) last December partnered with ACA International, a leading debt collection organization, to develop guidelines for medical debt. Later, a task force will review all comments made on the proposed guidelines and then send "The Medical Debt Resolution Overview" to the HFMA and ACA boards for ratification.
The guidelines cover the process from the creation of a patient bill to its resolution. The task force has explicitly stated, however, that making patients aware of their financial responsibility must start before they receive a bill, and so the guidelines largely focus on patient education and communication. Other guidelines include allowing patients 120 days to resolve a bill before taking “extraordinary collection action,” removing paid medical debt from credit reports within 45 days, and conducting regular audits.