Archive for Finance

image_pdfimage_print

2017 Medicare Deductibles and Premiums

Medicare Part B Deductible 2017 Medicare Parts A & B Premiums and Deductibles Announced

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the 2017 premiums for the Medicare inpatient hospital (Part A) and physician and outpatient hospital services (Part B) programs.

Medicare Part B Premiums/Deductibles

Medicare Part B covers physician services, outpatient hospital services, certain home health services, durable medical equipment, and other items.

On October 18, 2016, the Social Security Administration announced that the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for Social Security benefits will be 0.3 percent for 2017. Because of the low Social Security COLA, a statutory “hold harmless” provision designed to protect seniors, will largely prevent Part B premiums from increasing for about 70 percent of beneficiaries. Among this group, the average 2017 premium will be about $109.00, compared to $104.90 for the past four years.

For the remaining roughly 30 percent of beneficiaries, the standard monthly premium for Medicare Part B will be $134.00 for 2017, a 10 percent increase from the 2016 premium of $121.80. Because of the “hold harmless” provision covering the other 70 percent of beneficiaries, premiums for the remaining 30 percent must cover most of the increase in Medicare costs for 2017 for all beneficiaries. This year, as in the past, the Secretary has exercised her statutory authority to mitigate projected premium increases for these beneficiaries, while continuing to maintain a prudent level of reserves to protect against unexpected costs. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will work with Congress as it explores budget-neutral solutions to challenges created by the “hold harmless” provision.

“Medicare’s top priority is to ensure that beneficiaries have affordable access to the care they need,” said CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt. “We will continue our efforts to improve affordability, access, and quality in Medicare.”

Medicare Part B beneficiaries not subject to the “hold harmless” provision include beneficiaries who do not receive Social Security benefits, those who enroll in Part B for the first time in 2017, those who are directly billed for their Part B premium, those who are dually eligible for Medicaid and have their premium paid by state Medicaid agencies, and those who pay an income-related premium. These groups represent approximately 30 percent of total Part B beneficiaries.

CMS also announced that the annual deductible for all Medicare Part B beneficiaries will be $183 in 2017 (compared to $166 in 2016).

 

Medicare Part A Premiums/Deductibles

Medicare Part A covers inpatient hospital, skilled nursing facility, and some home health care services. About 99 percent of Medicare beneficiaries do not have a Part A premium since they have at least 40 quarters of Medicare-covered employment.

The Medicare Part A inpatient hospital deductible that beneficiaries pay when admitted to the hospital will be $1,316 per benefit period in 2017, an increase of $28 from $1,288 in 2016. The Part A deductible covers beneficiaries’ share of costs for the first 60 days of Medicare-covered inpatient hospital care in a benefit period. Beneficiaries must pay a coinsurance amount of $329 per day for the 61st through 90th day of hospitalization ($322 in 2016) in a benefit period and $658 per day for lifetime reserve days ($644 in in 2016). For beneficiaries in skilled nursing facilities, the daily coinsurance for days 21 through 100 of extended care services in a benefit period will be $164.50 in 2017 ($161 in 2016).

Enrollees age 65 and over who have fewer than 40 quarters of coverage and certain persons with disabilities pay a monthly premium in order to receive coverage under Medicare Part A. Individuals who had at least 30 quarters of coverage or were married to someone with at least 30 quarters of coverage may buy into Part A at a reduced monthly premium rate, which will be $227 in 2017, a $1 increase from 2016. Uninsured aged and certain individuals with disabilities who have exhausted other entitlement and who have less than 30 quarters of coverage will pay the full premium, which will be $413 a month, a $2 increase from 2016.

Posted in: Collections, Billing & Coding, Finance, Medicare & Reimbursement, Medicare This Week

Leave a Comment (0) →

It’s Not Too Late to Launch CCOF on January 1st

Plan Your 2017 Collection Strategy Using CCOF

High Deductible Plans and CCOF Are Becoming Mainstream

When we first starting teaching practices how to implement credit card on file (CCOF) in their practices in 2010, only a few practices had ever heard of it. Today, we get calls weekly from practices who need help collecting patient balances, especially from patients with high-deductible plans, many whom do not understand how their plan works. Note that almost 25% of persons covered by employer health plans are enrolled in high-deductible plans, and almost 90% of enrollees in the healthcare exchange (Affordable Care Act Marketplaces) have a high-deductible plan!

The time-honored tradition of sending patients monthly statements and allowing them to pay on their own timetable has increasingly become untenable for medical practices, especially small practices that have limited financial resources to wait out patient payments. Physicians are paying their staff, medical supplies, utilities and rent monthly while waiting for insurance plans to pay in 30 to 45 days and patients to pay anywhere from 60 to 120 days or more past the date of service.

Having the Talk With Patients

Credit card on file opens the patient payment dialogue by changing the conversation from “We’ll send you a bill when insurance pays their portion” to “Once we receive the insurance Explanation of Benefits (EOB), we’ll charge your card for the patient-responsible balance. If the balance is over $____, we’ll call you to discuss your payment.”

On January 1st, the deductible starts afresh for most plans, and any practice not using credit card on file to collect those deductibles is in for a particularly tough quarter – what I’ve always called “The Black Months”. With the size of deductibles however, many practices are in for another tough year. Contrary to plans of the past that applied the deductibles only to very high-priced services or hospital events, many deductibles apply to office visits, medications, labs – essentially every healthcare service one can have. Some patients will never meet their deductible and will be paying your practice out of their pocket for every service all year long.

Is 2017 the year you streamline and improve patient collections?

It’s not too late to get it together to launch your program now to be ready for the new year. Here are the steps:

  1. Integrate software that allows you to keep patient credit cards on file on an offsite, secure, third-party server as an add-on to your current merchant services (credit card processing). Call your current credit card processor to see if they have CCOF, but be careful – there is a lot of confusing language around the CCOF part and CC processing charges. My recommendation for CCOF software is here.
  2. Educate patients on the change. Inform and educate patients about your new policy between now and when you launch.
  3. Rewrite your financial policy to include CCOF. If no one ever reads your financial policy, now is the time to make it simpler and clearer.
  4. Educate the staff. Explain why you’re making the change, how it works and how to communicate with patients that might have questions.
  5. Change your patient scripts to include CCOF language when you schedule and confirm appointments.
  6. Get rid of patient statements. Decide how you will handle current patient statements to clear those balances. You eliminate statements when you implement CCOF.
  7. Determine your philosophy. How are going to deal with patients who say they don’t have a credit or debit card, or refuse to give you their card to place on file? Most practices will lose a few patients, but it is always less than you expect. Most patients who refuse are patients who never intended to pay you anyway!

I ask physicians this question:

If you collected the same amount of money each month whether you saw 500 patients who paid you part of what they owed, or 350 patients who paid you everything they owed, which would you prefer?

Of course, every physician would love to see less patients, having more quality time with each patient! What’s wrong with having a practice full of patients who agree to pay you what they owe? FYI, CCOF does not mean you cannot also serve patients who need help with medical expenses – that’s a different conversation!

For more information and help, see our CCOF page here, or watch this 30-minute YouTube video here.

NOTE: I use the term “credit card” in this article, but you can accept, if you so choose, debit cards, health savings account cards, flexible spending account cards – even gift cards.

Posted in: Collections, Billing & Coding, Day-to-Day Operations, Finance, Innovation

Leave a Comment (0) →

What’s Driving Your Medical Practice to Change?

12 Practice Models for 2016We’ve heard from many small independent practices of their desire to evaluate/change their practice model due to:

  • Ongoing Medicare quality program and commercial insurance fee reductions.
  • Increasing administrative expense related to pre-authorizations, denials, and patient collections due to high-deductible health plans.
  • Desire for more time with patients without sacrificing income.

Now you can weigh in on the discussion by participating in Kareo’s and the American Academy of Private Physicians’ (AAPP) annual survey which asks independent physicians for their perceptions of different practice models such as traditional fee-for-service, cash fee-for-service, concierge/retainer plans, telemedicine and more.

This description of the survey is posted on Kareo’s blog:

“Industry research has shown that many independent physicians are concerned about whether or not they can be adequately prepared from the growing shift to value-based reimbursement. As a result, they are testing or fully transitioning to other options like concierge, direct-pay, and virtual models. For the second year, Kareo has partnered with AAPP to investigate this trend more broadly, seeking to understand the challenges and benefits of each payment structure. Furthermore, this survey seeks to determine if a hybrid practice model, which takes into account various payment models, could solve issues of contention that physicians have with their current practice model.”

Healthcare providers and those who manage their practices can access the survey for a chance to win an Apple Watch, an iPad, or a one year AAPP membership. The survey is here: Private Practice Model Perspective 2016.

Want to learn more about different practice models. See my slide deck below “Twelve Practice Models for 2016”

Posted in: Day-to-Day Operations, Finance, Starting a New Practice

Leave a Comment (0) →

Advance Beneficiary Notice FAQs

The advance beneficiary notice (ABN) is a powerful tool for practices to educate patients about their benefits and responsibilities for Medicare non-covered services. Many of our readers still write us to ask questions about the form and the correct way to use it in the office, so we developed this Frequently Asked Questions list for the ABN to clear up some of the confusion.

We always tell the physicians we work with: “If you are going to accept insurance, you need to be the expert on insurance.” In practice this means knowing your patient’s benefits and working with them to communicate with them about what, if anything, they will owe before or after payer adjudication. No one enjoys being surprised about money!

The ABN is also a tremendous opportunity to talk about financial responsibilities with a patient. If you don’t have a credit card on file program in your practice, it’s important to be proactive about patient financial responsibilities and how they will be handled. Having a patient sign that they understand they will be financially responsible for payment for a non-covered service is a natural way to start that process.

Here are some of your most frequently asked ABN questions.

What is the ABN? What does it do?

The ABN was originally developed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to make sure Medicare patients were aware that if they received services that were not covered by Medicare, payment for these services would be their responsibility. By signing the ABN, the patient agrees that if Medicare (or other payer) does not pay the physician then the patient will have to pay for it. The document affirms that the patient knows they could be required to pay out of pocket. Once the ABN is signed, if you are sure Medicare won’t pay you can (and probably should) collect the patient portion listed on the form immediately. You can charge in full for the services if the ABN is signed, however the service is self-pay at that point, so I always suggest you charge your self-pay rate.

What won’t Medicare pay for?

The classic example is an annual physical, which many people assume is part of their Medicare coverage. Medicare will pay for an initial “Welcome to Medicare” visit, as well as an “Annual Wellness” visit, but the key word to hear is “visit”. These are not physical examinations. If a patient wants a physical, they will need to sign an ABN before the service saying they understand that Medicare will not pay for it. Other things that Medicare will not pay for include services without specific medical need, like labs or imaging diagnostics without diagnoses that are accepted as medically necessary. Medicare will also only pay for certain services at regular intervals, for example women who are considered “low risk” for cervical cancer can only receive a pap smear every 24 months. Note that you are not required by Medicare to get an ABN signed for services that are never covered, such as the annual physical, however, it pays to be absolutely clear when discussing payments, so I suggest you get an ABN signed by the patient regardless.

Should we just have everybody sign an ABN?

No. The ABN is to be used in specific instances for a specific service. You cannot require a patient to sign a “blanket” ABN for the year, just in case. If Mr. Smith wants a service that Medicare is unlikely to, or definitely will not pay for and the physician is comfortable ordering or performing the service, a staff member should present an ABN to Mr. Smith for that specific day’s procedure, before it is performed. If the patient is a having a series of recurring services that will not be covered, you can have one ABN signed for up to twelve months of the specific service. An example of this might be a series of physical therapy sessions.  The ABN is not a catch- all to protect from denial, however, and persistent misuse will not only be denied, but could open the door to an audit.

We are a small, busy practice; that sounds like a lot of work!

It is a lot of work for a practice! Many practices choose to not use the ABN rather then work out a protocol to implement it. The practice has to have a system in place so that the physician or staff member can explain the situation, fill out the form, answer the patient’s questions and file the ABN for posterity (they have to be kept seven years, like other records). It can be the physician in a micropractice, or a dedicated billing or customer service employee in a larger setting. Also, a note has to be made of the ABN signing in the patient’s chart so that modifiers can be added to the CPT codes for billing.

Are ABNs for Medicare only?

No. You can also have a patient sign an ABN for a private payer. This helps the patient to understand that if their insurance doesn’t cover the service specified, the patient will have to pay for it.  Medicare requires an ABN be signed in order to bill the patient, but for patients with private insurance it’s still a great opportunity to talk about non-covered services, deductibles, copays, coinsurance or any past balances if you haven’t already. A few private payers actually require a waiver/ABN to bill patients for non-covered services – check your contract to be sure.

 

Mary Pat has created a generic non-Medicare ABN; if you’d like a copy, just email Mary Pat and she can send you one.

Posted in: Amazing Customer Service, Collections, Billing & Coding, Compliance, Day-to-Day Operations, Finance, Medicare & Reimbursement

Leave a Comment (0) →

2016 Medicare Deductibles and Premiums

Medicare Part B Deductible Increases

Yesterday the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the 2016 premiums and deductibles for the Medicare inpatient hospital (Part A) and physician and outpatient hospital services (Part B) programs.

Part B Premiums/Deductibles

As the Social Security Administration previously announced, there will be no Social Security cost of living increase for 2016. As a result, by law, most people with Medicare Part B will be “held harmless” from any increase in premiums in 2016 and will pay the same monthly premium as last year, which is $104.90.

Beneficiaries not subject to the “hold harmless” provision will pay $121.80, as calculated reflecting the provisions of the Bipartisan Budget Act signed into law by President Obama last week. Medicare Part B beneficiaries not subject to the “hold-harmless” provision are those not collecting Social Security benefits, those who will enroll in Part B for the first time in 2016, dual eligible beneficiaries who have their premiums paid by Medicaid, and beneficiaries who pay an additional income-related premium. These groups account for about 30 percent of the 52 million Americans expected to be enrolled in Medicare Part B in 2016.

“Our goal is to keep Medicare Part B premiums affordable. Thanks to the leadership of Congress and President Obama, the premiums for 52 million Americans enrolled in Medicare Part B will be either flat or substantially less than they otherwise would have been,” said CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt. “Affordability for Medicare enrollees is a key goal of our work building a health care system that delivers better care and spends health care dollars more wisely.”

Because of slow growth in medical costs and inflation, Medicare Part B premiums were unchanged for the 2013, 2014, and 2015 calendar years. The “hold harmless” provision would have required the approximately 30 percent of beneficiaries not held harmless in 2016 to pay an estimated base monthly Part B premium of $159.30 in part to make up for lost contingency reserves, according to the 2015 Trustees Report. However, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 mitigated the Part B premium increase for these beneficiaries and states, which have programs that pay some or all of the premiums and cost-sharing for certain people who have Medicare and limited incomes. The CMS Office of the Actuary estimates that states will save $1.8 billion as a result of this premium mitigation.

CMS also announced that the annual deductible for all Part B beneficiaries will be $166.00 in 2016.

Premiums for Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug plans already finalized are unaffected by this announcement.

To get more information about state-by-state savings, visit the CMS website here.

Since 2007, beneficiaries with higher incomes have paid higher Part B monthly premiums. These income-related monthly adjustment amount (IRMAA) affect fewer than 5 percent of people with Medicare. Under the Part B section of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, high income beneficiaries will pay an additional amount. The IRMAA, additional amounts, and total Part B premiums for high income beneficiaries for 2016 are shown in the following table:

Medicare Premiums Vary Based on Income and Type of Tax Return

Premiums for beneficiaries who are married and lived with their spouse at any time during the taxable year, but file a separate return, are as follows:
2016 Medicare Monthly Premiums

Part A Premiums/Deductibles 

Medicare Part A covers inpatient hospital, skilled nursing facility, and some home health care services. About 99 percent of Medicare beneficiaries do not pay a Part A premium since they have at least 40 quarters of Medicare-covered employment.

The Medicare Part A annual deductible that beneficiaries pay when admitted to the hospital will be $1,288.00 in 2016, a small increase from $1,260.00 in 2015. The Part A deductible covers beneficiaries’ share of costs for the first 60 days of Medicare-covered inpatient hospital care in a benefit period. The daily coinsurance amounts will be $322 for the 61stthrough 90th day of hospitalization in a benefit period and $644 for lifetime reserve days. For beneficiaries in skilled nursing facilities, the daily coinsurance for days 21 through 100 in a benefit period will be $161.00 in 2016 ($157.50 in 2015).

Enrollees age 65 and over who have fewer than 40 quarters of coverage and certain persons with disabilities pay a monthly premium in order to receive coverage under Part A. Individuals with 30-39 quarters of coverage may buy into Part A at a reduced monthly premium rate, which will be $226.00 in 2016, a $2.00 increase from 2015. Those with less than 30 quarters of coverage pay the full premium, which will be $411.00 a month, a $4.00 increase from 2015.

Part A Deductibles and Coinsurance for 2016

Slight Increases for Medicare 2016 Part A

For more information on the 2016 Medicare Parts A and B premiums and deductibles (CMS-8059-N, CMS-8060-N, and CMS-8061-N), click here.

Posted in: Collections, Billing & Coding, Finance, Medicare & Reimbursement, Medicare This Week

Leave a Comment (0) →

Why You Should Not Reward Your Billing Staff for Collections

I Don't Recommend You Incentivize Billing Staff for Collections!

Do not incentivize and reward your billing staff for reduced days in accounts receivable, increased collections or decreased non-contractual (bad debt) write-offs!

I bet you thought I was going to say that billers are paid to do a job and they should not be incentivized for doing the job you hired them to do.

Not true – I am not against incentivizing employees to do a job at all; most people enjoy a challenge and feel great when they reach a goal.

However, when a subset of employees in your practice is incentivized for increasing revenue, you can be sure it will create resentment and low morale for the rest of your employees. Do you think word won’t get around that you’re rewarding the billers? If so, you’re completely wrong. There are no secrets in a medical office. People know what others make, and regardless of what your Employee Handbook might say, it is not grounds for termination for employees to share what they make with others.

What I do encourage you to do is to incentivize your ENTIRE staff to reduce days in accounts receivable, increased collections and decrease non-contractual (bad debt) write-offs. Ultimately, your entire staff is responsible in one way or another for collections.

Consider how each person in your practice must contribute to the overall effort to make sure collections are at goal:

Front Desk: entering/verifying demographics and picking the right insurance plan for each patient; collecting the correct amount at time of service, whether it is an exact amount or an estimate of the patient’s responsibility.

Phones/Scheduling: making new patients aware of financial policies and what will be expected at time of service (“Please remember to bring the credit card you’d like us to keep on file for you”); making sure that Medicare patients know the difference between an Annual Wellness Visit and a Complete Physical.*

All clinical staff including Physicians/PAs/NPs: making sure that the patient signs an Advance Beneficiary Notice (ABN) for any services that insurance will not pay for, regardless of whether the patient is Medicare or non-Medicare**, before the service is rendered.

Manager: addressing patient complaints that escalate to you quickly and efficiently, not giving a patient any reason not to pay; making sure you have an easy-to-read-and-understand Financial Policy*** explaining your collection at time of service policy.

Everyone: embracing a culture of Customer Service, making sure that patients are satisfied with their experience; sending a consistent message to patients that you are interested in bringing them value for their dollars and reinforcing your desire to have an ongoing relationship with them.

Complete the Contact Form here to request any of the free resources discussed in this post and listed below.

  • *Cheat Sheet for Medicare visits
  • **Non-Medicare Advance Beneficiary Notice (ABN)
  • ***Financial Policy

Image by Samuel Zeller

Posted in: Amazing Customer Service, Collections, Billing & Coding, Day-to-Day Operations, Finance, Human Resources

Leave a Comment (0) →

How Much Does a Nurse Practitioner Get Paid?

Nurse Practitioners (NPs) Are Sometimes Called Advance Practice Nurses (APNs)

I am often asked how much Nurse Practitioners in private medical practice should be paid.

This answer depends on a number of factors, not the least of which is the scope of practice for NPs in your state. Here are two handy links to laws for NPs in each state and what NPs in each state can and cannot do. 

In addition, NPs may make more or less depending on their duties, how much physician oversight they require, what the benefit package is, and if the NP will siphon off part of the existing providers’ practices, and therefore, income. Market rates are always important to review so an offer can be made that is somewhat comparable to other NP positions in the community, unless the work is less or more hours, less or more responsibility, etc.

Consider the following before making your offer:

Job Responsibilities

  • How many hours per week, on average, is the NP expected to work?
  • Will the NP take call?
  • Will the NP have his/her own patient panel?
  • Will the NP be expected to round on nursing home patients or hospital patients or admit or discharge patients (if allowed in your local hospitals)?
  • Will the NP staff a location without onsite physician support?
  • Will the NP be managing other staff or other mid-levels?

Support Required by the Physician

  • How much experience does the NP have overall, and how much in your specialty?
  • Will a physician be required to review some or all of the NP’s notes for sign-off for a defined period, or indefinitely?
  • Will the NP be able to write prescriptions for no drugs, some drugs or all drugs?
  • Will the NP see Medicare patients and thereby be limited to “incident-to” scheduling (the physician must see the patient initially and develop a care plan, then must see the patient every third visit for the initial problem, or every time a new problem is discussed.)

 Associated Costs with Hiring an NP

  • Wages: Base salary, any associated productivity bonuses
  • Benefits: paid time off, health insurance, life insurance, retirement matching (after one year), expense reimbursement (mileage, etc.)
  • Malpractice: many NPs and PAs may also want you to guarantee to pay for a malpractice “tail” when they leave your employment. They will need a tail only if your policy is claims made, which means they must pay for their own liability insurance after they leave you for acts when they worked with you. If you have an occurrence policy, it will pay if they were covered under the claim when the act happened, not when the suit was filed, so no tail is needed.
  • Licenses: Any software licenses for a new provider – some vendors equate NPs and PAs with a 1.0 FTE provider (full license fee) and other vendor equate them to a .5 FTE provider (1/2 license fee.)
  • Fees: Dues, licenses, subscriptions, DEA, memberships
  • Continuing Education: registration, travel, lodging, food, online CME, and do they get paid to take CME, or is CME paid for, but on their own time?
  • Electronics: Computer, laptop, tablet, iPad, smartphone, smartphone apps and add-ons
  • Medical Assistant: depending on your specialty the NP may need a FT medical assistant so they can be as productive as possible, or you may already have a medical assistant in-house that can be shared with the new NP. For some specialties, the NP may not need a medical assistant.
  • General Overhead: this is the biggest thing that practices overlook when they do not assign overhead costs to mid-level providers. All providers require a place to practice, staff assistants – clinical and/or administrative, equipment, medical consumables, etc. A percentage of the overhead should be considered an expense of employing the NP and should be accounted for before considering the NP to have made a profit for you during the year.
  • Marketing: how will you introduce the NP to the community and to your existing patients? Will you do a focused marketing campaign to encourage a target demographic to try the NP? Will you have an open house to introduce the NP to potential referrers in the community? Will you make contact with and provide flyers to assisted living facilities (Medicare) or daycares (pediatrics) or gyms (wellness, sports medicine, orthopedics) or other venues that match your target patient?
  • Miscellaneous Requests: signing bonus, office furniture, any special equipment based on personal characteristics or personal preferences (e.g. very short NPs may need a stool in each exam room or may request a hydraulic exam table), a computer at home for use when on call, relocation support, etc.
  • School Payback: There are programs available for school loan payback for mid-levels working in primary care and/or in underserved areas. This is a huge draw for many mid-level providers – take a minute and find out if these paybacks are available in your area. A new NP may be willing to take a little less in compensation if they are also eligible for loan forgiveness.

Things to Consider

  • What is the reason for adding an NP? To reduce other providers’ workload? To replace a retiring physician with a non-physician? To add a needed element to the practice (e.g. a female NP in an all-male practice or vice versa)? Improve the quality of life for existing providers (call, nursing home visits, discharges, etc.) Will an NP allow the group to bill for services previously billed outside the practice, such as first assist at surgery?
  • Will the NP make the market share pie bigger or take a piece of the existing market share pie? Has a projection been done to show the other physicians what their potential reduction in income will be if the NP takes part of the current market share? If the practice is going after new market share, how will this be achieved – general practice exposure vs niche marketing for a new service or something the NP brings to the table?
  • How much money will the practice have to expense before it sees a return on investment? How long will it take for the NP to cover his/her own expenses? How long will it take for the NP to cover expenses and bring additional income to the practice? Will additional formal or informal training be required? Will additional equipment for new services be required?
  • Reimbursement: What payers will pay the full allowable amount (billed under a physician) versus the allowable minus 15%?

Once you have considered everything above, take a look at the just-released 2015 National Nurse Practitioner Compensation Survey.

“Overall compensation for full-time nurse practitioners is on the rise, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), which today released data from its 2015 National Nurse Practitioner Compensation Survey. The findings demonstrate that nurse practitioners who work 35 hours or more per week have seen average base salaries increase 6.3%, rising from $91,310 in 2011 to $97,083 in 2015, with total annual income increasing 10.0%, rising from $98,760 to $108,643. More than 2,200 nurse practitioners participated in the 2015 survey.”

The survey, which can be purchased for $50, shows the breakout of compensation based on education, experience, region, setting and specialty.

NOTE: If your practice needs helps running the numbers to see how adding an NP or PA will affect expenses and revenue, Manage My Practice has a Pro Forma Service which helps you to make a job offer knowing what your costs will be, how many patients need to be seen to cover costs and how soon after the hire the practice can potentially see a return on their investment. Contact us here or call Mary Pat at (919) 370.0504.

Photo Credit: Friends for Peace via Compfight cc

Posted in: Finance, Human Resources, Practice Marketing

Leave a Comment (1) →

EMV: How Your Practice Will Be Affected By Credit Card Changes in October 2015

EMV Chip on a VISA CardAt Manage My Practice, we are big proponents of using a Credit Card on File (CCOF) system in medical practices to reduce expenses and improve cash flow. Knowing how your processing vendor’s pricing plan and security features work are critical to implementing this system. You have to be able to understand and negotiate your costs, and stay current on best practices and technology that keep your patients’ data safe.

Big changes are coming to the technology end of your credit card system in October of this year (as if you won’t be busy enough with ICD-10!) and you need to make sure now that you have all the details handled for your employees and your patients. The new technology is called EMV, or “Euro Mastercard Visa” and has been used in most of the rest of the world for awhile now.

Whenever we have questions about anything credit card related, we go straight to Michael Gutlove, Director of Merchant Services at IDT. Michael has been our own vendor, as well as our top recommendation to clients for almost three years now. We asked him to help us sort out the changes.


 

Mary Pat: Michael, what’s your background?

Michael: I’ve been helping business owners improve their bottom lines since 1997. Reducing costs are critical – now more than ever – for all business owners, and I’ve been able to repeatedly reduce operating costs by clearing away the traditional smoke and mirrors of credit card processing.

Mary Pat: Are people in general and patients specifically using credit cards more than they used to? Do you foresee a time when people will only use credit cards, no cash or checks?

Michael: While electronic payment volume has steadily increased year after year it’s highly unlikely that cash or checks will ever be completely eliminated. Cash payments serve the “underbanked” population and checks remain a highly effective method of payment for high ticket (luxury) items.

Mary Pat: What about payment via a smartphone or watch – do you see that becoming a predominant part of the American payment experience?

Michael: Apple Pay is the first mobile wallet solution that’s made any traction into the payment space. It’s opened the door for cell phone manufacturers, wireless carriers, and any/every technology company under the moon to think about getting involved. The problem with suggesting that mobile technology will replace the way we pay (or become the primary way we pay) is that it’s not fixing an existing problem. Mobile payments are generally viewed as a convenience as opposed to a necessity and we’ve become accustomed to carrying a wallet or purse with actual credit cards.

October 1 Change to EMV Terminals

Mary Pat: The new acronym in credit cards is EMV. What is EMV?

Michael: EMV stands for Europay MasterCard Visa. It’s an acronym for the Global standard of chip card technology facilitating electronic payment transactions. The United States is the last major country to adopt this method.

Mary Pat: Why do readers need to know about EMV?

Michael: October 2015 marks the deadline for business owners, accepting credit or debit cards, to upgrade their terminals for chip card acceptance. While it is not legally necessary to upgrade, doing so reduces the liability for fraudulent or counterfeit duplicate transactions.

Mary Pat: What does accepting chip cards have to do with liability?

Michael: EMV prevents “card present” duplicate fraud as the customer always maintains possession of their card. Instead of swiping the mag-stripe on the back, merchants will instruct customers to insert cards into the EMV ready terminal and enter a PIN or signature when prompted. Businesses that do not have the ability to accept EMV cards will be held liable for fraudulent “swiped” transactions.

Mary Pat: Does EMV eliminate fraud?

Michael: EMV is not a cure all for all types of fraud. The programs put in place will help with duplicate card fraud charge-backs, but will not impact others. Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express have different liability shift requirements.

Mary Pat: What about “Card Not Present” transactions?

Michael: EMV only applies to face-to-face transactions. When it was released in Europe increased levels of fraud showed up via ecommerce and MOTO (mail order/telephone order). A similar scenario is expected once the US adopts EMV making PCI-DSS compliance even more important.

Mary Pat: What is PCI?

Michael: PCI–DSS stands for the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. Most processors offer comprehensive programs to ensure PCI compliance and validation.

Mary Pat: What should I do now?

Michael: Reach out to your processor and determine your risk level for EMV. Accepting EMV can only help your business but it isn’t necessary to do anything prior to October. The majority of POS (point of sale) manufacturers haven’t released EMV readers and new hardware might not be necessary depending on your existing terminal make & model.


Making sure you are getting the most you can from your credit card vendor is a critical part of protecting your data and your bottom line in today’s healthcare industry. You need to know the steps you and your vendors are taking to safeguard patient data as well as being able to relay those steps back to patients and employees. That’s why it’s important for managers to understand EMV – and their credit card setup in general. Successful implementation of a credit card on file program or any credit card processing system will always require buy-in and communication.

NOTE: Credit Card on File clients of Manage My Practice should know that Michael Gutlove will be swapping out your current swipers for EMV terminals for chip and non-chip cards at a considerable discount.

For additional information, questions, or anything else credit card related feel free to reach out to Michael Gutlove at 201.281.1621.

Posted in: Collections, Billing & Coding, Compliance, Day-to-Day Operations, Finance, Headlines

Leave a Comment (0) →

Authorized Official vs. Delegated Official: What’s the Difference?

Understanding the Difference Between Delegated and Authorized Officials According to Medicare

Medicare distinguishes between authorized officials and delegated officials on their enrollment forms and many people wonder what the difference is.

Authorized Official Definition

An authorized official means an appointed official (i.e. chief executive officer, chief financial officer, general partner, chairman of the board, or 5% or greater direct owner) to whom the organization has granted the legal authority to enroll it in the Medicare program, to make changes or updates to the organization’s enrollment information in the Medicare program, and to commit the organization to fully abide by the statutes, regulations, and program instructions of the Medicare program.

Authorized Official Authority

  • The authorized official is the only individual that has the authority to sign the initial CMS 855S application. By this signature the authorized official agrees to notify the Medicare program contractor if any of the information on the application is incorrect or untrue. Also, the authorized official agrees to notify the NSC of any changes within 30 days of the change (Supplier Standard 2).
  • An authorized official is the only individual that can add and remove delegated officials.
  • Suppliers may have as many authorized officials as desired as long as the individual meets the definition of an authorized official.

Delegated Official Definition

Delegated officials are persons who are delegated the legal authority by the authorized official to make changes to the supplier file.
A delegated official must be a W-2 employee of the supplier or an individual with 5 percent or greater direct ownership interest in, or an individual with partnership interest in the enrolling supplier. If the delegated official is the managing employee, this individual must be a W-2 employee and the NSC may request proof this individual is a W-2 employee.

Delegated Official Authority

  • A delegated official can make changes or updates to the supplier file, such as address changes or the addition of a part owner.
  • The delegated official may also sign and submit the CMS 855S to enroll additional locations, revalidate or reactivate an existing supplier.
  • A delegated official may not delegate its authority to another individual. Only the authorized official may appoint someone as a delegated official
  •  A delegated official may not sign the initial CMS 855S application for the initial location.
  • A supplier may have as many delegated officials as desired as long as the individual meets the definition of a delegated official.

Photo Credit: jDevaun.Photography via Compfight cc

Posted in: Finance, Medicare & Reimbursement

Leave a Comment (0) →

ICD-10: Practices Should Focus on Just 3 Things

ICD1-10: Medical Practices Should Focus on Three Things

There is a lot of advice out there on making the transition to ICD-10.

Your medical practice may already have taken some of this advice and you are well on the way to readiness for I-10. But if you’ve not done anything yet for the transition, this article is for you. I’ve distilled all the blah-blah-blah down into three easy steps that any practice can follow to embrace the change.

1. Do You Need More Software Support?

There is no question that most everything hinges on your EMR and billing system’s management of ICD-10. Your vendor may say the system is I-10 ready, but what does that really mean?

Ask your vendor these questions:

  1. Are ICD-10 codes available in the system now? If not now, when?
  2. Can the providers and staff rehearse using I-10 inside the system by dual coding and assigning both an ICD-9 and an ICD-10 to services without having the I-10 drop to the claim?
  3. What support, if any, does the system give for choosing the right ICD-10? Is there any type of translator or crosswalk between I-9 and I-10?
  4. After October 1, 2015, will the software have the ability to use an I-10 or crosswalk from 10 to 9 if the payer does not accept 10? It should! Physicians and coders/billers should not have to look at the patient’s payer of record to decided which one to use, nor should they require you to change the I-10 to I-9 on the back end. It is very doable for software to crosswalk from 10 to 9 for you.

If the software supports getting to the most specific ICD-10 possible, not just picking the first one that vaguely matches, choosing the I-10 should be straightforward.  If your software does nothing more than save the I-10 codes you choose to a favorites or a pick list, then you will need a standalone piece of software called an “encoder.” Hospitals and mega practices have been using encoders for years to help navigate the maze of Medicare local and national rules.

Practices without sufficient support from their EMR/Billing software will need an encoder that can not only suggest possibilities for ICD-10 codes, but can also assist in finding the right code from a series of words algorithmically ordered. (If you want to know which encoder is my particular favorite, send me an email at marypat@managemypractice.com.) Encoders also usually have additional benefits that your billing software or claims scrubber may not have such as CCI edits, modifier rules, global period and wRVU information.

Example of the drilling down to the correct I-10 diagnosis assisted by an encoder:

Fracture:

  • Cause?
  • Which bone? Which part of the bone? Laterality?
  • Type of fracture? Open, closed, displaced, non-displaced?
  • Encounter? Initial, Subsequent, Sequela?
  • External cause?
  • Associates diagnoses, conditions?

2. Could Documentation Be Brushed Up?

In hospitals, entire teams of people (Clinical Documentation Improvement staff, usually nurses) are dedicated to making sure that the documentation can support the specificity of the I-10 code chosen. This is especially important for the hospital side of reimbursement.

In the hospitals there are often silos between the service providers and the coding review and billing staff. In practices, we have the good fortune to be able to reflect on the documentation once the I-10 code is chosen, and clarify the documentation on the spot if needed.

Some easy ways to make sure your documentation is as complete as possible to support the I-10 code are:

  • Think of MEAT when you document. Every condition in your documentation should be described as Monitored, Evaluated, Assessed and/or Treated. If the patient has an existing diagnosis that you did not address during the visit, don’t put it in the documentation or on the claim.
  • Use “due to” or “manifested by” for each problem that you describe, if you know that information.
  • Change/improve your EMR templates (or paper progress note format) to accommodate the points above.

3. Are You Ready for Cash Flow Interruption?

You’ve heard this for years and it remains a legitimate concern. If there is any problem with claims processing OR if you are not using ICD-10 properly causing denials, there is a good chance your money from insurance companies will slow down or even dry up for awhile. I suspect that insurance companies may use ICD-10 as a handy excuse to delay payment regardless of the plethora of other excuses they have to choose from.

Predictions on the cost of ICD-10 fluctuate wildly, but here are the places you are most likely to feel the financial pain:

  • If your EMR/Billing system wants you to pay for an upgrade to your software to compensate them for the money they’ve spent upgrading their software. Since the delay, I’ve heard of fewer companies requiring a special payment for the upgrade.
  • Reduction of productivity based on time spent to choose an I-10 code:
    • Any manual form in your practice that uses ICD-9 will need an ICD-10. How will you find those codes?
    • Physicians who choose codes through their EHR will need software support to find those codes. Because there are so many more codes due to the specificity of each code, it will take a while to get the hang of it if you are not using an encoder.
  • Inability of your clearinghouse to send claims. Unless you are directly submitting claims to any payers, your clearinghouse has probably tested (end-to-end, please) with payers. Ask your clearinghouse who they’ve tested end-to-end with and what the results were. If things really bog down with CMS, they may grant advance Medicare payments to physicians that are not receiving payments due to the ICD-10 transition.
  • Delay in payment from any payer due to ICD-10 general chaos.

Keep in mind that a lot of the hoopla over ICD-10 has been on the hospital side. Physician practices are very lucky in that we use CPTs for reimbursement (at this point), not diagnoses. This is a huge change for the hospital/facility side, but much less of a transition for medical practices. We are hoping that physician practices will have less impact to their bottom line, but you should be ready with a line of credit or some extra funds in the bank for this possible rainy day. Starting today, practices that make distributions to owners quarterly may want to scale this back until the smoke clears.

Resources to Help You:

AHIMA (American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA)  has an a nice set of tools relating to the adoption of ICD-10 here. Not all tools are available for non-members.

CMS Road to 10: The Small Physician Practice’s Route to ICD-10 compiles resources from the AAPC (American Association of Professional Coders) AHIMA, the AMA (requires AMA login) and CMS/PAHCOM (Professional Association of Healthcare Office Managers) produced resources.

The AAPC has lots of high-quality offerings here, most for members or for purchase by nonmembers. Although it was written for the original 2014 transition, here’s a good article to review for the creation of an ICD-10 superbill, or just to review your top I-9s and translate them to I-10s.

Your software vendor, claims clearinghouse and specialty society should also have ICD-10 tools.

Photo Credit: Great Beyond via Compfight cc

Posted in: Collections, Billing & Coding, Compliance, Day-to-Day Operations, Finance, Headlines, ICD-10

Leave a Comment (0) →
Page 1 of 8 12345...»