Not so long ago, Nebraska Medicine patients with high deductible health plans frequently left the hospital with a large medical bill and the stress of knowing they had no good way to pay it. Meanwhile, the health system, which includes the primary teaching hospital for the University of Nebraska Medical Center, saw its accounts receivable balance grow.
“For years we made payment arrangements directly with patients,” says Sheila Augustine, Nebraska Medicine’s director of patient financial services. By Fall 2016, the health system was self-managing $10 million in debt through payment plans that gave patients up to three years to pay balances that often exceeded $10,000. “It took a major effort to administer the program, and three years was a long time to await final payment,” says Sheila.
Today, Nebraska Health’s internal patient debt load has been reduced to just $2 million, thanks to a no-interest Health Services Financing program made available to patients from Commerce Bank. Depending on their balance, patients still get up to three years to repay the no-interest loan.
As for Nebraska Medicine? “We now receive funding from Commerce within 14 days of making the loan,” says Sheila. She considers Commerce’s Health Services Financing (HSF®) product a win for all involved.
“Our patients are very thankful,” says Sheila. “Commerce makes it easy for them to obtain the loan. We now have repeat patients who are familiar with the program and ask if they can have their balance sent to Commerce.”
In addition to improving cash flow, the health system has slashed printing, mailing and labor costs associated with in-house program administration, Sheila says. She credits the HSF® program’s lower-than-average default rate to Commerce’s strong credit culture.
This wasn’t the first time Nebraska Medicine turned to Commerce to solve a difficult challenge. In 2004, Nebraska Medicine became the first health system in the country to implement the bank’s electronic accounts payable card program.
Still, Sheila and her team performed their due diligence. “We did reference checks,” says Sheila. “The people we spoke to about Commerce’s HSF® program had nothing but great things to say.”
She now joins them in singing the bank’s praises.
“Commerce is a great partner,” says Sheila. “They made implementation easy, even providing IT resources with setup. Everything about their approach is professional.”