Fee agreements for your behavioral health care practice are critical because they help manage client expectations, offer protection for providers, and free up in the long run.
Patients need to make informed decisions about their clinical treatment – they need to (a) know the provider is able to meet their clinical needs and (b) the cost associated with the treatment is financially affordable. As a result of having all of a provider’s fees on a piece of paper that is then signed by the provider and patient, the patient’s expectations have been successfully managed. The agreed rate for services can be broken down by the patient who can then calculate and project total costs of services. During intake calls, the fees are often outlined over the telephone, however, that’s a significant amount of information that won’t necessarily register at the time of the visit. By having fees outlined on an agreement, a physical reminder is in place regarding the costs of services that the patient can see, and full disclosure is provided. Should your fees be considered out of reach to any potential patient, it’s better that they understand this before treatment has commenced. Insisting that a fee agreement is signed and in place before you begin any treatment ensures that both you and your patient are protected, and both parties understand the financial obligations for treatment.
The fee agreement provides a contractual understanding between the provider and patient stating how much is owed for the services provided. By having a patient sign a fee agreement, they’re contractually agreeing to rates and ensure that a practitioner’s business model, ie: the foundation of the provider’s revenue, is legally agreed to by the patient. This agreement can serve to protect a practice from disputes that may surface throughout the course of treatment. And, should a patient not pay for service, the agreement can outline if and when collections agencies would be used, and when interest would be chargerd, thus providing a basis for sending delinquent balances to collection agencies.
Having these fees in writing, that both the provider and patient have to sign before starting treatment, comes especially in handy when there are charges such as “Cancelled Ap’t without 24 hrs notice” or “Insufficient Funds Check” or “15 Minute Phone Appointment.” Often patients will be upset or frustrated when they receive their statement outlining a “Cancelled Ap’t without 24 hrs notice,” arguing such charges are “unfair” or “exceptions should be made.” When providers have a fee agreement, explicitly outlining such charges, and have the patients’ signature documenting their acknowledgement, the provider’s response to these “unfair” claims can be somewhat efficient. A provider can explain that full disclosure was provided on the fee agreement and the patient recognized such charges by their signature and dating of the document. In difficult situations, copies of the signed fee agreement can be offered to patients, clarifying the documentation and ensuring that the provider and patient are on the same page – figuratively and literally.
AUTHOR: Micah Adler