What Insurance Companies Don’t Want You to Know! Friday, Oct 26 2012 

Finally! A long awaited and much anticipated book about ERISA by two well-respected leaders in the health care industry! This book will provide the secrets in getting claims paid, how to fight denials, and halt recoupments using the features within the ERISA regulations.

This is a must buy! Quite frankly, this is important even if you are a layperson covered under your employer’s group health plan! These are the secrets that your insurance company doesn’t want you or your doctor’s office to know!

Book Description

Publication Date: October 15, 2012
New book helps medical practices use the secrets within the ERISA regulations to their benefit to increase practice profitability The Medical Practice Guide to ERISA: Employee Retirement Income Security Act The Federal law ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act) helps the majority of medical practices make carriers pay on claims that are now being denied, delayed and recouped. Only a small percentage of practices understand how ERISA works — yet with this new book, ERISA could possibly become a practice’s best friend! ERISA is complex and most medical practices, “Don’t know what they don’t know when it comes to dealing with ERISA!” Practices are in the dark in understanding how to protect their employer’s rights in collecting the monies owed them. ERISA regulates the practice s health benefits, health benefit payments, EOBs, and most importantly, appeal rights Using this book will allow the reader to not only capture the funds on thousands of dollars that the carriers are now unfairly denying, but will empower the reader to stop the unfair recoupments, illegal timely filing and improper appeal periods that carriers mistakenly quote to physicians and hospital offices. The authors map out the smart but ingeniously simple tactics that practices can use to force insurance carriers to honor their responsibilities on the policies owned by patients — and to convince the carriers to adhere to what the policies actually require them to cover. Providing an overview of the ERISA law, the Self/Verno book provides tips, tools and techniques to leverage ERISA for practice advantage. They take a close look at real-world ERISA situations, violations and outcomes. Armed with this roadmap, physicians and executive staff can better put their resources to work– leveraging ERISA to improve practice profitability. Noteworthy Features Clear Roadmap Written in layman’s terms so practice leaders can immediately begin to implement a strategy of getting claims paid, how to fight denials and halt recoupments. Practical Guidance Includes real world examples and case studies of how medical practices can use the ERISA rules to work for them. Also included is practical information on how to use the ERISA website and answers to the most frequently asked questions about ERISA. Templates to Get You Started Sample letters (describing exact situations and how they can be handled) will get you started and help your practice take control of the process. Selected Table of Contents Healthcare Basics Definitions Laws Employee Benefits Security Administration: Frequently Asked Questions about ERISA Using ERISA Claims Issues Sample Letters – Timely Filing Denial Response, Refund Demand Layperson Response, Unpaid Claims Letter, Incorrectly Paid Claims Letter, Bundling Denial Letter, Down Coding Letter, Payment to Patient Letter Additional Resources – Helpful Websites, Layperson Documents Authorized Representation, Assignment of Benefit Form

You can purchase through Amazon by clicking on this link:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Medical-Practice-Guide-ERISA/dp/0988304007/ref=pd_rhf_cr_p_t_1

ICD-10-CM implementation date is October 1, 2014 Saturday, Sep 1 2012 

The final rule setting the ICD-10-CM implementation date as October 1, 2014 was released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on August 24, 2012.

Why am I being Charged for my “FREE” physical? Saturday, Sep 1 2012 

Due to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), or commonly called “Obamacare”, Health Plans are starting to cover Preventive Medicine services at 100% with no copays, coinsurance or deductible. Unfortunately, insurance companies are not informing patients that dealing with medical issues during these preventive medicine visits will result in an out-of-pocket charge that could result in a co-payment, or a substantial out-of-pocket expense if they have not met their deductible. Insurance companies require all services to be itemized and coded appropriately. One of the primary reasons is to prevent the health plans from paying for services that are not covered. Providers cannot code problem visits as preventive because this would be insurance fraud and could result in the insurance company denying the claim, dropping the physician from their network, and/or, if a government plan, the physician can face imprisonment and fines.

This has resulted in patients becoming angry with their doctor’s offices. Many practices are trying to figure out how to deal with this issue. At my practice, we notify patients before their preventive visit by posting signs on the exam room walls and the medical assistant provides a written notification for the patient to sign that they understand the billing policy. We are also trying to have the physician alert the patient, during the preventive medicine visit, when their concerns become a medical visit and may result in an out-of-pocket expense to the patient. Depending on the severity of the patient’s concern, the physician may be obligated to address the medical issue because, if he didn’t, it could result in a bad outcome for the patient. For example, if the patient states that they have been dizzy and having terrible headaches, this could mean that the patient may have a brain tumor or other significant medical issue. If the physician ignored this complaint, it would harm the patient or could harm others if the patient were driving a vehicle and had an episode. In addition, this would easily become a malpractice lawsuit against the physician.

Some physicians have chosen not to do both a preventive medicine visit and a problem visit on the same day. If the patient is scheduled for a wellness visit and a problem comes up, the physician would either make the decision to change the visit to a problem-oriented visit and reschedule the preventive if the problem is high risk; or have the patient return to deal with the problem issue at a later date if the problem is a low risk. This method keeps the appointments separate and easier for the patient to understand the difference. The downside is that it requires the patient to come back for a second visit, taking additional time off work, to deal with something that could have been handled during one visit.

HHS PROPOSES ONE-YEAR DELAY OF ICD-10 COMPLIANCE DATE Monday, Apr 9 2012 

For Immediate Release: Monday, April 09, 2012
Contact: CMS Office of Public Affairs
202-690-6145

HHS PROPOSES ONE-YEAR DELAY OF ICD-10 COMPLIANCE DATE

(CMS-0040-P)

Action

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today announced a proposed rule that would delay, from October 1, 2013 to October 1, 2014, the compliance date for the International Classification of Diseases, 10th Edition diagnosis and   procedure codes (ICD-10).

The ICD-10 compliance date change is part of a proposed rule that would adopt a standard for a unique health plan identifier (HPID), adopt a data element that would serve as an “other entity” identifier (OEID), and add a National Provider Identifier (NPI) requirement.   The proposed rule was developed by the Office of E-Health Standards and Services (OESS) as part of its ongoing role, delegated by HHS, to establish adopt standards for electronic health care transactions under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).   OESS is part of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

Background

On January 16, 2009, HHS published a final rule to adopt ICD-10 as the HIPAA standard code sets to replace the previously adopted ICD–9–codes for diagnosis and procedure codes (see HIPAA Administrative Simplification;  Modifications to Medical Data Code Set Standards to Adopt ICD-10-CM and ICD-10-PCS,  74 FR 3328). The compliance date set by the final rule was October 1, 2013.

Implementation of ICD-10 will accommodate new procedures and diagnoses unaccounted for in the ICD-9 code set and allow for greater specificity of diagnosis-related groups and preventive services.  This transition will lead to improved accuracy in reimbursement for medical services, fraud detection, and historical claims and diagnoses analysis for the health care system.  Many researchers have published articles on the far-reaching positive effects of ICD-10 on quality issues, including use of specific reasons for patient non-compliance and detailed procedure information by degree of difficulty, among other benefits.

Some provider groups have expressed serious concerns about their ability to meet the October 1, 2013 compliance date.   Their concerns about the ICD-10 compliance date are based, in part, on implementation issues they have experienced meeting HHS’ compliance deadline for the Associated Standard Committee’s (ASC) X12 Version 5010 standards (Version 5010) for electronic health care transactions.  Compliance with Version 5010 is necessary prior to implementation of ICD-10.

All covered entities must transition to ICD-10 at the same time to ensure a smooth transition to the updated medical data code sets.   Failure of any one industry segment to achieve compliance with ICD-10 would negatively impact all other industry segments and result in rejected claims and provider payment delays.   HHS believes the change in the compliance date for ICD-10, as proposed in this rule, would give providers and other covered entities more time to prepare and fully test their systems to ensure a smooth and coordinated transition among all industry segments.

Provisions of the proposed rule announced today

HHS is proposing to change the ICD-10 compliance date to October 1, 2014.

As stated, the ICD-10 compliance date change is part of a proposed rule that would adopt a standard for a unique health plan identifier (HPID), adopt a data element that would serve as an “other entity” identifier (OEID), and add a National Provider Identifier (NPI) requirement.

Standards compliance date

HHS proposes that covered entities must be in compliance with ICD-10 on October 1, 2014.

The proposed rule, CMS-0040-P, may be viewed at www.ofr.gov/inspection.aspx.

A news release on the proposed rule may be viewed at http://www.hhs.gov/news.

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I’d rather buy a month’s worth of Starbucks than…pay my doctor bill Wednesday, Jul 6 2011 

One of the biggest frustrations we have in the health care industry is due to patients not understanding their own health insurance benefits. Oftentimes, patients think that just because they carry insurance, that means that everything is covered and they don’t have to pay anything. Patients receive health care service and a month later they discover that their insurance doesn’t cover that particular service; however, instead of accepting the responsibility of paying, many patients fight, demand, and threaten the physician’s office staff to make the balance go away.

This phenomenon has gotten worse in the past twenty years or so. I subscribe to the theory that much of this mentality is due to the inception of HMO’s. In the beginning, HMO’s had either zero patient financial responsibility, or an exceptionally low out-of-pocket cost. People have been conditioned in thinking that health care is an entitlement. After about a decade, due to insurance companies (and employer groups) not being able to withstand the expense of higher utilization of “free” health care, they began to make the consumer more responsible by charging higher co-pays and not covering certain services. Unfortunately, most Americans expect the same Cadillac coverage without any additional expense (beyond their insurance premium and co-pay).

A major challenge in physician practices is to help their patient’s understand their insurance company’s reimbursement policies, all the while maintaining good will. Physicians are finding themselves having to develop various financial informed consent forms to assure that the patient understands that they may be responsible for some of the cost. Medicare has required this, in the form of Advanced Beneficiary Notices (ABN), for years.  Even so, we often hear patients state, “I signed it but didn’t read it.”  Or, “I was afraid if I didn’t sign it that I wouldn’t get the service.” Perhaps the days of accountability are long gone.

One of the biggest threats we hear from patients is that they will leave our practice if we don’t write off their balance. Not much that you can do about that. Health care is a business and we cannot pay the bills with altruism. In addition, it is fraud to bill the insurance company for services and write off the patient’s responsibility. Aside from financial hardship cases, routine adjustments of patient responsibility can get a physician excluded and/or fined by the government when it is a government program such as Medicare or Medicaid. Worst case scenario for commercial insurance is the insurance company dropping the physician from their network.

With lower reimbursements, practices really need to devote more energy in collecting all revenues due. The average overhead for a primary care physician practice is reaching 60%. There are no government subsidies for physicians, other than rural health care, community health care centers and native american health centers. More and more physicians are closing their offices, retiring early, selling their practices to hospitals, transitioning to concierge medicine, or going to cash only practices. This is devastating to primary care because of the physician shortage; however, many specialists are also getting hit hard as well.

RED FLAGS RULE: Resources available Saturday, Oct 3 2009 

The Red Flags Rule became effective November 1, 2008; however, the actual enforcement date has been delayed several times resulting in the current enforcement date of November 1, 2009.  Several professional organizations are “negotiating” with the Federal government in the attempt of trying to exempt physicians in the definition of “creditors”.  The Federal Trade Commission states that the extra grace period is “to give creditors and financial institutions more time to develop and implement written identity theft prevention programs.”   Penalties for not complying with the Red Flags Rule are $3,500 per incident under Fair Credit Reporting.

The information provided below has been developed for small businesses who are considred “low-risk” to comply with the Red Flags  Rule.  The following is an excerpt from the Federal Trade Commission website:

COMPLYING WITH THE RED FLAGS RULE:

Do-It-Yourself Program for Businesses at Low Risk For Identity Theft

The Red Flags Rule requires many businesses and organizations to implement a written Identity Theft Prevention Program to detect the warning signs – or “red flags” – of identity theft. By identifying red flags, you’ll be in a better position to spot an imposter trying to defraud you by using someone else’s identity to get products and services.

As a practical matter, most businesses and organizations that provide products and services to their customers and then bill them later are covered by the Rule. To find out if the Rule applies to you, read Fighting Fraud with the Red Flags Rule: A How-To Guide for Business.

The Red Flags Rule gives you the flexibility to design an Identity Theft Prevention Program appropriate for your business, given its size and potential risk for identity theft. While some companies need a comprehensive Program, businesses and organizations at low risk for identity theft may find that a streamlined Program fits the bill. If you’re at low risk for identity theft, this do-it-yourself Program may be sufficient.  http://www2.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/redflagsrule/get-started.shtm

This streamlined program seems to be the easiest and most straightforward way to implement the RFR policy in most physician’s practices.

Some helpful resources provided by professional organizations are as follows:

American Medical Association (AMA) http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/no-index/physician-resources/red-flags-rule.shtml .

Medical Group Manager’s Association (MGMA) RFR Resource Center at http://www.mgma.com/policy/default.aspx?id=22932 .

Modern Medicine article: http://medicaleconomics.modernmedicine.com/memag/article/articleDetail.jsp?id=592249&sk=67a9e20fc29c2e9eeddb4f43bc9d04ff

Federal Register, November 9, 2007:  “Interagency Guidelines on Identity Theft Detection, Prevention, and Mitigation” http://ftc.gov/os/fedreg/2007/november/071109redflags.pdf