Reducing claim denials has long been a challenge for providers. In the worst case, denied claims end up as unexpected—and sometimes unaffordable—bills for patients. The challenge only seems to be growing. A recent survey conducted by the American Hospital Association (AHA) found that 89% of respondents had seen a noticeable increase in denials over the past three years, with 51% describing the increase as “significant.”
Minimizing loss will be top of mind for providers as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to put a strain on their resources, and minimizing or preventing denials will need to be a core part of that strategy. With that in mind, we’re offering four tips to help guide revenue cycle strategies for better denial reduction in 2021.
1. Analyze and Assess
In order to achieve and maintain a healthier denial rate, it’s vital to have a good handle on the factors creating problems in the first place. Keep the following in mind as you start to structure your analysis:
Review key performance indicators: Take a look at which metrics are being used to benchmark success or failure and see if it’s time for a refresh
Evaluate workflows: It’s important to have a clear understanding of how your team operates, and that you can detail workflows as step-by-step processes
Assess tools: Inventory the software you’re using and discuss with your team how it helps or hinders them
Staff efficiency: Consider the number of team members and resources involved in each step of the denial management process
It’s also important to talk to staff. Your team can offer invaluable insight on what is and isn’t working to help you develop a more comprehensive understanding of the shape and scope of the systemic issues contributing to your denial rate.
2. Reduce Errors Upfront
Eligibility, registration, and authorization errors remain the greatest cause of denials and write-offs, so a good first step is to focus on being proactive instead of reactive. Often, it’s easy to get into a routine where errors are only addressed after they occur. But incorporating tech to verify coverage and benefit accuracy in advance can lead to higher efficiency and much less manual labor spent to correct those issues later on.
Similarly, a recent AHA report found a failure to obtain prior authorization to be one of the most common reasons for a claim to be denied by a commercial health plan. In another recent survey, the American Medical Association found that 86% of providers surveyed were struggling with a high administrative burden created by prior authorizations.
Recent innovations have made the process simpler than ever. The right prior authorization solution can automate the process and make it simpler, smarter, and much less labor-intensive, reducing manual input errors and preventing denials.
3. Cut Down on Manual Labor
Claim denials are often the result of staff trying to keep track of a seemingly overwhelming number of rules and regulations while juggling various systems and filing requirements. When your staff is overburdened, it’s that much easier for them to make simple errors or miss deadlines.
There are numerous tools available for teams who are either struggling with paper-based processes or databases without automation. With an AI-powered solution, you can streamline a number of time-consuming tasks while simultaneously automatically ensuring you’re identifying missing data or claim errors that can be corrected before they’re submitted.
It’s also a good idea to review any potential new tools with your team. Their insight will help you properly determine which solutions will actually improve their workflows, and which could prove an expensive time sink.
4. Use Stronger Reporting Tools
Accurate and in-depth reporting should be core to your strategy. Effective reporting tools let you quantify and assess the issues that influence your denial rate, allowing you to easily spot persistent workflow errors or other systemic problems that can create extra work or strain resources.
New tools powered by AI and machine learning offer more robust reporting options than ever, with advanced analytics and visualization capabilities that make it easy to explore complex data sets or identify trends. Mountains of information can now be easily managed and measured, giving you access to operational insights that will help you better understand problem areas and identify opportunities for improvement.
With the right tools, a solid strategy, and expert guidance, you can take a proactive approach to reducing claim denials. Our automated tools make it easy for your team to streamline their workflows while reducing errors and administrative costs. With Hubble, our AI and RPA platform, you can unlock the insights you need to reduce your denial rate and increase cash flow.
Waystar, apartner of EZClaim, also offers a number of front-end solutions to help you take a more proactive approach to your denial rate. Click here to learn more about how Waystar can help you with reducing claim denials and claim management. For more information about Waystar’s platform, visit their website, or give them a call at 844.492.9782.
To find out more about EZClaim’s medical billing software, visit their website, e-mail their support team, or call them at 877.650-0904.
Do you have a fee schedule? If so, do you maintain it on a regular basis?
Well, this is an easy step to skip, but an annual review could put some extra cash in your pocket and help you keep a better handle on how much collectible money you have outstanding. Here are three things you should consider when creating or maintaining your fee schedule:
1. Mark Up the Charge Amount: Did you know that most payers will not pay you more than what you charge, even if you charge less than the allowed amount? They will accept whatever charge amount you have and adjust the difference, but they won’t pay you more than you charge. This can really cost your practice!
2. Allowed Amounts Change: In addition to payers updating the allowed amount for services, many insurancesare offering incentive-based programs you may be eligible to collect a percentage over the allowed amount! If you are basing your charge amount on the payer’s allowed amount you may never see the incentive money that you have earned! Even a small percentage can add up quickly!
3. Decide on an Amount: If you aren’t sure where to start, consider setting your charge amounts based on the Medicare allowed amounts. Using 150% of the Medicare allowed amounts is a fairly standard starting point.
In addition to keeping the fee schedule current, make sure to monitor Allowed Amount and Paid Amount on a monthly basis. If you find that you are collecting the full allowed amount, it is time to increase the charge amount so you don’t leave money on the table!
If you need help getting started, consider working with a consultant. At RCM Insight, we offer annual fee schedule reviews. During the month of February 2021, we will be offering four practices a FREE fee schedule review, so visit our website at www.rcminsight.com and visit the CONTACT US page for your chance to win!
RCM Insight uses EZClaim’s medical billing software for their billing services. For more details about EZClaim’s medical billing solutions, visit their website, e-mail their support team, or call them at 877.650.0904.
[ Contribution: Stephanie Cremeans with RCM Insight ]
Are you working in the medical billing industry as a biller or an owner of a billing company? If so, the KEY medical billing insights and best practices that came out of our interview with Maura Jansen (VP of Operations) and Jennifer Withington (Director of Revenue) at Missing Piece Billing & Consulting Solutions will be VERY VALUABLE for you to consider.
Jennifer, an expert in understanding the problem-solving techniques and the investigative nature of medical billing, offers insights that both educate and inspire. Maura, an executive member of the billing community, also added an important perspective about EZClaim’s medical billing software. The following are some highlights from our interview.
EZCLAIM: When did you get into the industry?
JENNIFER: “I worked in group homes for the waiver side of group aid and then I went to Missing Piece. Missing Piece primarily deals with ABA providers and provides early intervention rendered to children. For me, the move from waivers with adults to professional billing, indirectly assisting children, was attractive and I took to the billing side of things.”
EZCLAIM: What does that mean when you say you took to the billing side of things?
JENNIFER: “Insurance doesn’t make a lot of sense when you first start. So, I took to the investigative side of making sense of medical billing claims. Figuring out what the payer’s rules are, reading their manuals, and figuring out the technical jargon with the purpose of preventing claim denials was attractive. I liked the puzzle of it.”
EZCLAIM: Are there things that you value in your work that offer meaning to what you do?
JENNIFER: “It’s really when I know that if I do not intercede with the insurance company and get this paid the patient is going to be responsible for the balance. So, to help, I have taken things to the department of insurance, or I have gone ahead and filed that third letter of appeal and really taken the time to research it. Because I don’t want a parent who is already struggling with having a child with more needs than maybe the other children would have, I don’t want them struggling with a $25,000 bill. ABA is extremely expensive because it works. And so, if insurance doesn’t pay it then the only other funder is the parent. And my goal is that parents should not have to pay any more than they absolutely have to.”
EZCLAIM: What are some of the strengths that make you good at what you do?
JENNIFER: “I am a good problem solver. I am good at taking a large problem and breaking it into smaller problems and knocking each one down until I solve the bigger issue. At the end of the day, that’s really what accounts receivable is.”
EZCLAIM: What would be an example of your problem solving on a day-to-day basis?
JENNIFER: “So you always start with the denial and then you have to work back to the billing. For example, if I have a claim denied for services rendered from an out-of-network service provider, but we know we are in-network then my first problem is, are we actually in-network? Then, you go onto the next link which is did the payer recognize you as in-network? It becomes like a decision tree, if you get a ‘yes’ then you are probably done, and you get the claim processed. If it is ‘no’, then you have to start digging with the payers contacting reps, make calls, and supply them with documents to get down to why they don’t have your provider listed within the network. Once you solve that problem, then the claim should be able to be processed. It is either going to pay or deny. Then depending on which one it is, you apply the same technique.”
EZCLAIM: What would you offer someone who is considering entering the field?
JENNIFER: “You should be good at processing and reading information because to get a claim paid you to have to know the rules of engagement. You need to be familiar with how to read a contract, how to read technical information about billing, and have to have a glossary of information about what you are billing. Those are the building blocks to get to know what you are doing.”
EZCLAIM: You work with EZClaim’s medical billing software platform, what role does their software providers and how does that impact your work?
JENNIFER: “EZClaim really serves to eliminate these denials before they happen, which is the ultimate goal of any accounts receivable or billing. EZClaim has edits that we use. It alerts us if the system thinks the claim is a duplicate, for example. It also helps in the set-up of the claim. We load all the fee schedules in EZClaim’s procedure code library and that lets us monitor the charge rate, make sure all the points of billing are on the claim (i.e. correct code, modifier, and charge). They also make sure that the authorization is appended to the claim. And then after we have actually done the work of getting a claim in the system, we use EZClaim reports to audit our own billing. So, we use the EZClaim service report. It makes it easier for us and our providers to see what has been billed and make sure that the billing is correct.”
EZCLAIM: If you were going to share something with your colleagues in the field, what would you share about the software that makes your life easier?
JENNIFER: “Number one, it is not the software itself, it’s the EZClaim staff. Their customer service is far beyond what a normal billing software company provides. If I have a problem, or if I have a report, or if I have a data point that isn’t in any report, they are available and they are there for me. And if they don’t have a solution for the problem, they will provide me with a workaround. So, that is very valuable. That is why Missing Piece works so well with EZClaim because customer service is number one for us, too. They don’t just want to answer your question, they want to help you understand your question.”
“The other thing that I find valuable is that their reporting modules are just a lot more robust than the other billing software companies that I have dealt with.”
EZCLAIM: Maura, do you have any thoughts from an administrative level that you can offer on EZClaim?
MAURA: “Well, when we hire a new person we know that, even if this person has very little experience in the healthcare field, it’s going to be a quick and easy process for them to learn EZClaim… EZClaim has also made it kind of a joy to work with. We really value them as a partner. We love the service they provide, and we value them as a platform.”
ABOUT EZCLAIM: EZClaim can also help you with medical billing insights since it is a medical billing and scheduling software company. It provides a best-in-class product, with correspondingly exceptional service and support. Combined, they help improve medical billing revenues. To learn more, visit EZClaim’s website, email them, or call them today at 877.650.0904.
With Medicare Advantage enrollment continuing to rise and more plans offering more benefits than ever, big changes are coming in 2021. This post will discuss the key changes to Medicare Advantage plans in the next year, program updates due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, and advice on how to navigate billing and reimbursement concerns.
For the first time in history, Medicare Advantage (MA) penetration has reached 40% of the total Medicare-eligible population. Currently, 25.4 million people are enrolled in Medicare Advantage (MA) plans, with a total Medicare-eligible population of 62.4 million, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). [ Link to report ]
With an aging population, enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans will only continue to grow (The Congressional Budget Ofﬁce projects enrollment in these plans to rise to about 51% by 2030).
Medicare Advantage is an alternative to traditional Medicare that acts as an all-in-one health plan and is sold by private insurers. All Medicare Advantage plans must provide at least the same level of coverage as original Medicare, but they may impose different rules, restrictions, and costs. Most Advantage plans offer the same A and B coverage for the same monthly premium as regular Medicare plans, but also often include Part D prescription drug coverage, limited vision, and dental care, broader coverage, lower premiums, maximum out-of-pocket limits, and extra beneﬁts—all of which expanded in 2020.
While this represents a distinct opportunity for many providers to be more proﬁtable, growing enrollment also poses challenges. Medicare beneﬁciaries have more choice than ever before when it comes to selecting an MA plan.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), there are 3,148 Medicare Advantage plans available for individual enrollment for the 2020 plan year—an increase of 414 plans since 2019. The average beneﬁciary could choose among 28 plans in 2020. While the choice is great for the beneﬁciary, it adds complexity to healthcare providers’ revenue cycles, who need to navigate hurdles that vary by the plan in order to get reimbursed.
MA plans also tend to be more transient, meaning patients may switch often, even yearly if they choose through the open enrollment period. Providers must better manage every patient accordingly so they can maximize plan beneﬁts. Doing so takes more effort, but the payoff can lead to proﬁt.
CMS has clearly stated a goal to move from the current fee-for-service models toward value-based care. While the Medicare Advantage population grew by 60% from 2013 to 2019, the fee-for-service Medicare population only grew by 5%. The progress Medicare Advantage plans have achieved essentially creates an idea marketplace for beneﬁciaries. Enrollment costs are down and more plans than ever are offering new, innovative beneﬁts. But what does this mean for providers?
So, how has COVID-19 affected Medicare Advantage plans? Well, the COVID-19 stimulus package, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, includes $100 billion in new funds for hospitals and other healthcare entities. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) made $30 billion of these funds available to healthcare providers based on their share of total Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) reimbursements in 2019, resulting in higher payments to hospitals in some states than others, according to KFF. Hospitals in states with higher shares of Medicare Advantage enrollees may have lower FFS reimbursement overall. As a result, some hospitals and other healthcare entities may be reimbursed less than they would if the allocation of funds considered payments received on behalf of Medicare Advantage enrollees.
In response to the COVID-19 emergency, many Medicare Advantage insurers waived cost-sharing requirements for COVID-19 treatment, meaning that Medicare Advantage beneﬁciaries will not have to pay cost-sharing if they require hospitalization due to COVID-19 (though they would if they are hospitalized for other reasons).
If a vaccine for COVID-19 becomes available to the public, Medicare is required to cover it under Part B with no cost-sharing for traditional Medicare or Medicare Advantage plan beneﬁciaries, based on a provision in the Coronavirus Aid Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
A Spotlight on Prior Authorization Medicare Advantage plans can require enrollees to receive prior authorization before service will be covered, and nearly all Medicare Advantage enrollees (99%) are in plans that require prior authorization for some services in 2020, according to KFF. Prior authorization is most often required for relatively expensive services, such as inpatient hospital stays, skilled nursing facility stays, and Part B drugs, and is infrequently required for preventive services. Prior authorization can create barriers for providers and beneﬁciaries, but it’s meant to prevent patients from getting services that are not medically necessary, thus reducing costs for beneﬁciaries and insurers.
In a 2018 analysis, KFF found that four out of ﬁve MA enrollees—or 80%—are in plans that require prior authorization for at least one Medicare-covered service. More than 60% of MA plan enrollees require prior authorization before receiving home health services, and that percentage increases to more than 70% for skilled nursing facility and inpatient hospital stays.
How Providers Can Prepare for a Medicare Advantage Boom Medicare beneficiaries have more choice than ever before when it comes to selecting a MA plan. While the choice is great for the beneficiary, it adds complexity to healthcare providers’ revenue cycle. Healthcare providers will need to navigate new hurdles that vary by the MA plan in order to get reimbursed.
When beneficiaries change plans, it creates another challenge for providers. Historically, about 10% of MA enrollees change plans during open enrollment. Although this number seems low, even a small change in coverage can cause big problems for a healthcare provider’s revenue and cash flow. Billing the wrong insurance company leads to costly denials and appeals. Becker’s Hospital Review estimates that healthcare providers spend about $118 per claim on appeals. A study by the Medical Group Management Association found that the cost to rework a denied claim is approximately $25, and more than 50% of denied claims are never reworked.
Despite the challenges, providers don’t want to be left out of the MA boom. But how can they best prepare? Well, first off, healthcare providers need to ensure they are capturing accurate patient information. Next, they need to reevaluate workflows, so they are prepared to handle time-consuming prior authorizations. Additionally, healthcare organizations must consider how frequently they are re-running eligibility on patient rosters to make certain they do not miss a change in insurance coverage for patients under their care. Providers should re-run patient rosters monthly, so they have the most accurate benefit information. This will help them avoid unnecessary claim denials.
As MA continues to ramp up, the most successful providers will be those who work with a revenue cycle management partner that understands the nuances of Medicare reimbursement as well as the added complexities of MA.
With the acquisition of eSolutions, a leader in revenue cycle technology with Medicare-specific solutions, EZClaim’s ‘partner’, Waystar, so happens to be the first technology to unite commercial, government, and patient payments into a single platform, solving a major challenge and creating meaningful efficiencies. Billing Medicare, Medicare Advantage, and commercial claims from a single platform eliminates the hassle of managing multiple revenue cycle platforms and allows providers to get deeper AI-generated insights for faster reimbursement and increased value—for their organizations and their patients.
For more information about Waystar‘s platform, visit their website, or give them a call at 844.492.9782. To find out more about EZClaim‘s medical billing software, visit their website, e-mail their support team, or call them at 877.650-0904.
If you are not a MIPS expert (Merit-based Incentive System), your Medicare reimbursements may be decreased by 9% in the next year. However, it’s not too late to avoid the penalty for the 2020 reporting period, but you need to act now!
One of EZClaim’s partners, Health eFilings’ has ONC-certified software that completely automates the MIPS compliance process for you. The software will automatically extract the required data directly from EZClaim (and/or your EHR), and then proprietary algorithms will process the 9,000,000 possible combinations of quality measures for each clinician to identify which measures should be submitted to CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) to earn you the most points.
Need a MIPS expert? Well, Health eFilings is one of the best, and CMS has accepted 100% of their submissions on behalf of their clients. If you have completed your 2020 reporting, reach out to them, and learn how you can earn even more points in 2021.
For more information about EZClaim’s medical billing software, e-mail, visit their website, or contact them at 877.650.0904.
[ Article contributed by Sarah Reiter, SVP Strategic Partnerships, Health eFilings]
After the examinations, x-rays, and surgeries, lives another major part of a physician’s day that happens behind the scenes. All the hard work needs to be processed through a successful claim submission, meaning that ultimately earning payment all boils down to one thing – coding. Evaluation and management codes, or E/M codes, are codes a physician uses to report a patient visit. This administrative task – a necessity for any physician – is often cumbersome and prone to errors. Most importantly, it uses up valuable time that could be better spent.
How many of us have experienced the “hurry up and wait” scenario? The type of appointment where you wait in a waiting room, then wait a little more in the exam room, then eventually get 10 minutes with your doctor…only to be rushed out so the next patient can be shuttled in. Unfortunately, it’s all too common. It’s safe to say that many patients could benefit from more face-to-face interaction with their providers.
Many people claim that payment for evaluation and management services is undervalued, specifically when it comes to ambulatory services. Additionally, it’s been argued that the fee schedule itself is not well-designed to support primary care, which requires ongoing care coordination for patients. Pressure existed to increase payment rates for ambulatory E/M services while reducing payment rates for other services. Thankfully, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) took notice. With the goal of increasing efficiencies to reduce unnecessary burdens, the “Patients over Paperwork” initiative was established. Per CMS, E/M codes make up 20% of total spending under the physician fee schedule. Part of this initiative aims to reduce the coding and documentation requirements for E/M codes, in turn giving physicians more time to spend with patients. In partnership with The American Medical Society (AMA), CMS worked to revise the rules for evaluation and management coding requirements. These changes were finalized in the 2020 Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) with an effective date of January 1, 2021.
So what exactly was revised? The E/M updates affect codes 99201 through 99215 and include the deletion of code 99201 along with revisions to the code selection for 99202 – 99215. Below is a summary of the revisions to E/M codes:
Elimination of code 99201
Decrease the burden of coding requirements
Decreases the burden of documentation
Decreases the need for audits
Revises the definitions for Medical Decision Making (MDM)
Revises the definition of time spent with the patient to total time including non-face-to-face for E/M services by a physician and other QHP
Requires a history and/or examination when medically< necessary
Offers a clear time ranges for each code for time spent with the patient
Addition of a new 15-minute prolonged service code
Clinicians will choose a code based on MDM or total time
These changes apply to office visits and other outpatient services. It’s noteworthy that these changes represent the first changes to the E/M codes in over 25 years! More importantly, the changes streamline the coding process, reduce clinician burden, and will allow physicians to put the focus back on patient care.
Billing and coding should always be top of mind, but it can be hard to keep up. This is why it’s critical for physicians, clinicians, coders, and billers to completely understand these changes. To help comprehension, the AMA released a checklist identifying ten steps to help the practices prepare for the upcoming changes that can be accessed here. To learn more about the medical coding changes and the summary of revisions, visit the AMA website.
Note: This article is not a comprehensive overview and is NOT intended to provide coding advice, rather it is intended to highlight the new changes in effect and the need for physicians to ensure they have received the proper training for the upcoming changes.
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