Is It Time to Fundamentally Rethink How We Bill Senior Living Residents?

Billing Senior Living Residents

Many experts believe so.

For years, it’s been standard practice among most senior living providers to charge residents set monthly fees based on the level of care they signed up to receive. Assisted living residents, for instance, usually pay higher rent than their independent living counterparts as they’re receiving more care from staff.

Memory care residents, meanwhile, pay even higher monthly bills than their neighbors in assisted living.

While separating senior living residents into these different “tiers” may make sense on paper, it’s not the best way for providers to guarantee that they’re actually getting paid for all of the services they deliver. The realization that caregivers may be providing services that aren’t documented — and therefore paid for — has caused some providers to reevaluate how they track and charge for resident care.

Quite simply, the usual categories — independent living, assisted living and memory care — don’t cut it anymore. Not every assisted living resident is the same, and residents’ monthly bills should reflect that.

A Blessing and a Curse
According to Dana Wollschlager, a practice leader at Chicago-based Plante Moran Living Forward, employees who work in senior living communities are often inherently caring individuals, which is a blessing and a curse when it comes to ensuring residents pay communities what they owe.

“We’re really, really good at taking care of our residents, and we’re even better at always saying ‘yes’ and giving them the services that they need,” Wollschlager said during the 2016 PointClickCare SUMMIT meeting in Orlando. “We need to have a better handle on what it actually costs to provide those services.”

Recently, to combat this issue, a number of senior living providers began adopting a process of assessing residents’ unique care needs, and then charging based on the actual services, as opposed to utilizing an all-inclusive rental amount.

Organizations like Plante Moran Living Forward have helped senior living providers determine exactly how much each of their services costs to provide — and, consequently, how much providers should be charging residents.

“We take every single service that [assisted living clients] provide to a resident, whether it’s in a care package or it’s a la carte, and we identify exactly how much that service costs,” Wollschlager explained at PointClickCare’s SUMMIT.

Technology Is Key
Senior living residents are paying a substantial sum for the care they receive — and they’ll continue to pay more the longer they live in a community. Since 2012, costs for assisted living and memory care alone have risen approximately 2% per year, or about $62 per month, on average.

Residents want to know that they’re getting what they pay for. Providers want to know that they’re being paid for what they deliver. The best way to ensure this is to invest in a technology solution that enables caregivers to document the services they deliver, right after they deliver them. That way, everybody wins.

For more on this topic, read how Welcov Healthcare successfully aligned pricing to service level.

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