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Update on Health Insurance Claims Processing Costs

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Paper versus Electronic

[By Matias Klein]

[Senior VP Technology Portico Systems Integrated Provider Management Solutions]

The average cost of processing a single, clean, paper-based or electronic claim can range from 85 cents to $1.58.

However, according to AHIP, nearly half of all claims (48 percent) were pended due to the submission of duplicate claims (35 percent), lack of complete information or other information needed to justify the claim (12 percent), or invalid codes (1 percent).

The manual adjudication of these duplicate or incorrect claim submissions increases the cost of administration to $2.05. The $2.05 scenario is a best case calculation. In our actual field experience the cost can be as high as $10.00 per claim.

Payment Delays

In addition to the increased administrative cost, one must not forget about the delayed payment to the provider. As stated by AHIP, a duplicate claim can take 9 days to remediate and missing information on a claim can take up to 11 days. This kind of delay damages the relationship between the provider and the health plan, which in terms of costs is priceless.

Enter ID Management

To solve this problem, some healthcare organizations are implementing Master Identity Management (IDM)—a valuable approach to creating an enterprise “source of truth” for provider identity information. But when it comes to payment integrity and claims processing, IDM without a Provider Information Management (PIM) system doesn’t work. Provider relationship and contract data are far too complex, and both types of data are needed to supplement provider identity data in support of claims administration.

Provider Information Management

When IDM is fully integrated with PIM, payers can successfully establish a single, accurate and effective source of truth. An integrated approach also:

  • Ensures quality – by standardizing, cleansing, cross-referencing and consolidating relevant data, while removing duplicate entries.
  • Mitigates risk – reducing the downstream impact of inaccurate data on all claims processing, contracting, credentialing, provider directory and connected systems.
  • Saves millions of dollars – by reducing duplicate entries by even a fraction of a percent, thus ensuring that claims are being processed in an efficient and effective manner.

Assessment

IDM plays a pivotal role in the future of healthcare. As new, collaborative and accountable care delivery models evolve, reliable provider identity management is absolutely critical. Combining IDM with PIM gives payers the most powerful solution for assuring payment integrity while improving provider identity and duplication management.

Conclusion

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Conclusion

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On Hospital Revenue Cycle Opportunities

Do They Still Exist in Today’s Healthcare Milieu?

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For a decade now, healthcare providers have been challenged to deliver quality patient care in an environment of shrinking profit margins. Total margins and operating margins have followed the same trend. Analysts report that an operating margin of less than 5% leaves an organization without the resources to invest in new technology and capital projects, and will eventually force the facility to close or merge. With rising labor costs, a poorly performing economy, and an aging population, these numbers are not likely to improve soon.

Bar code use in hospitals may save lives

Industry Status

Although the industry has seen an overall improvement in accounts receivable days and bad debt for an extended period, it appears that many facilities have reached their peak in addressing these areas, particularly given current demands to reduce staff and other operational costs. So, where is the next major opportunity for reducing costs or maximizing revenue opportunities?

The Experts Opine

According to private consultants Ross J. Fidler and Karen White PhD, revenue cycle improvement still seems to be a promising and popular area today. And, PriceWaterhouseCoopers recently listed five areas to reinvent the revenue cycle:

1) organizational / accountability;

2) process/workflow improvements;

3) information systems/management reporting enhancements;

4) quality assurance mechanisms; and

5) department and staff productivity measurements.

Assessment

A thorough re-examination of the revenue cycle process will typically uncover cost drains and revenue opportunities.

Conclusion

To succeed in enhancing hospital revenue streams, for example, we commence with patient access through HIM to PFS, by applying optimal organizational structures, benchmarking, and technology adoption. Only then will outcomes trend toward higher performing revenue cycles.

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Are Hospitals Auctioning Debt?

Understanding Modern Cash Flow Strategies

By Ross Filder

By Karen White PhD

www.HealthcareFinancials.com

As a sign of the contracting economic times, some struggling hospitals are using a new method to collect revenue: the Internet. It has become a channel to cut write-offs and bad debt ratios, which lower stock prices if publicly held.

Rather than simply hiring agencies to collect patient bills, hospitals have begun to put their accounts receivable (ARs) up for auction online. Bidders on the debt include the same agencies that serve the hospitals, some of which provide guaranteed payments to hospitals in exchange for access to the debt. 

Strategy Attractive to Buyer and Sellers

The auctions are also attracting other companies that buy the debt outright. For example, one method that a facility based medical practice used to auction debt was for the hospital to determine the criteria it would use for selecting the debt to be auctioned. The criteria generally focus on ARs that are a certain age, but demographic regions, legal accounts, and monthly payment accounts were also be considered.

[picapp align=”none” wrap=”false” link=”term=accounting&iid=289186″ src=”http://view4.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/289186/corporate-details/corporate-details.jpg?size=500&imageId=289186″ width=”335″ height=”480″ /]

Request for Proposal

Once the criteria are determined, a listing of accounts is generated and supplied to potential buyers along with a Request for Proposal that asks each potential buyer to provide information on their experience in servicing hospital-type ARs, as well as details of their expertise, collection techniques, references, and price. 

Usually the winning bidder will pay a flat price for the entire AR.  It is important for the hospital to understand that when auctioning ARs the winning bidder owns the accounts and their collection tactics will not necessarily comply with the hospital’s standards for collections.

Automation

Automation can lead to decreased paperwork, process standardization, increased productivity, and cleaner claims. In 2004, Hospital & Health Network’s “Most Wired Survey” [1] found that the 100 most wired hospitals — including three out of the four AA+ hospitals in the country — had better control of expenses, higher productivity, and efficient utilization management. These numerics are much higher today. Additionally, these top hospitals tend to be larger and have better access to capital.

Assessment

The positive return on investment in technology increases allocation of funding to technology. This correlation is important because it begins to link the investment in information technology with positive financial returns in all areas of a hospital’s business, including the revenue cycle.

Conclusion

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[1]   See http://www.hhnmostwiredsurvey.com. The Most Wired Survey is conducted annually between January and March to “promote the effective use of information technology in achieving clinical and operating excellence.”

On Hospital Revenue Cycles Management

Operational Considerations for Improvement

By Dr. David Edward Marcinko, FACFAS, MBA, CMP™

By Hope Rachel Hetico; RN, MHA, CPHQ, CMP™

One of us has been an acute general care hospital administrator while the other vice-president of a clinical and medical staff.

Throughout our respective tenures, providing high quality care with improved health outcomes was our primary concern – and actually is that of most hospitals of any size, geography, or demographic. Conflicts of interest were inevitable of course, and occasionally the interest of stakeholders collided, or was ignored. And, continually we realized – and were reminded – that money matters and the maxim “no margin, no mission” applies.

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Strong Management Required for Success

Nevertheless, the foundation of strong financial health ultimately lies in effective management of the hospital revenue cycle. And, strong internal management and leadership is the basis of an enhanced revenue cycle. In practical terms, effective management means understanding the process and targeting the core of the revenue cycle in order to fine-tune and support fiscal health and business growth.

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A Triad of Processes Groupers

For us, the processes of hospital revenue cycles were grouped in three areas corresponding to the journey of a patient through the system: the front door, the middle, and the back door; to the extent possible.

1. Front-door processes are termed patient access functions and revolve around scheduling, registration, pre-admission, and admissions. When these processes are streamlined and swift; the value is most evident to a hospitals’ customers, the patients, but it is also vital to the revenue maintenance (and enhancement) of the facility. The most effective and efficient time to accomplish patient access activities is when patients and their caregivers are together. Patient access needs to be handled by highly skilled and motivated employees who can accomplish a hospital’s goals for information capture while carrying out customer service objectives. This is also the optimal stage for achieving denial management.

2. Middle processes include case management (CM) and health information management (HIM).  Those involved in the CM function act as gatekeepers to review the appropriateness of clinic referrals and ensure financial clearance is established.  CM also involves developing a plan for discharge and monitoring to ensure it is timely and appropriate to the level of care.  Another important focus of CM is the freeing up of acute care beds.

The HIM functions revolve around document management, coding, transcription, and charge capture. Financial performance can be significantly improved when case management and HIM activities are optimized by using information technologies that are integrated with process and workflow. The end result can be an increase in revenue and reduction in regulatory risk.

3. Finally, back-door processes are termed patient financial services (PFS) functions and revolve around billing, collections, follow-up, and resolution. These are the business office billing and administrative functions that support the front-line caregivers and that interface with external payers and patients to resolve outstanding accounts receivable. Back-door processes bring significant value to hospitals by reducing administrative costs, increasing collections levels, and dramatically lowering the percentage of aged accounts receivables [ARs].

Assessment

Modern hospitals today that are seeking to improve their bottom lines through better-managed and enhanced revenue cycle operations in these three areas front, middle, and back usually encounter challenges with people, processes, and technology. These challenges may be addressed by incorporating following:

  • optimizing organizational structure;
  • raising the bar through benchmarking; and
  • adopting appropriate technology.

Editors: We appreciate the ME-P input of Karen White PhD and Ross Fidler. 

www.HealthcareFinancials.com

Conclusion

Now, please tell us your hospital revenue cycles story and how these challenges were executed; successfully or not!  What benchmarks did you use for them, and were any others required. Do these operational activities conflict or compliment each other; how and why or why not?

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Risk Assessment of Medical Practice Billing Companies

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Office of Inspector General

trites

[By Pati Trites MPA, CHBC with Staff Reporters]

The Office of Inspector General [OIG] believes a medical billing company’s written policies and procedures, its educational program and its audit and investigation plans should take into consideration the particular statutes, rules and program instructions that apply to each function or department of the billing company.

Co-ordination Needed

Consequently, coordination between these functions is needed, with an emphasis on areas of special concern that have been identified by the OIG through its investigative and audit functions.

Furthermore, the OIG recommends that billing companies conduct a comprehensive self-administered risk analysis or contract for an independent risk analysis by experienced health care consulting professionals. This risk analysis should identify and rank the various compliance and business risks the company may experience in its daily operations.

Risk Analysis

Once completed, the risk analysis should serve as the basis for the written policies the billing company should develop. The OIG provides the following specific list of particular risk areas that should be addressed by billing companies. It should be noted that this list is not all-encompassing and the risk analysis completed as a result of the company’s audit may provide a more individualized roadmap. Nonetheless, this list is a compilation of several years of OIG audits, investigations and evaluations and should provide a solid starting point for a company’s initial effort.

Problem List

Among the risk areas the OIG has identified as particularly problematic are:

  • Billing for items or services not actually documented;
  • Unbundling;
  • Upcoding, such as, for example, “DRG creep;
  • Inappropriate balance billing;
  • Inadequate resolution of overpayments;
  • Lack of integrity in computer systems;
  • Computer software programs that encourage billing personnel to enter data in fields indicating services were rendered though not actually performed or documented;
  • Failure to maintain the confidentiality of information/records;
  • Knowing misuse of provider identification numbers, which results in improper billing;
  • Outpatient services rendered in connection with inpatient stays;
  • Duplicate billing in an attempt to gain duplicate payment;
  • Billing for discharge in lieu of transfer;
  • Failure to properly use modifiers;
  • Billing company incentives that violate the anti-kickback statute or other similar Federal or State statute or regulation;
  • Joint ventures;
  • Routine waiver of copayments and billing third-party insurance only; and
  • Discounts and professional courtesy.

Additional Risk Areas

The physician-executive should understand that a billing company’s prior history of noncompliance with applicable statutes, regulations and Federal health care program requirements may indicate additional types of risk areas where the billing company may be vulnerable and may require necessary policy measures to prevent avoidable recurrence.

Additional risk areas should be assessed by billing companies as well as incorporated into the written policies and procedures and training elements developed as part of their compliance programs.

Assessment 

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Billing companies that do not code bills should implement policies that require notification to the provider who is coding to implement and follow compliance safeguards with respect to documentation of services rendered.

Moreover, the OIG recommends that billing companies who do not code for their provider clients incorporate in their contractual agreements the provider’s acknowledgment and agreement to address the above coding compliance safeguards.

Conclusion

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Financial Ratio Liquidity Analysis for Medical Accounts Receivable

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Understanding Vital Balance Sheet and Income Statement Components

By Dr. David Edward Marcinko; MBA, CMP™

By Dr. Gary L. Bode; MSA, CPA, CMP™ [Hon]

Dr. Gary L. Bode CPA MSAFinancial ratios are derived from components of the balance sheet and income statement. These short and long-term financial ratio values are “benchmarked” to values obtained in medical practice management surveys that become industry standards. Often they become de facto economic indicators of entity viability, and should be monitored by all financial executives regularly.

Defining Terms

One of the most useful liquidity ratiosrelated to ARs is the current ratio. It is mathematically defined as: current assets/current liabilities. The current ratio is important since it measures short-term solvency, or the daily bill-paying ability of a medical practice, clinic  or hospital; etc.  Current assets include cash on hand (COH), and cash in checking accounts, money market accounts, money market deposit accounts, US Treasury bills, inventory, pre-paid expenses, and the percentage of ARs that can be reasonably expected to be collected. Current liabilitiesare notes payable within one year. This ratio should be at least 1, or preferably in the range of about 1.2 to 1.8 for medical practices.

Other Ratios

The quick ratiois similar to the current ratio. However, unlike the current ratio, the quick ratio does not include money tied up in inventory, since rapid conversion to cash might not be possible in an economic emergency. A reasonable quick ratio would be 1.0 – 1.3 for a hospital, since this ratio is a more stringent indicator of liquidity than the current ratio.

Assessment

A point of emphasis in the case of both the current ratio and the quick ratio is that higher is not necessarily better. Higher ratios denote a greater capacity to pay bills as they come due, but they also indicate that the entity has more cash tied up in assets that have a relatively low rate of earnings. Hence, there is an optimum range for both ratios: they should be neither too low nor too high.

Conclusion

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The Need to Protect Accounts Receivable [ARs]

Understanding Liability and Stewardship Issues

By Dr. David Edward Marcinko; MBA, CMP™

By Dr. Gary L. Bode; MSA, CPA, CMP™

HOFMSAll hospitals, clinics, healthcare entities and doctors are aware that accounts receivable (ARs) represent money that is owed to them, usually by a patient, insurance company, health maintenance organization (HMO), Medicare, Medicaid, or other third party payer. In the reimbursement climate that exists today, it is not unusual for ARs to represent 75% of a hospital’s investments in current assets. ARs are a major source of cash flow, and cash flow is the life-blood of any healthcare entity. It pays bills, meets office payroll, and satisfies operational obligations.

Medical ARS are Different

A feature of ARs in healthcare organizations that differentiates them from ARs in other types of business is that they are often settled for less than the billed amounts. These allowances include four categories that are used to restate ARs to realizable expected values:

  • professional or courtesy allowances;
  • charity (pro bono care) allowances;
  • doubtful account allowances; and
  • HMO and managed care organization (MCO) contractual and prospective payment allowances.

AR Stewardship Issues

Good stewardship of assets requires that one must be concerned not only with significant economic losses due to professional conduct (professional malpractice liability concerns, and issues raised by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Office of Civil Rights (OCR), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and so on); but that of physician partner(s) and even the financial failure of contracted private insurers, payers, MCOs, HMOs, etc. ARs are often the biggest asset to protect against creditors or adverse legal judgments. It is not unusual to have ARs in the range of a hundred thousand dollars for a group practice or medical clinic; and in the millions of dollars for a hospital. Yet, since they can easily be attached, ARs are known as exposed assets to creditors.

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Assessment

A judgment creditor pursuing a doctor for a claim may pursue the assets of the clinic, and ARs and cash are the most vulnerable assets. ARs are as good as cash to a creditor, who usually has to do no more than seize them and wait a few months to collect them. If a creditor seizes ARs, the clinic or health entity may be hard pressed to pay its bills as they become due. One must therefore be vigilant to protect AR assets from lawsuit creditors.

More: www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.org

Conclusion

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FINANCE: Financial Planning for Physicians and Advisors
INSURANCE: Risk Management and Insurance Strategies for Physicians and Advisors

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