May 1, 2014

Debit cards to be issued for patient refunds

Beginning in May, Vanderbilt University Medical Center patients who are owed refunds of $200 or less will receive prepaid debit cards by mail instead of paper checks.

The switch to debit cards will give patients easier access to their refunds and an escape from check-cashing fees that banks may impose.


More than 90 percent of VUMC patient refunds are for amounts less than $200. The common reasons for overpayment can be traced to the complicated and varied ways that financial liability is shared between patients and their health care insurers. Refunds for amounts greater than $200 will continue to go out by check.

Patients will telephone or go online to activate their debit cards. Once activated, the cards are accepted as payment anywhere that MasterCard is accepted, and can be cashed for free at any banking institution in the MasterCard network. If a card is lost or stolen, the refund will be replaced at no cost to the patient.

In addition to giving patients easier access to their funds, the switch will help reduce Vanderbilt’s processing costs for these payments. The switch is part of broader efforts at the University to substitute electronic payments for paper payments.