With the cost of insurance premiums and deductibles both on the rise, patients have begun taking on greater responsibility for paying for healthcare than ever before. In return, they are becoming more discerning shoppers and expect more from the patient experience that their providers are delivering. One of the biggest steps that have been taken to create a more standardized, consumer-like experience is the introduction of the final price transparency rule from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
More than half of consumers have received an unexpected medical bill
Despite the $3.81 trillion that was spent on healthcare in 2019, America’s healthcare paymentssystem has long remained opaque and broken. Patients are frequently faced with unexpected or surprisingly high medical bills, discover too late that a provider they’d been told was in-network was actually out of network, and are forced to wait 60-90 days to receive their medical bills.
Patients are more concerned about billing than the quality of care
In October 2020, Waystar surveyed 1,000 consumers about their experiences with medical bills, and awareness and attitudes towards the upcoming price transparency rule. More than half of respondents have received an unexpected medical bill, meaning that they assumed a service was covered by insurance and it ultimately was not, or the amount they expected to pay out of pocket was different from the bill they received.
EZClaim is a medical billing and scheduling software company that provides a best-in-class product, with correspondingly exceptional service and support. Combined, they help improve medical billing revenues. To learn more, visitEZClaim’s website,e-mail them, or call them today at 877.650.0904.
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 ]
The COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on the need for mental health resources as illness, job losses, and isolation continues to create unprecedented stress levels. According to recent surveys conducted by the Larry A. Green Center, more than half of clinicians reported declining health among patients due to closed facilities and delayed care, and more than one-third noted that patients with chronic conditions were in noticeably worse health as a result. Even more striking, over 85 percent reported a decline in inpatient mental health with 31 percent seeing a rise in addiction.
With mental health access at the forefront of our minds, there is no doubt a demand for qualified professionals that can handle these complex patient needs. While the sense of urgency for these services exists, especially as more and more healthcare consumers are resuming in-person appointments, unfortunately, there are processes in place that can create unnecessary roadblocks for practitioners.
Complying with the Council for Affordable Quality Healthcare’s (CAQH) behavioral health credentialing requirements are especially challenging. Unlike traditional medicine, treatments and therapies for conditions such as addiction are not as well understood by payers. This makes it more difficult to gain or maintain the credentials necessary to submit claims for therapy services.
Ninety percent of the time counselors and therapists apply for network status are denied! That’s a striking statistic, even for seasoned professionals, and everyone can agree that appealing denials and requesting payers review credentials in greater depth are a time consuming and expensive burden. On average, the time required for behavioral health credentialing of professionals is up to five times greater than for medical professionals because of nuances specific to the industry. The turnaround for completed enrollments is slower too, on average 180 days versus 120 days. In addition, some payers will only allow certain therapies for providers without advanced degrees. Because denials for behavioral health are common, therapists must understand which therapies a network will accept and focus on therapy-specific credentialing. In the current environment, practitioners should also ensure that Telehealth or virtual appointments will be covered for the safety of all.
So how can mental health providers stay ahead of enrollments and avoid credentialing-related denials? Outside assistance from experts like those at TriZetto Provider Solutions offers an end-to-end credentialing service that ensures continuous payer follow up and insight into enrollment status. Our credentialing professionals are devoted to helping providers gain and maintain their credentials. We understand the nuances associated with behavioral health credentialing and have direct relationships with all major payers. TPS allows you to do what you do best – manage patient care – by alleviating the burden of credentialing and making sure you never miss quarterly re-attestation deadlines.
If your mental health services are being denied, we are here to help. Learn how solutions from TriZetto Provider Solutions can help your practice simplify credentialing.
Ransomware hackers target medical billing companies, and it CAN AFFECT your entire company! (Ransomware is a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid.)
Often out of one’s control, ransomware hackers target medical billing companies because of the tremendous value of the data. BUT, there are steps that CAN BE TAKEN to protect you, your company, and your patients and/or clients.
NetWalker Ransomware, for example, gained notoriety for targeting hospitals and healthcare providers with e-mails claiming to provide information about COVID-19. (The e-mail usually has an attachment that downloads the ransomware from a remote server when clicked on.) The thing is, this is very lucrative for identity thieves since medical records information sells anywhere from $1-$1000!
As the number of healthcare providers taking advantage of Telehealth continues to increase—now outnumbering in-person visits—the number of ransomware attacks continues to increase as well. This means Billers and Providers must be aware of the programs that are used on their machines and ensure necessary steps are taken to safeguard against hackers and attacks.
How can you protect yourself and/or your organization?
Carefully monitoring where you store and enter your passwords can be extremely beneficial to help minimize the risk of a hack and keeping personal or patient information protected.
Routine password changes and monitoring where you store and enter your passwords can be extremely beneficial to help reduce the risk of becoming a victim to a hacker. Passwords should be long, unique in characters, capitalization, and alphanumerical.
Have you had an accurate and thorough Security Risk Assessment and/or penetration testing? If you haven’t completed an accurate and thorough security risk assessment, you could also be penalized under ‘willful neglect’ (this category alone is $50,000 per violation!) in addition to the higher risk of ransomware attacks.
If you believe you might have revealed sensitive information about your organization, report it to the appropriate people within the organization, including network administrators. They can be alert for any suspicious or unusual activity.
The strength of your passwords directly impacts your online security.
Live Compliance can help. They aggregate breaches which enables you to assess where personal data has been exposed. Dark Web scanning is built right into their Portal, and it allows you to keep an eye on employees whose information was involved in a breach, where the breach took place, and then suggest the next steps to take.
At Live Compliance, they make checking off your compliance requirements extremely simple and to ensure this doesn’t happen to you or your organization:
Reliable and effective compliance
Completely online, our role-based courses make training easy for remote or in-office employees
Contact-free, accurate Security Risk Assessments are conducted remotely. All devices are thoroughly analyzed regardless of location. (Conducting an accurate and thorough Security Risk Assessment is not only required but is a useful tool to expose potential vulnerabilities, including those such as password protection.)
Policies and procedures curated to fit your organization ensuring employees are updated on all workstation use and security safeguards in the office, or out of the office—all updated in real-time
Electronic, prepared document sending and signing to employees and business associates
So, don’t risk your company’s future on ransomware hackers. Contact one of EZClaim’s partners, Live Compliance, especially since they are offering a FREE Organization Assessment to help determine your company’s status. E-mailthem, visit their website at LiveCompliance.com, or call them at 980.999.1585.
For more information about EZClaim’s medical billing software, which provides a best-in-class product with correspondingly exceptional service and support, e-mail, visit their website, or contact them at 877.650.0904.
[ Article contributed by Jim Johnson of Live Compliance ]
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.
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