Free electronic bill clearing service ‘no longer sustainable’

Rapidly rising demand for electronic billing has ‘forced’ Healthcode to introduce a charge for independent practitioners using its electronic billing service. 

The official clearing organisation for the independent sector launched free online clearing in 2002, enabling users to submit electronic bills to the major private medical insurers from one platform where they could be validated according to the insurer’s rules. 

Since then, electronic billing has replaced traditional paper bills across the sector on grounds of security and efficiency, which has led billing volumes to accelerate. 

By 2012, Healthcode was processing over 3m bills annually, but by 2019 this had more than doubled to over 7m, accounting for £3.3bn revenue for independent practitioners, clinics and hospitals. While there was a brief lull during the Coronavirus lockdown, the company has seen a significant recovery in volumes since restrictions were eased.

Peter Connor

Its managing director Peter Connor told Independent Practitioner Today: ‘Historically, Healthcode funded bill clearing from other areas of the business, but this approach is no longer sustainable if we are to meet growing demand. 

‘As a responsible company, we must put the service on a firm commercial footing to ensure we can continue to invest in the necessary technical expertise, highly available and secure servers, and support for our customers.’

Healthcode will charge £6.99 per month to subscribe to its clearing service, plus a transaction fee of 25p per validated bill. 

Mr Connor added: ‘After nearly 20 years, this has been a difficult decision and not one taken lightly. We had delayed implementing this change as far as possible due to the impact Covid-19 has had on us all. 

‘We appreciate there is never a good time to introduce fees, but this is a necessary measure to enable us to secure this vital service. The charges are very modest and less than the postal alternative would be. All proceeds from the programme are being used to sustain and re-invest into the service and will not being taken as profits.’