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How to handle missing copays?


August 13, 2013

Question:

Hi Jennifer

Definitely enjoyed your article on Tip 101.  My question is any tips on how to handle the situation when you do find that copays are missing and it leads to the person collecting them.

Thanks and be well 
-Dr R

Answer:

Dr. R, thanks for the follow up question.  Suspecting an employee of stealing and proving it are, of course, two different scenarios.  Oftentimes suspicion is enough to warrant action, or possibly termination.  But, how do you prove an employee is stealing short of catching them red-handed (especially when you are in the back treating patients)? 

First, decide whether you want to alert your staff you are aware of the shortfalls, or if you are going to operate your own internal sting operation to catch the culprit.  If you are electing the former,  be sure to take overt actions alerting your staff you are watching more closely. For the latter measure, keep a watchful eye on who is collecting copays, consider installing cameras in the practice (which may be placed anywhere an individual would not have an expectation of privacy - such as a bathroom or changing area). 

Second, you may elect to interview your staff to discuss the missing co-payments.  Be sure to have a witness with you at all times during any such discussions, especially if you elect to address with one employee at a time.  I recommend having your office manager take part in each meeting, unless he or she is the suspected culprit. 

Third, if you do identify an individual you believe to be stealing from the practice, contact the police immediately and fill out a police report.  Even if you have no intention of pressing charges, it is imperative for you to protect yourself and the practice from continued theft.  By filing a police report you are creating a legal record of the theft that may come in handy should the need arise.  For the next steps here - availing yourself of your rights - I recommend contacting your healthcare attorney and evaluating your particular situation and its nuances. 

To protect against employees stealing I recommend ordering and reviewing a background check on any/all potential hires.  Having information that a potential employee has previously  plead guilty for shoplifting or other minor theft may, in fact, be extremely pertinent information. Additionally, do not be shy about installing cameras at your practice.  Just be careful where they are placed, and feel free to put cameras in open and obvious locations so your staff knows they are being watched.  Do not tell everyone you never bothered to install the memory card on the recording device for the cameras you did not have activated - let your staff believe they are being monitored.  Finally, if you do discover an employee is stealing, that employee must go - immediately, and properly.  Document, document, document!  If the thief-employee is a licensed healthcare provider, that individual may have licensure exposure as well for improper practices.

 For assistance with a (suspected or confirmed) thief-employee, contact Jennifer at (516) 747-6700 x. 302 or email her at Jennifer@Kirschenbaumesq.com



 

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