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More doctors changing to a 'pay-first' policy for elective surgery

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Updated: 9/16/2013 10:44 pm
LAS VEGAS (KSNV & MyNews3) -- Next time you go to the doctor, be prepared for this-- you may have to pay upfront.

A growing number of physicians in the valley have implemented a pay-first policy for elective surgeries.

Too many patients seem to not be paying their bills.

For the last 15 years, Dr. Tom Umbach has been performing weight loss surgeries in Las Vegas.

“We do the gastric band, the gastric bypass and the gastric sleeve which has become popular,” said Dr. Umbach of Blossom Bariatrics.

It used to be you get the surgery, then you get a bill in the mail.

But Dr. Umbach is part of a growing number of doctors in the valley who charge upfront for elective surgeries.


“I think it's quite extensive, particularly for hospital based practices,” said Larry Matheis, the executive Director of the Nevada State Medical Association.

Matheis says doctors figure out how much you owe after insurance and then ask you to pay your share before they operate.

“We found that when people don't pay their obligation upfront and try to collect on it later, we just dont have any success in collecting that money,” Umbach said.

Umbach says only 5 percent of people pay their bills after they get sent to collections.

“We're talking a lot of money too, it adds up quickly,” he said.

A to community health advisors, a national consulting firm for healthcare providers, about 11 percent of a physician’s revenue comes from patients, not insurers.

Umbach implemented the pay-first policy five years ago, and since then, he says he's seen a 30 percent decrease in patients being sent to collections.

But does the policy put a burden on people who need surgery?

“It shouldn't, but my suspicion is it probably does,” Matheis said.

Matheis predicts more health care providers in the valley will soon adopt the pay up front policy.

“I think most understand where you have emergency services, this isn't an approach you can follow, but where it is elective, where there is the choice, then I think we're going to see more of this being done,” Matheis said.

-- Kelsey Thomas, KSNV News 3
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