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Physician [Fee] Schedule Augmentation

Organizing and Analyzing Financial Data

[By Christy Clodwick; MHA]

biz-book1After all medical practice management data has been gathered, organize it onto a spreadsheet or chart.  This analysis report will help to determine the codes and/or health plans that should be targeted for process improvement.

Focus … Focus … Focus

The focus should be on the highest volume and dollar value codes. Does this mean patients with unusual conditions or low dollar value codes are not treated? Hopefully it will not; but it will push this process forward and the practice will see the greatest benefit from these categories. When you review the report and find that a fee is being paid at a much lower rate, this would be indicative of a necessary negotiation with the payer for an increase for that procedure. Most health plans are committed to preventing disease. Maybe, but they are still actually aimed at treating diseases; not preventing them. If this is true of many payers then they should be willing to provide the incentives for those services to be carried out. You will find that some payers’ fee schedules are very much out of line with a percentage of Medicare payments, therefore the practice administrator should focus on those payers and bring evidence of the inadequacies to their attention.

The Specialists

Specialists are, for the most part, paid at a higher rate than primary care physicians not usually for the same service! And, with GPs as gatekeepers, the specialty doc incomes may have actually decreased in some instances, while the GPs may have increased. There was a time when Medicare had two conversion factors, and this was the result. This inequity could also be used as a tool for better reimbursement rates.

Finalizing the Fee and Revenue Analysis

When the final preparations of the fee analysis have been completed, it is time to react to the results of the findings. There are several options to choose from when it has been determined that a health plans fee schedule is not in tune with the practice’s financial growth. The practice should act on these results as soon as they are discovered, to avoid the loss of any more revenue.

No longer Accepting Health Plans

During the analysis phase, you may determine that a health plan’s payment levels are extremely low. You will have to determine whether the plan is worth negotiating or the practice administrator should consider dropping out of the plan altogether at the end of the contract period. It will have to be carefully determined by the local market. If the practice is in a highly competitive market, this process should not be considered as first choice. However, if the market is very slim, the health care purchaser will be responsible for complaining to the health insurance plan provider that there is simply not enough physician coverage for their employees for the area. This could be a very effective way to force a negotiation with the health care company. If this were the case, the area would have less managed care and more MC/MD.

Not Accepting New Patients from Low Paying Health Plans

One option would be to not accept any more patients from the health plan that is reimbursing the practice with low rates. Although this may initially lower your patient count, over time the practice will benefit from new patients with health plans that have a better reimbursement policy. Include snapshot of what the final analysis or report should look like and the details of what it should include. This can be used in any specialty to assist in putting together the individual practice analysis to achieve the same results. But is it noble or ethical? What about any willing provider laws?

dhimc-book1The Future for Health Care Reimbursement

The health care purchasers who pay most of the bills, such as employers and the government, will soon be challenging the annual increase and the overall cost of health care. The cost increases of the hospital and pharmacy sectors of healthcare are far higher than that of the physician. However, the pressure for cost containment is being felt across the board. This will eventually depress future reimbursement for all healthcare providers.  In the future it will be hard for practices to keep up with the demands of labor, malpractice and supply cost increase. All medical providers need to plan for this future paradigm. To offset this trend, physicians will need to get the most out of the work that they are doing today as well as look to new revenue generating procedures for their practice that will be cheaper and more convenient to the patient.

Process Improvement

The biggest benefits will come from continually improving the process of the daily operations of the practice, as well as ensuring accurate diagnostic coding. This will enable a practice to keep up with charge capturing through the explanation of benefits (EOB) when the charge has been processed and paid by the health insurance provider. When this process identifies that there is room for negotiation, the provider should proceed for a better reimbursement rate. If the provider is in a dominant market, the payers will be more likely to issue sweeping fee increases and so can you give me an example of this ever happening? By completing a Practice Fee Analysis, any practice should be able to use this tool to demonstrate the inequities and negotiate a better reimbursement rate for the practice.

Assessment

The first step in the negotiation process would be to contact a representative of the health insurance company that is in question. If you can produce compelling evidence to the representative, the negotiation process should be the next meeting. These folks may be fired if they do what you suggest, too frequently. Continually updating the practice fee schedule will help the practice stay on top of the contracts that it practices under. Practices that present a well-documented argument may (almost never) be rewarded with positive payer response. Again, proper planning will make for great future performance in any health care practice.

Conclusion

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On HIT Cost Savings

Real or Imagined SolutionsUS Capitol

According to David M. Cutler, of the Center for American Progress Fund [CAPF] on May 11, 2009, health care will be the major challenge to the federal budget in coming decades. Rising health costs will account for nearly all of the expected increase in government spending relative to gross domestic product [GDP].

Healthcare Costs and GDP

Health care currently accounts for 16 percent of domestic GDP, and that share is forecast to nearly double in the next quarter century. Spending money on health care is not bad, but wasting money is very bad.

Link: http://www.americanprogressaction.org/issues/2009/05/health_modernization.htmlHIT

HIT to the Rescue

But, $600 billion might be saved over the next ten years, and $9 trillion saved over the next 25 years, if HIT initiatives are used; says the CAPF.

Assessment

Estimates suggest that a third or more of medical spending—perhaps $700 billion per year—is not known to be worth the cost. Wasting hundreds of billions of dollars on inefficient health care is a luxury the country cannot afford.

Conclusion

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