Payment delays promote irresponsible behavior by patients and insurers

LETTER — Posted June 27, 2005

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Regarding "Out of network, out of luck: The perils of breaking the tie" (Article, May 16): After reading your article I couldn't help but think that misplaced responsibility is part of the problem. Why do we not expect that patients pay for our services?

We feed into the untrue expectation that people have that "insurance will take care of it." We all know that insurance very often will not take care of the bill. As long as the medical profession continues to allow patients and insurers to pay for services if and when they get around to it, we reward irresponsible behavior by patients and insurers alike.

I propose an old-fashioned common-sense concept: When we see a patient, they are told the cost of the treatment, and they either pay for it at the time, or make arrangements for payment. They then get a reimbursement check from the insurance company if they are due one.

Vicki Walker, MD, Vermillion, S.D.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2005/06/27/edlt0627.htm.

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