Geisinger is giving patients options to pay medical bills by viewing their out-of-pocket expenses.
The Danville, Penn.-based system this week introduced a billing solution that allows patients to customize their payment plans. Patients with out-of-pocket balances of more than $250 after insurance can choose customized payment plans offered at no fees or interest.
"Everything we do at Geisinger is done in an effort to make better health easier for our patients, members and communities. This includes making it simpler to afford and pay medical bills with no-interest plans on friendly, customizable terms," said Robert Dewar, chief revenue officer at Geisinger in a released statement. "We understand that everyone's financial situations are different and it's our obligation to make sure our patients don't avoid or put off necessary care for financial reasons."
Startup PayZen provided Geisinger's platform. A pilot was introduced last fall in one of Geisinger's service regions before eventually expanding systemwide, said PayZen CEO and Co-Founder Itzik Cohen.
Patients who were offered payment plans during the pilot paid an average of $52 a month. Of those offered the program, 82% of them enrolled.
"The medical payment is shifting dramatically to the patient," Cohen said. "We looked at this market and felt the 'buy now, pay later' approach for healthcare needs to happen."
An AI-based algorithm analyzes more than 30,000 patient finance data to determine how much they are able to pay monthly. Patients now can complete payments in 60 months instead of the traditional timeframe of 12 to 18 months.
That information is merged with provider data to adjust payments based on the likelihood patients will need additional treatment in the future, Cohen said.
"If we see this is the beginning of a series of other procedures you're going to do, we're going to leave room for you financially to pay for additional procedures down the road," he added.
AI-based algorithms have built patient billing solutions. But Geisinger is the first major health system in the country to widely employ the use of "fintech" to address the rising problem of unpaid patient debt.
More than 17% of individuals in the U.S. had medical debt in 2020, with the average amount at $429, according to a July study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. That study estimated $140 billion in unpaid medical bills was being held in collections agencies.
Such increases have been driven largely by health insurers shifting more of the cost burden for medical expenses onto patients in the form of co-pays and higher deductibles.