When to Give a Little…When to Not

6 Jun

Because I work in an agency which services state contracts–Medicaid, etc.–I provide services for, mostly, low-income families. Although they, usually, don’t have a co-pay, other expenses are involved, and I often wonder if there’s anything I should be doing to “help them out.”

In my mediation training, the issue of money was a hot-topic as well. Our trainer goes so far as to ask her parties to write a blank check and present it to her to be filled-out at the end of the session. She asks, “can you pay for the session” up-front and doesn’t mess around!

Here’s something that I found in my liability insurance’s newsletter…see if it rings a bell for you.

money“Suppose a therapist or counselor allows the payment of a patient’s bill to be either fully or partially deferred at the request of the patient who is experiencing financial difficulties. Suppose further that the patient’s problems are serious and that the practitioner feels an ethical obligation to continue to treat the patient. Because of the length and frequency of the treatment, and because of the regular and customary fee of the practitioner, the amount owed by the patient soon spirals above $15,000. Later, when therapy ends, the patient refuses to pay the monies owed. What vulnerability, if any, does the therapist or counselor have? If the practitioner files a lawsuit against the patient to recover the monies owed, could he or she lose? Did the therapist unwittingly allow a dual relationship to occur – that is, did the therapist allow a debtor-creditor relationship to be established?”

In mediation, the same scenario could happen–parties who receive services but plead financial hardship. If the finances haven’t been established up-front, and the parties do not have the ability to pay, who is liable? I suppose that’s what the initial paperwork is for–but, we all know contracts may not be binding.

So, I’m curious how you handle financial liability…do you ask for money up-front or do you wait until the end of the mediation? Do you bill your parties?

I admit–I’m a softie. But, that being said, I don’t want to be a softie who’s in financial trouble!





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