Even with loosening restrictions and mask mandates amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a recent report based on data from the Forbes Health-Opsos Monthly Health Tracker has found that nearly one-third of adults are using remote health services more now than before the pandemic. Of that group, 19% of respondents indicated they have increased their telehealth or doctor visits, while another 10% say they used telemedicine websites or apps more frequently.
The pandemic saw a large uptick in remote health services, and it has only increased since then. Based on a previous post that AdvantEdge published back in September 2021 tracking the telehealth trend, the CDC found that in June 2020, “telehealth visits represented over 35% of all visits in June of that month and that ‘telehealth visits declined as the number of new COVID-19 cases decreased but plateaued as the number of cases increased.’”
According to this recent Forbes data, the telehealth trend may be on the upswing for quite some time, given the relatively low number of cases, and that telehealth visits and the cases are no longer linked.
As a result of the increased utilization of telehealth services, more health insurance providers are including these services as part of their care. Additionally, according to an American Psychiatric Association finding, in 2021 nearly six in 10 adults said they would use telehealth for mental health care – up 10% from 2020.
The healthcare industry is already investigating what a hybrid model – inpatient care and telehealth services – will look like. According to an interview between Healthcare IT News and Mike Brandofino, CEO of Caregility, a vendor of telehealth technology and services, these two are poised for symbiotic growth:
“Telehealth – when adopted as an enterprise-wide strategy – elicits many creative uses. We have heard from doctors who say that, thanks to virtual rounding, they get more done and see more patients by not having to walk miles through hospital hallways.”
Other examples include virtual care in patients’ homes and assisted living communities. Regardless of “how,” there has been a growing interest in enhancing the entire care experience through the adoption of hybrid care models that include both in-person visits and virtual encounters.
Read the full article for more information – “How telehealth can help inpatient care, and what a hybrid future looks like.”
The future of telehealth looks bright – it will enable medical professionals to spend more time focusing on their patients in a higher capacity while alleviating some of the burden and time management on the patient side. Additionally, it can support healthier and higher revenues by enabling medical professionals to “see” more patients.
Modern America has made a concentrated effort in bringing to light the need for mental health services while at the same time trying to de-stigmatize this type of care, though a recent report indicates we still have some ways to go.
According to results from a recent online survey from the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, there is a considerable gap between the number of Americans that need care for depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions and those that can receive it.
According to the data, 42% of U.S. adults could not get the mental health care they needed in the previous 12 months due to cost and other barriers. Substance abuse service needs also accounted for one-quarter of the responses.
According to Chuck Ingoglia, CEO of the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, these findings aren’t surprising. He states: “We’re in an environment where there is increased attention to these issues at the federal level and state level, there have been efforts to require insurance companies to provide adequate coverage for behavioral health conditions, and yet it still is a challenge for individuals, and that’s a real shame.”
The nationwide survey – Access to Care – was conducted in May by The Harris Poll and included 2,052 Americans. The primary barriers included availability, cost, lack of diversity, wait times, and proximity to care.
Additional insights garnered from the survey indicate that access to mental health services will only worsen without intervention. Nearly 40% of participants noted that expenses had prevented them from getting care, whether it was out-of-pocket or through insurance. Additionally, 28% of respondents stated finding care was difficult, and it is believed that COVID-19 played a hand in upending a lot of these services due to provider shortages and the Great Resignation.
Many of these issues – such as inadequate care and barriers to access – have been a known, ongoing issue.
Improvements need to be made in behavioral health, especially for older adults. According to StatePoint Media, behavioral health disorders affect one in five adults over 55. Dementia is the most common behavioral health disorder, with experts projecting that more than 9 million Americans age 65 or older will have this condition by 2030. Additionally, due to mental health disorders, older men have the highest suicide rate of any age group or gender. Among men who are 75 and older, the suicide rate is 40.2 per 100,000 – almost triple the overall rate.
For information on self-care tips on how older adults can deal with behavioral issues, read “Behavioral health pointers for older adults.”
Although claim denials are an inevitable reality in radiology (and in every specialty), there are steps you can take to minimize dreaded claim denials that eat up time, money, and energy. Read our latest blog post to learn three core practices that you can put in place today that can help optimize cash flow and minimize billing costs. Read More
CMS | 2 min read
Congress renewed its call to address the Medicare fee schedule, which will directly impact radiologist reimbursement, as well as the potential to cut a large portion of core clinical services. Read More
AHA | 2 min read
In this COVID pandemic context, the AHA released a three-year strategic plan to adjust priorities, meet immediate needs to respond to the pandemic and work on long-term strategies to advance health. Read More
Pain Management | 2 min read
The CDC issued an updated draft of its Clinical Practice Guideline for Prescribing Opioids that includes new evidence research in the field of pain management. Read More
CMS | 1 min read
Review six CMS updates impacting ACSs since January 1, including updates on COVID-19 at-home testing and the No Surprises Act (NSA). Read More
Health Prime and AdvantEdge interviewed members of the executive team to provide insight into the major healthcare trends and issues of 2021 – and how this will translate and play out going forward.
Making sure your patients are given the time and attention they deserve is among the top priorities for providers in every specialty – and running an efficient in-house billing department can be a job by itself. Check out our latest blog post highlighting 5 reasons why outsourcing your medical billing can optimize your practice on numerous fronts. Read More
Healthcare Workforce | 2 min read
$20k sign-on bonuses for nurses. Aggressive international talent recruitment. These are just a couple examples of how the healthcare field is dealing with the talent shortage. Learn more. Read More
HIPAA | 2 min read
In December 2020, the Office for Civil Rights issued a proposal to modify the HIPAA Privacy Rule in 2021, to take effect in 2022. Learn what these proposed changes include. Read More
Surprise Billing | 2 min read
17 medical associations have filed an amicus brief supporting a legal challenge to the No Surprises Act, disputing the resolution process. Read More
CMS | 1 min read
Insurers must cover at least eight at-home COVID tests per covered individual starting on January 15, per a new directive from the Biden administration. Read More
For physician groups and hospitals seeking medical billing services, we describe six factors to evaluate when comparing companies.
Medicare physician billing rates for 2022 are now finalized with Congress over ruling most of the 9.75% cut proposed by CMS. See “Physician Billing in 2022: 10% Medicare Cut” for the CMS proposal.
In addition, the CMS radiation oncology model and large cuts to the clinical lab fee schedule were postponed by one year (see below).
The “Protecting Medicare and American Farmers from Sequester Cuts Act,” passed by Congress last week and just signed by the President, does the following
As a result, the headline 9.75% cut in the CMS proposal is now reduced to 2% spread unevenly across 2022
Of course, these macro adjustments do not reflect specialty specific Medicare fee schedule adjustments. As an example, RBMA estimates the cuts will now be about 3% for diagnostic radiology, and higher for interventional radiology.
While medical associations all cheered the legislation, they also pointed out the need for reform of Medicare rates to avoid the annual need for Congressional action. For example, Howard Fleishon, chair of ACR’s Board of Chancellors, said in a statement, “… we must begin to look beyond these short-term fixes. The ACR looks forward to working with Congress to address the ongoing structural problems associated with Medicare’s broken payment system.”
The American Medical Association (AMA) and others issued similar statements. “There is no need to wait for the last minute to start working on the systemic problems,” said AMA president Gerald Harmon, MD.” These automatic cuts should remind members of the needed reforms. Congress can get a head start on doing the right thing when it reconvenes early next year.”
The CMS Radiation Oncology (RO) project is intended to make site-neutral payments for certain radiation services. That model had already been delayed by a year and is now postponed until January 2023. The CMS RO model reduces reimbursement through bundling radiation therapy payments rather than paying for individual treatment episodes.
Oncology groups have warned that the mandatory model will lead to harmful cuts to radiation oncologists.
Proposed payment cuts to the Clinical Laboratory Fee Schedule (CLFS) were postponed by one year, much as they were for 2021. A group of 22 lawmakers had recently written to House leadership pushing for a delay to the cuts, which were required under budget neutrality rules..
The American Clinical Laboratory Association (ACLA) and another 27 health organizations recently sent a letter to congressional leaders saying that the “harmful” cuts — 15% for some 600 common clinical lab tests and up to 23%— would negatively impact lab services that are “essential to the health and wellbeing” of millions of Americans who have chronic diseases, particularly seniors.
Final Medicare Physician Billing Rates for 2022 References
In this blog post, we describe how to fix “holes” in your physician billing. It is well known that physician billing is a complex process. Less well known are the many “holes” in the process where money can disappear. This two-part Money Matters series starts with four ways to fix “holes” in your physician billing with techniques and capabilities that plug physician billing holes and help providers collect all monies due for each service provided. Read More
Healthcare | 3 min read
Has your payer mix changed? In 2020? In 2021? Learn more about current health insurance dynamics and the factors that can affect your payer mix in 2022. Read More
CMS | 2 min read
The 2022 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule has a 9.75% physician reimbursement cut, expansion of telehealth and updates to the Quality Payment Program / MIPS. Read More
Radiology | 2 min read
Low Dose CT expansion and more PET scans are two of several positives for radiology in 2022, despite other fee reductions. Read about these, new AUC criteria and more. Read More
OON | 3 min read
The No Surprises Act requires action by every practice by Jan. 1! While OON billing is affected most, notice requirements and cost estimates for self-pay apply to all. Learn what “No Surprises” means for your practice. Read More
For physician groups and hospitals seeking medical billing services, we describe six factors to evaluate when comparing companies.
Have you noticed changes in your medical billing payer mix? Covid dislocations affected most practices in 2020. But since then, the impacts have been modest on a nationwide basis. However, some practices and hospitals have seen more dramatic impacts.
To see what changes are likely in 2022, let’s start with a picture of where Americans are getting their health insurance in 2021.
Several factors drove this distribution.
2022 At a Glance
How each of these dynamics affects your medical billing payer mix in 2022 depends on your local conditions (more or fewer uninsured, Medicaid expansion state or not, etc.). Understanding the health insurance dynamics can help your practice get ready for 2022.
Trends in employer provided insurance are expected to continue in 2022: somewhat higher employee premiums, cost-sharing and deductibles. As KFF explains in its recent report,
Family premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance rose 4% to average $22,221 in 2021, according to the 2021 benchmark KFF Employer Health Benefits Survey. On average, workers are contributing $5,969 toward the cost of family coverage, with employers paying the rest. The annual change in premiums roughly matches the year-to-year rise in workers’ wages (5%) and inflation (1.9%), though what workers and employers pay toward premiums over time has risen more quickly. Since 2011, average family premiums have increased 47%, more than wages (31%) or inflation (19%).
Fifty-eight percent of small firms and 99% of large firms offer health benefits to at least some of their workers, with an overall offer rate of 59%.
The pandemic has introduced new factors that may eventually have impacts. As KFF says in the introduction to its new report on Employer Provided insurance,
Some insurers are aggressively expanding their telehealth options.
A “wildcard” factor that will affect companies and your medical billing payer mix in 2022 is the labor shortage, which has led to enhanced benefits for both retention and recruiting purposes. In the longer run, more employers are expected to offer healthcare and to a broader population. In the shorter term, i.e. 2022 employer plans are likely to be similar to 2021, but with more participants, especially in communities where the labor shortage is most acute.
CMS data shows that Medicaid enrollment grew by more than 11 million people — a 16% increase — from February 2020 to April 2021, supported in part by more flexible regulations during the pandemic. That momentum appears to have continued partly due to a more substantial special enrollment period in the spring and summer of this year.
As a result, the number of uninsured American’s has been stable to decreasing during 2021. That is good news for hospitals and practices that serve these populations, especially those in rural areas. On the other hand, it is worth noting that the uninsured rate is almost double the national rate in those states that have not expanded Medicaid.
As part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act passed in March, states are receiving a 6.2% increase in the federal Medicaid match rate. In exchange, states are not allowed to disenroll any beneficiaries from Medicaid during the Public Health Emergency (PHE).
So a key factor for Medicaid in 2022 will be when the PHE (currently due to expire on January 16) is allowed to expire.
ACA enrollment has also continued its momentum in 2021, with HHS reporting that 2.1 million people signed up for ACA coverage on HealthCare.gov (used in 35 states), during the special enrollment period from Feb. 15 to Aug. 15. The 15 state-run exchanges signed up 738,000 people. Six states and the District of Columbia are continuing their special enrollment periods through the rest of 2021.
Expanded income-based subsidies in the American Rescue Plan Act have made plans much more attractive to low income individuals and families.
Since these subsidies will continue through 2022, most observers expect to see increases in ACA enrollment. Especially considering that open enrollment is extended by an additional 30 days, the administration quadrupled the number of assistants helping consumers navigate the enrollment process and relaunched a program partnering with community organizations to provide outreach and education about the marketplace.
According to KFF, a majority of people who remained uninsured in 2020 are eligible for financial assistance for coverage either through Medicaid/CHIP or the Marketplace.
Little change except for ongoing rate tweaks in favor of primary care at the expense of specialists. Of course, the downward revision to overall rates in the CMS Final Rule has many physicians concerned. Intense lobbying is hoped to convince Congress to reduce these impacts; see this article.
More than 26 million people are currently in Medicare Advantage plans, mostly HMOs and PPOs from commercial insurers paid to provide Medicare benefits to enrollees. This represents 42 percent of all Medicare enrollees. MA enrollment has doubled in the last ten years.
Per KFF, a record 3,834 Medicare Advantage plans will be available for 2022. That’s an increase of 8 percent from 2021, and the largest number of plans available in more than a decade.
Medicare Advantage enrollment is concentrated in plans operated by UnitedHealthcare, Humana, and Blue Cross Blue Shield affiliates.
It should be noted that Medicare Advantage is not without its detractors, including claims that insurers are gaming risk adjustment practices to inflate profits. A series of recent articles in Health Affairs by former acting CMS Administrator Don Berwick and former Trinity Health CEO Richard Gilfillan sheds light on coding practices that have made the MA space extremely lucrative for insurers. But industry advocates counter that the criticisms are unfair and that patients get better care in MA plans compared to traditional Medicare. One study estimates overpayments to commercial insurers providing MA plans at over $100 million from 2010 to 2019 including $34 billion in 2018 and 2019 alone.
Physician billing rates for 2022 are now official with publication of the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Final Rule. It includes
Despite protests from virtually every major physician organization and thousands of letters, the Final Medicare Physician Fee Schedule has very few changes from the earlier interim Final Rule (see A 10% Cut to 2022 Physician Reimbursement?). As a result, the 9.75% cut to Medicare physician billing in 2022 remains in place. Intense lobbying of Congress is underway, but no action is expected until late December, at the earliest. Some observers expect partial help from Congress, while others are less sanguine.
As a reminder, the cuts include
It should be noted that the fee schedule is required to be budget neutral under law.
Recently, Reps. Ami Bera, MD, D-Calif., and Larry Bucshon, MD, R-Ind., introduced the Supporting Medicare Providers Act of 2021 to prevent the 3.75% CF cut.
A recent survey of 2,227 members from the American College of Surgeons by the Surgical Care Coalition, a collection of 13 advocacy groups, found that 57% of respondents believe the cuts to physician billing in 2022 would lead to longer wait times, while 56% believe the cuts could contribute to a delay in care.
The pay cut serves as a “reminder of the financial peril facing physician practices at the end of the year,” American Medical Association President Gerald Harmon, MD, said in a Nov. 3 news release. The AMA has urged Congress to avert this cut to the conversion factor as well as cuts to Medicare physician payments overall, which add up to a combined 9.75 percent reimbursement decrease in 2022.
“This comes at a time when physician practices are still recovering [from] the personal and financial impacts of the COVID public health emergency,” Dr. Harmon said. “Congress is beginning to recognize that this financial instability could limit healthcare access for Medicare patients. The clock is ticking.”
Updates to clinical labor rates are expected to increase payments to primary care specialists, such as family practice, geriatrics, and internal medicine specialties. But many other specialists, including radiology, radiation oncology and others will see decreases (see Will Radiology Reimbursement be Slashed in 2022?).
The Medicare final rule allows certain services, such as cardiac and cardiac rehabilitation to remain on the telehealth list through 2023 to give stakeholders more time to evaluate if they should be permanently added.
CMS also removed geographic restrictions for providers to offer mental health services via telehealth.
Original telehealth regulations required an in-person physician visit six months prior to the initial telehealth service for mental health. The final rule waives that requirement under certain circumstances and requires an in-person visit at least every 12 months.
CMS will also allow reimbursement for audio-only telehealth services for the treatment of mental health disorders. But only if the patient is not capable of making a video call. Also, rural health clinics and health centers can now furnish mental health services via “interactive real-time telecommunications technology.”
There is also a requirement to use a new modifier for services using audio-only communications, which will verify that the practitioner had the capability to provide two-way, audio/video technology, but instead, used audio-only technology due to patient choice or limitations.
Transition to the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) Value Pathways (MVPs) will not occur until the 2023 performance year.
The “No Surprises” Act impacts all physicians in 2022! Obviously, there are big changes for out-of-network (OON) billing. But all practices and departments need to get ready quickly as these requirements go into effect January 1, 2022:
Setting aside the current debate about how disputes should be settled (see “No Surprises” Act, Physicians Lose), here is why the No Surprises Impacts all Physicians, starting in January.
First, we should note that the federal No Surprises rules apply to
In other words, the new rules apply to the vast majority of OON billing situations. The only exception appears to be services delivered at an OON facility.
It’s also worth noting that payers can no longer second-guess payment for emergency treatment. Emergency services are required to be covered
The first way that No Surprises Impacts all Physicians is that all providers are required to post a one-page notice with “information in clear and understandable language” on:
A model notice that providers can use, if they wish, is available from CMS here.
According to Experian Health,
“Creating a “no surprises” billing experience will require payers and providers to make major process changes. Roger Johnson, VP of Payer Solutions at Experian Health, says, “The new regulations require the industry to innovate significantly in a very short timeframe. Determining network status is a huge challenge for providers, as is engaging patients electronically pre-service. There will also be challenges in tracking and submitting consent forms, producing Good Faith Estimates, applying appropriate cost-sharing, billing, payment reconciliation, and the new dispute resolution process.”
One major challenge for physician billing will be determining the patient portion to be billed. Fortunately, much of the information needed for the patient portion is supposed to be provided on updated insurance cards.
As a result, in many cases, it may be possible to determine the patient responsible amount and issue a bill. For non-emergency situations, these amounts could potentially be collected in advance.
Of course, the larger issue is the amount that can be collected from the payer (insurance company). This is where controversy exists (see “No Surprises” Act, Physicians Lose). Under current rules, the OON payment rate is
The QPA is defined as the median of the contracted rates recognized by the health plan on January 31, 2019 for the same or similar item or service provided by a similar provider in the same geographic region, and indexed for inflation. That amount is to be paid within 30 days of receiving the bill.
As a result, while the physician can bill at a “normal” OON rate, the expected payment will typically be much lower. After an initial payment is received, the provider, if dissatisfied, can initiate a negotiation, starting a 30-day clock for the provider and insurer to settle.
If there is no agreement after 30 days, the parties enter a “final offer” arbitration. Both sides submit their best offer and an arbitrator picks one. This is the “Independent Dispute Resolution (IDR)” process.
If a provider starts the IDR process, both the provider and the health plan will submit a proposed payment to a CMS-approved arbitrator, along with information on the following factors:
The arbitrator will then choose one of the two proposals as the amount of the payment. Under the current regulations, the arbitrator cannot come up with his or her own payment amount. Arbitrators are paid through fees assessed to the entities that use the IDR process.
Obviously, this is an onerous and expensive process, even it is undertaken to deal with multiple situations and payments (which appears to be possible though those procedures are not defined). The risk to OON providers (and the source of most of the recent controversy) is that the current No Surprises Interim Final Rules tell the arbitrator that the Qualified Payment Amount (QPA) is the most appropriate rate to consider!
There is an exception for patients who wish to voluntarily use an out-of-network provider when a “substantive choice” exists. In this case, an OON provider must notify a patient of its OON status and get the patient’s written consent to receive OON services, at OON rates, at least 72 hours prior to the services, or 3 hours before for a same-day appointment. The consent form must indicate
While detailed rules on the consent process have not been published, it appears that OON consent can be on a provider-by-provider, or service-by-service basis. In the case where a service involves a number of OON providers, consent must be obtained for each. Or, if obtained on a service basis, the good-faith cost estimate must encompass all OON providers.
Starting in January, a provider must give an uninsured (or self-pay) patient a good faith estimate of expected charges after an item or service is scheduled, or upon request. Note that this is another case where the No Surprises Impacts all Physicians! This requirement applies to all providers and health care facilities, whether in network or not. In other words, every healthcare provider must be prepared to provide the good faith estimate upon request of any uninsured or self-pay patient, including those who choose to have a procedure done without submitting it to their insurance.
Here are the specific requirements:
The good faith estimate should use clear and understandable language and include an itemized list of each item or service, grouped by provider or facility. Each item or service is to have details and the expected charge. A paper or electronic copy is to be provided, even if the information is communicated on the phone or verbally in-person.
For more, review our references for out of network billing.
Is 2022 Radiology Billing Impact: Positive and Negative? Really? As almost everyone knows, the Final Rule from CMS for the 2022 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule shows radiologists facing a 9.75% reimbursement cut unless Congress intervenes: see “Physician Billing in 2022: 10% Medicare cut!“.
But there are also several positive factors in the Final Rule and other recent rulings
“Despite objections from [the American College of Radiology] and others, CMS chose to move forward with implementation of clinical labor pricing updates,” the professional association said. “However, due to the actions of ACR and others, the updates will be phased in over a four-year period, and the payment impact to radiology and radiation oncology providers largely reduced by half.”
According to the ACR, these changes will decrease the initial estimated impact to diagnostic radiology and nuclear medicine from -2% to -1%, interventional radiology from -9% to -5% and radiation oncology from -5 to -1%. Of course, the impact on a specific practice will be determined by its mix of procedures.
CMS is postponing the penalty phase for the Appropriate Use Criteria (AUC) program to the later of January 1, 2023, or the January 1 that follows the declared end of the COVID public health emergency. This proposal (delayed for many years) requires physicians to consult a decision-support system (see below) before ordering advanced imaging. The rule would apply penalties to physicians who order advanced imaging services without clinical decision support based on AUC.
The American College of Radiology recently published new imaging appropriateness criteria. The update includes five new topics and eight revisions to earlier ones. ACR initially published its influential criteria in 1993, with evidence-based guidelines to aid in selecting proper imaging exams and guided procedures. It now offers 216 topics spanning 2,400 clinical scenarios.
New topics include imaging of a child with suspected Crohn’s disease, facial trauma following a primary survey, axillary masses, newly diagnosed scrotal abnormalities, and pediatric musculoskeletal infections. The guidelines have color-coded categories of appropriateness, along with relative radiation levels for each exam.
The eight updates cover the range from staging of colorectal cancer to imaging after shoulder arthroplasty. Providers can consult the guidelines to meet their legal requirement (specified in the 2016 Protecting Access to Medicare Act) to consult appropriate-use criteria before ordering imaging. CMS has designated ACR as a qualified provider-led entity.
One of the reasons for the delay in AUC enforcement (see above), has been the lack of approved CDS systems. Much of the industry has been waiting for the FDA to issue CDS guidelines. A first draft was published in 2017 and a revised draft in 2019. Both drafts received extensive comments from the industry, including from the American Medical Informatics Association, warning that guidance may leave “lingering confusion” about the regulatory status of software.
The FDA recently added clinical decision support as an “A-list priority” and now seems close to finalizing the guidance, including clarifying when CDS meets the definition of a medical device and a risk-based framework for the software functions.
Most observers are pleased that clinical decision support is finally an A-list priority, but disappointed that the guidelines have taken more than five years to get to this point.
The combination of higher reimbursement and expanded guidelines for low dose CT screening for lung cancer has drawn cheers from the radiology community.
In the 2022 Medicare Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System (HOPPS), CMS increased the reimbursement rate for hospital outpatient CT lung cancer screening. This is a positive for radiologists and for the ACR. For years, the ACR has pointed out the inadequate payments for low-dose CT for lung cancer screening for the disease for years. The new reimbursement rate will be $111.19, up 37.4% from the current rate of $80.90 (CPT code 71271).
In a recent JAMA Network Open, experts said that new lung cancer guidelines could generate up to a 54% increase in eligibility for low-dose CT screening, with significant gains in minority populations. Another recent study indicated that healthcare systems should plan to increase capacity by 50%-60% to help accommodate this new cohort of patients. This could include increasing the number of trained radiologists, CT scanners, and thoracic surgeons, the authors advised.
The influential U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPTSF) recently lowered the recommended starting age from 55 down to 50, among other changes. Along with dropping the smoking history from 30 to 20 pack-years, Kaiser Permanente researchers believe these modifications could produce a 30% uptick in lung cancer diagnoses when compared with previous recommendations.
On November 17, CMS released a proposed updated to its screening guidelines to accommodate the USPTSF recommendations. The ACR immediately applauded the CMS proposal, with ACR Lung-RADS Committee chair Dr. Ella Kazerooni saying, “As lung cancer kills more people each year than breast, colon, and prostate cancers combined, this cost-effective exam is poised to save more lives than any cancer screening test in history. It is critical that physicians know of new guidelines so they can engage with patients to make informed screening decisions.” The ACR plan to comment on the proposed changes during the comment period which ends December 17. A final rule is expected by February 15 of next year.
The Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI) has applauded a recent federal decision to lift longstanding restrictions on payment for PET scans.
This noncoverage determination dates to 2000, when CMS implemented broad, national restrictions on positron emission tomography (PET) scans outside of cancer care. SNMMI and others have lobbied against the change for more than ten years and were rewarded with the release of the 2022 physician fee schedule.
SNMMI President Richard Wahl, MD, said the decision opens a pathway for PET use in assessing cardiac, neurological, infectious, inflammatory and other conditions. “Removal of the exclusion will enable physicians to base their care decisions on using the right procedure for the right patient at the right time,” Wahl said in a Nov. 11 statement.
The change will take effect on January 1, 2022 and will allow Medicare Administrative Contractors to make decisions about payment for non-oncologic PET use “quickly and effectively.” SNMMI said it is now working with MACs to ensure the coverage rule is implemented properly. It also continues to advocate for the removal of similar noncoverage determinations related to amyloid and NaF PET.
To summarize, while the 2022 environment for radiology billing faces some challenges, there are also opportunities!
Company Refreshes Cornerstone White Papers “How to Evaluate a Billing Company” and “In-house vs a Medical Billing Company”
WARREN, NJ – November 17, 2021 – AdvantEdge Healthcare Solutions (“AdvantEdge”), a leading national medical billing company with comprehensive coding, practice management and revenue cycle management services, today announced the refresh of two core white papers, “How to Evaluate a Billing Company” and “In-house vs. a Medical Billing Company.” Both have been instrumental in helping specialty physician groups improve medical billing results – and have recently been updated to reflect the latest industry trends.
Below is an overview of both white papers, as well as updates reflecting the current landscape.
Companies are investing and putting concentrated efforts into improving digital security. Learn more about the importance of partnering with a medical billing company with deep security expertise, leading-edge technology, and the resources to minimize data breaches and other cybersecurity risks. Download our “5 Medical Billing Cybersecurity Questions to Ask” business brief for more.
About AdvantEdge Healthcare Solutions
AdvantEdge, a member of the HealthPrime family of companies, is recognized as one of the top ten U.S. medical billing companies providing billing, certified coding, and practice management services to healthcare providers nationwide. Our services substantially improve decision making, maximize financial performance, streamline operations, and eliminate compliance risks for our healthcare clients. To learn more about AdvantEdge, visit our website at www.ahsrcm.com. Follow us on Twitter at @DoctorBilling and on LinkedIn.
The strength of your billing process and its ability to “earn” all money due is driven by people, processes, and technology. Learn how assess your “grade” and see if all three are performing optimally. Plus: how you can change your grade for the better! Read More
HHS | 2 min read
HHS’ recent second interim final rule (IFR) generated universal, harsh reactions from physicians and hospitals. Read how the IFR will impact physician reimbursement. Read More
Radiology | 2 min read
With Medicare’s proposed radiology cuts targeted for January 1, radiologists and their advocates are fighting for Congress to intervene while also bracing for sweeping changes to their practices. Read More
Pathology | 2 min read
With the growing reliance on remote care in a post-pandemic environment, digital tools become more of a necessity for better accessibility and efficiency. Learn how EMRs can help pathology practice billing and management. Read More
Anesthesia | 1 min read
The “No Surprise Billing” IFR has raised alarms (see our first item).But a more insidious risk is lurking. In-network anesthesia reimbursement is likely to decline over time! Read More
Download our business brief now for 5 essential cybersecurity questions to ask your medical billing department or your current/potential medical billing company.
Will all anesthesia reimbursement be driven down by No Surprise Billing rules? Recent regulations to implement the “No Surprise Billing” act have raised alarms by “placing a thumb on the scale” to favor insurers. Without major changes, these rules may have a dramatic effect on out-of-network anesthesia reimbursement.
But a more insidious risk is lurking. In-network anesthesia reimbursement is likely to decline over time as anesthesia groups lose negotiating ground to commercial insurers. A recent JAMA Network study highlights and quantifies the risk.
The JAMA study analyzed more than 2.5 million claims filed for patients with private health insurance who received anesthesia services in hospital outpatient departments and ambulatory surgery centers from 2014 to 2017 in the three states with surprise billing legislation during that timeframe.
The study concluded that “State surprise-billing legislation appears to directly lower out-of-network prices and indirectly lower in-network prices by changing payer-practitioner negotiating dynamics.”
Since, on average, anesthesia rates exceed Medicare rates by 330%1, more than any other specialty, it seems logical to assume that commercial insurers will target anesthesia providers for reductions. Implementation of the No Surprises Act will reduce anesthesia provider negotiating ability in at least two ways
These dynamics mean that anesthesia groups must be prepared to explain and defend their rates in compelling ways in order to minimize their effects on commercial reimbursement. Otherwise, all anesthesia reimbursement will be driven down.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best: “A good system shortens the road to the goal.” When it comes to ensuring that healthcare providers collect all money due, it’s essential to consider the strength of your entire billing process, including the people and technology(ies) employed to create and follow these processes.
After extensive research, AdvantEdge medical billing experts found that the best predictor of a practice or department’s ability to collect all money due is the “grade” earned by the current operations: the old idiom – people, processes and technology. If your current outcome isn’t an A, the good news is you can take action to improve.
When we study operational and billing processes, we are looking for well-defined and executed processes that help ensure that providers leave little or no money on the table. When we say well-defined, we’re talking about written processes in a user-friendly format. These processes include training, job specifications, timing expectations, workflows, system specifications, exception and escalation procedures, performance reviews and other personnel policies. Written processes and procedures alleviate ambiguity and allow employees and their managers to be aligned on what is required and expected of them – and how their job roles impact their colleagues.
Processes should encompass these functions:
It’s also important to have formal measurements in place for cycle times. For example, claims coded within 72 hours of clinical procedure performed, 96 percent of claims to be filed within 24 hours of coding, etc.
Ongoing and open communication is an essential ingredient in the mix because this gives everyone on the team an opportunity to share ideas and suggestions about how to make the process even more efficient. For example: If a staff member observes that some insurance cards are not presented at the time of service, he or she can recommend that scheduling personnel collect insurance information in advance over the phone or online. If everyone on the team is encouraged to offer suggestions about how to best resolve issues, operations will continue to improve. All processes also need to be supported and reinforced by leadership. Note that highly skilled people can keep poorly defined processes afloat for a while, but this isn’t sustainable. There is no substitute for well-defined processes with employees who believe in them and follow them.
A billing operation may have well-defined processes, but with employees not effectively executing them. This can happen if there is no clear understanding of why things are done a certain way, so the importance of following processes is not embraced. Or the problem may be in follow-through. A lack of interaction among functional groups can also be responsible for billing inefficiencies. All of these issues are made worse when there is not enough skilled staff or there is excessive employee turnover. Operations that earn a B Grade are missing 5 to 15 percent of their potential collections.
If processes are not clearly defined or employees are unaware of how processes should work, then you’re most likely in C territory. Once this has been determined, it’s wise to step back and formulate a new strategy.
Boost Your Grade
If you are not earning an A, then you have strong financial (and potentially compliance) motivation to improve. You essentially have two choices:
Option 1 requires a significant investment of practice leadership time, in addition to process, people and technology upgrades. A rule of thumb is that when something is broken, 80 percent is process and tools based, and 20 percent is people. Do you have the analytic skills to figure out what needs to be fixed? If not, a practice assessment by an expert firm is needed as a first step. Many practices significantly underestimate the effort required to get their billing operation “up to par” and keep it there. Recent labor shortages and pay increases make it that much harder.
Option 2, on the other hand, can free up practice leadership time, while achieving top rank results. More and more practices and departments are turning to specialized medical billing companies to handle physician billing, including coding, charge entry, claims filing, payment posting, insurance follow-up, denial management, patient inquiry services, etc. Since these services are both difficult and expensive to maintain internally, it often makes sense to have them done by an expert billing company that can consistently maintain an A grade.
Other factors to consider are:
Want to learn more about how your practice can improve its medical billing grade? Get in touch with an AdvantEdge expert now, or stay up to date on company and industry trends by visiting our LinkedIn page.
2022 Radiology reimbursement continues to be a hot topic. Last month, our article – “2022 Radiology Billing Changes” – described sweeping radiology pay cuts by Medicare if Congress fails to step in by January 1.
While there is nothing official to report, there has been an avalanche of lobbying and letter writing including predictions for what could happen if the lower radiology billing rates go into effect.
At this point in the radiology reimbursement conversation, it is far too early to predict which, if any, of the proposed cuts will be offset. Radiology practices and providers are faced with having to plan for a 2022 budget with significantly less Medicare reimbursement. Some practices will view this as a contingency plan; others as a baseline plan for 2022. In most cases, practices are likely to postpone as much investment and hiring as possible, until the outcome is known.
Society of Interventional Radiology Letter to CMS
American Society for Radiation Oncology Letter to CMS Advocacy
National Harbor, MD and Warren, NJ – October 22, 2021– Health Prime and AdvantEdge Healthcare Solutions, Inc., two leading practice management and revenue cycle management (RCM) solutions providers, today announced a strategic partnership of their businesses to alleviate the administrative burden imposed on physicians and healthcare providers. Offering the companies’ highly complementary solutions and services which are delivered to adjacent market segments, will allow both organizations to reach a broader network of healthcare providers and specialties.
“AdvantEdge is an exciting and timely addition to our growing family of healthcare companies,” said Pranil Vadgama, CEO and President, Health Prime. “Each company provides expertise and a wide breadth of services and specialties. By bringing the companies together, we will provide a much stronger value proposition to our existing clients and new clients. AdvantEdge’s white-glove approach to customer service, performed locally, is a key competitive advantage that we are excited about leveraging which complements our own model. We are truly stronger together.”
Health Prime provides technology and resources to help optimize physician practice and surgery center operations. The company’s Datalytics business intelligence platform gives timely and actionable insights into the medical billing and collection process and full visibility into key performance metrics so practices can focus on changes that will have the most positive impact and be prepared for the reimbursement shifts associated with value-based care.
AdvantEdge is a leading national medical billing company serving independent and employed physician groups, hospitals, surgery centers, and behavioral health agencies. AdvantEdge’s over 800 employees leverage the company’s proprietary technology, coding, and workflow tools to ensure that its clients are properly reimbursed for the clinical services they deliver to their patients.
The value of the combined companies provides access to exceptional analytics and RCM technology, expanded market reach and a broader network of experts including coders and bi-lingual call center support personnel. Continued innovation from these two leaders in the practice management and RCM space is another benefit clients can expect.
“Innovation through technology is a critical shared value between our companies, from the billing software developed by AdvantEdge and the Datalytics practice intelligence tools offered through Health Prime,” said David Langsam, CEO and President of AdvantEdge Healthcare Solutions. “Together, they offer unprecedented efficiency and visibility into actionable information for our clients. We at AdvantEdge are enthused about joining forces with the Health Prime family and becoming the market leader in revenue cycle management solutions offered to healthcare providers nationwide.”
About Health Prime
Health Prime was created to empower physicians to spend more time with patients and less time attending to paperwork. As a physician owned and managed company, we continually improve the value of our services through dedication to the physicians we serve, leadership and teamwork among our staff and our clients. Health Prime provides a full line of practice management and optimization solutions and services for physicians and hospital owned physician groups throughout the US.
AdvantEdge is recognized as one of the top ten U.S. medical billing companies providing billing, certified coding, and practice management services to healthcare providers nationwide. Our services substantially improve decision making, maximize financial performance, streamline operations, and eliminate compliance risks for our healthcare clients.
Brentwood Capital Advisors LLC and Falcon Capital Partners served as financial advisors to AdvantEdge.
Download a PDF of this Press Release.
By Darren Whittemore, DO, Dermatopathology at PathologyWatch
If there’s one thing that is constant in healthcare today, it’s change. In our post-pandemic healthcare environment, remote care is essential, and pathology billing and management rely on digital tools for better accessibility and efficiency. But how do EMRs help pathology billing and management?
More than 89 percent of all hospitals have adopted the use of an EMR system or the more overarching electronic health record (EHR) system, which aggregates multiple EMRs to create a more comprehensive collection of patient care. But what do they do exactly? EMRs have many benefits for patients, pathology practices, and medical billing services to ensure departments work together and operate efficiently, even if they are remote. Here are a few of the more common benefits.
Experts estimate that most healthcare providers spend around 14.4 hours each week finalizing prior authorizations alone. That doesn’t take into account the delays created by relying on outdated information or data input errors by your office staff. And at what cost? This is valuable time taken away from your patients.
The incorporation of an EMR system can provide a reduced margin of error in overall patient care due to incomplete or missing records. In fact, as many as 75 percent of providers credit improved patient care to an EHR system, with 88 percent reporting clinical benefits for their practice. EMRs also minimize the need for on-site storage of physical patient records. Because records are stored virtually, not only are they more easily accessible, offices also no longer need to store a backlog in filing cabinets or boxes, which can cost more than $2,000 a year to maintain.
EMRs can create a singular system for charting, including physician notes, pathologist findings, whole-slide images, also known as interoperability, which allows for different systems to share the same patient information between them. While this may not be the case in regards to hospital-based pathology practices—as they are more likely to use the same EMR system as other practices in the hospital—interfacing EMR systems from other practices can require additional technical support in order to achieve interoperability. The benefits of doing so include clearer communication between practices and more accurate diagnostics, resulting in an overall improvement in patient care.
Did you know that insurance claim denials increased by 23 percent in 2020? With governmental changes in healthcare delivery, prior authorizations for medications, coding, and a shift in payer/provider billing models, the administrative burden to sort through these changes to submit valid claims falls on the provider.
A more effective and efficient billing system relies on sharing and processing information quickly. It’s what motivated payers to push for digitizing patient data in the first place, and it has transformed patient care into a coordinated and easily shareable system–on the condition that healthcare providers have the most current billing information.
According to InstaMed’s Tenth Annual Trends in Healthcare Payments Report, many providers are struggling to keep up with increases in patient collections, with 87 percent of them still leveraging paper and manual processes. Like any other medical service, pathology has its own unique set of requirements when it comes to billing. Those requirements can become even more complex for hospital-based pathology services, as regulations and payer requirements are not only frequently being updated, but so are hospital compliance and other rules.
Among regulations that have recently been updated are the latest changes made to CPT codes. Because coding is a vital element of billing, it’s important that these updates are understood and implemented to provide an accurate assessment of the medical services provided. Once updated, EMRs can then be securely shared with insurance companies and billing services—like AdvantEdge—thereby reducing errors, mitigating paperwork, and eliminating redundancies.
While technology in the healthcare industry is constantly evolving, EMRs are becoming the new gold standard for patient records. Their applications extend beyond improved patient care and accessibility into enhanced practice management and billing solutions for pathology practices. Contact AdvantEdge today to learn more about customized billing, coding, and practice management solutions.
On September 30th, HHS released a second interim final rule (IFR) implementing the No Surprises Act. The rule specifies the independent dispute resolution (IDR) process to be used for “surprise” (i.e. Out-of-Network) reimbursement disputes. This rule applies where state laws don’t exist or lack jurisdiction.
But the No Surprises Act rule immediately generated universal, harsh reaction from physicians and hospitals.
The reaction is because specific directions are given to arbiters to pick an amount closest to the “qualified payment amount” (QPA), essentially the in-network rate.
Of course, insurance companies see it differently, praising the No Surprises Act rule for creating an “independent resolution process that focuses on affordability,” per Justine Handelman, senior vice president of the office of policy and representation for the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, which represents 35 Blue Cross plans.
Physician organizations have joined together to oppose the No Surprises Act rule.
While lobbying and letter writing will continue, most observers think the September 30 No Surprises Act rule is likely to go into effect on January 1. As a result, physicians who are out of network will now need to prepare a compelling case about why their situation is unique to justify a higher rate than the QPA.
A glimmer of hope was seen recently as Reps. Tom Suozzi, D-N.Y., and Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, were circulating a letter addressed to Health and Human Services and other agency heads, asking for their intervention. The two are asking other members of Congress to join them in fighting to fix the interim final rule.
The ACR has pointed out the longer term risks if this rule goes forward, “If the regulations are not changed, the result may be a downward trend of in-network payment rates and/or physicians being dropped from insurer networks.”
The No Surprises Act specifies factors that can and cannot be considered by the independent arbiter. Specifically, the auditor can consider
Arbiters cannot consider
Other implementation details for the No Surprises Act were spelled out in the first Interim Final Rule issued in July. See “5 Things to Know About the No Surprises Act” for more details.
Wall Street Journal, September 30. Medical Cost Disputes to Be Settled by Arbitrator
Do you want to collect every dollar owed to your practice or facility? Coding compliance and education both play a critical role. Read our 5 questions to see if your current coding solution is effective. When it comes to medical coding, what you don’t know can hurt your bottom line! Read More
Medicare | 2 min read
Without intervention from Congress, all physicians will see an across the board 9.75% cut to 2022 Medicare rates vs. 2021. Plus RVU changes and more. Read More
Radiology | 2 min read
There are many forces pulling and pushing on 2022 radiology reimbursement and it’s hard to keep track. Here are the ones we know about today. Read More
PRF | 2 min read
The due date for PRF Period 1 funds to be reported has just been extended. Review key dates for upcoming Periods, and learn more about the additional $25.5B that just opened up “to offset revenue loss and higher expenses due to the pandemic.” Read More
Telehealth | 1 min read
The pandemic caused telehealth services to skyrocket, but as we start to come out of it are these services here to stay? Read our roundup of what the industry is saying. Read More
Have you thought about the need to consider the “lessons learned” from COVID? Download our NEW business brief to understand key elements your practice should consider as we shift (hopefully!) to a post-COVID world.
As everyone knows, COVID drove a spike in telehealth usage and put the future of telehealth in a brief spotlight. Video consultations and other virtual care services made medical attention more accessible and convenient. But telehealth usage has now declined. So what is the future of telehealth now?
Telehealth comes with numerous benefits for both providers and patients:
In particular, primary care and behavioral health practices found a good match with telehealth. They were quick to adapt their operations to meet the needs of patients during the pandemic with virtual care and, in some cases, remote monitoring.
The push and pull between traditional visits and telehealth is not resolved. Many patients want to have telehealth as an option, especially for primary care and behavioral health. They got used to telehealth services during the past year and are now frustrated to find them not available. But two large barriers are limiting the future of telehealth, at least in the short term.
If patient preferences and needs prevail, these factors will eventually be addressed. In the meantime, expect to continue to see a patchwork of telehealth services, depending on your state and payer.