News & Resources

More physicians viewing credit reports

May 07, 2012 Walt Wojciechowski

Medical professionals, like those in most other occupations, want to ensure they're getting paid for their services. In today's struggling economic landscape, it can be harder than ever for doctors to determine if a patient has the funds to pay for treatment after a visit. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation report revealed that the number of non-elderly patients without health insurance has risen by 5.7 million since the recession began in 2007, resulting in more unpaid medical bills and an increased number of accounts being sent to debt collection agencies. This has a negative effect on healthcare providers because it hampers their ability to pay operating costs. This is why doctors, physicians and other healthcare professionals are relying more heavily on consumer credit reports from the Big Three credit agencies to determine their patients' credit-worthiness, explains According to Jim Bohnsack, vice president of healthcare at TransUnion, looking at a credit score can help doctors determine "Is this person more or less risky to me in terms of not collecting money upfront and collecting payment after?" the news source states. Many healthcare providers say they use the credit information to figure out the best route of payment - and to see if a patient qualifies for discounted services or charity care. The information can facilitate a dialogue between provider and patient about money issues and opens an opportunity for front office staff to talk with patients about potential problems. Yet Pam Dixon, founder and executive director of the World Privacy Forum, believes the score could be used for more malicious intents. "It's very alarming for most patients when they find out about (healthcare providers' use of credit reports)," Dixon tells the news source. "Many people don't read the fine print on their medical forms that ask for authorization to pull a report. Then, when they find out their credit has been checked, they feel like their privacy has been violated." Another potential problem lies in the fact that providers are now able to view patients' lines of credit and could recommend that they use a high-interest credit card to pay for services. However, both TransUnion and Experian are taking advantage of what Milton Silva-Craig, executive vice president of health care at TransUnion, calls a "growing market," explains the media outlet. Last year, TransUnion developed a credit reporting tool designed to help smaller providers compete with larger institutions, while Experian has sold specialized reports to physicians' offices and hospitals for years.