Hospital stays usually are unexpected and can be stressful -- even more so when the patient is unable to pay for the treatment. A hospital financial counselor helps patients understand their fiscal obligations and, if necessary, find additional sources of financial assistance. This important health care role alleviates patient anxiety and helps ensure that the hospital remains fiscally sound.
Scope of Responsibilities
The financial counselor’s role begins with a patient financial interview, which includes a review of the hospital charges, the patient’s insurance status and his financial resources. If the patient has insurance, the counselor verifies coverage and calculates co-pays and deductibles. If the patient’s insurance and personal resources are insufficient, the counselor identifies additional assistance the patient may be eligible for, such as Medicare, Medicaid, state assistance or charitable resources. In addition, the counselor may determine that the patient is eligible for reduced fees or free services under federal or state medical assistance programs, or she may work with the billing department to arrange a payment plan.
Requirements for Hire and Advancement
At a minimum, you must have a high school degree and at least one year of related experience to apply for a position as a hospital financial counselor. Training or experience in insurance, medical billing, financial counseling or hospital work will make you more competitive. Certification programs, such as Financial Counselor Certification, will help you at the entry level, but you need a college degree in a related field, such as finance or business, to advance into the management ranks, or to move into related positions like as accountant or controller. With a graduate degree and significant experience, you could advance to a senior position, such as vice president of finance or chief financial officer for the hospital.
To be an effective financial counselor, you must be understanding, compassionate and reassuring as you explain the patient’s liabilities and resources that may help with payments. At the same time, you represent the hospital’s interests, so you must be firm and clear in explaining the charges for which the patient is responsible. You also will serve as a liaison with other hospital departments and insurance agencies, so you must develop solid working relationships with your peers and counterparts in outside organizations.
The ability to interpret documents is essential since you will be working with many different insurance and financial assistance programs. You also will write reports and must be able to present information in informal briefings to patients and their families. Internally, you may be required to present information, such as statistics, to your supervisor and other hospital officials. Because you will be working with numbers, you must have the basic skills to calculate rates and percentages.
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- Photo Credit AndreyPopov/iStock/Getty Images
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