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A major responsibility of a local health department (LHD) is to assure public health service availability throughout its jurisdiction. Many LHDs face expanded service needs and declining budgets, making billing for services an increasingly important strategy for sustaining public health service provision. Yet, little practice-based data exist to guide practitioners on what to expect financially, especially regarding timing of reimbursement receipt. This study provides results from one LHD on the lag from service delivery to reimbursement receipt.
Reimbursement records for all transactions at Maricopa County Department of Public Health immunization clinics from January 2013 through June 2014 were compiled and analyzed to determine the duration between service and reimbursement. Outcomes included daily and cumulative revenues received. Time to reimbursement for Medicaid and private payers was also compared.
Reimbursement for immunization services was received a median of 68 days after service. Payments were sometimes taken back by payers through credit transactions that occurred a median of 333 days from service. No differences in time to reimbursement between Medicaid and private payers were found.
Billing represents an important financial opportunity for LHDs to continue to sustainably assure population health. Yet, the lag from service provision to reimbursement may complicate budgeting, especially in initial years of new billing activities. Special consideration may be necessary to establish flexibility in the budget-setting processes for services with clinical billing revenues, because funds for services delivered in one budget period may not be received in the same period. LHDs may also benefit from exploring strategies used by other delivery organizations to streamline billing processes.