Recouping missed payments critical to maintaining financial stability, experts say
Even mission-driven long-term care providers have to be more assertive in recouping late payments from residents or their families, two legal experts said Thursday.
Promises do not pay the bills, reminded Kathryn M. Stalmack, shareholder at Polsinelli law firm in Chicago. Constant contact, reminders, cut-off dates and late fees all need to be part of a facility's policy, she said during a Thursday session at the LeadingAge Illinois conference. Providers also have to identify whether the money is there but being misappropriated, thereby putting the resident's future at risk.
"The resident's daughter is collecting the Social Security checks, and we don't know where those checks are going, and there's always an outstanding balance," she said in a hypothetical, but common, example. "Let them know that ‘if you are misappropriating funds, we will report you.' Set the tone. This is the financial stability of your facility. Don't feel awkward about asking for what you deserve.”
Providers should remember that taking these measures are part of "investments in the lifeblood of your community," said Matt Murer, chairman of Polsinelli's Health Care Practice Group.
"Every family that doesn't pay is detracting from the care of one of your other residents," he reminded. "There are enough people legitimately who run out of money. We don't need to enable the thieves. Ensure you have the strongest mission driven community going forward."
Facilities also should know the difference between what they can't turn away a resident for — race, disability or age — compared to a family or resident who seems like a bad fit, he said. Marketing and admission coordinators can alert administrators about families that seem like they may be problematic; leadership should not feel guilty if they turn away these potential residents, even though they meet all other criteria.
"You can discriminate against crazy all day long," Murer said. "You want to provide the best community that you can."
Other "soft" areas providers can work on to improve a resident's transition into their facility include sending them handwritten notes, escorting a resident for the first few days to his or her meals, and calling a family member to report a positive interaction.
"Reach out," Murer said. "You can call and say, 'Hey, I wanted you to know we took your mom to this event and she loved it.'"