Outsourced Medical Billing can help with underpayments

by Carl Mays II

You are losing up to ten percent of your collections if payer underpayments are not being aggressively pursued by your outsourced medical billing company. It is simply a minimum requirement of being in business that medical billing services compare your payments to the amounts your payers have agreed to pay you.

Medical billing services have a number of basic steps they should incorporate into their billing process. These steps should include using a claims scrubber, use of no-response calls, posting zero pays, pursuing underpayments, and using likelihood of payment scores for patient collections.

Pursuing underpayments is the focus of today’s article. This pursuit begins first and foremost with comparing the payment information from EOBs to the allowables outlined in the practice’s payer contracts. This comparison must be done in an automated manner and cannot rely upon payment posters catching the underpayments on their own.

Payers have adopted underpayment techniques that are too difficult for a payment poster to spot on their own. Medical billing companies can design their process to battle payers underpayment techniques because they have an advantage over individual practices – they see EOBs for a given payer across multiple practices and multiple states. The enhanced scope allows medical billing companies that pay attention to identify patterns that might be overlooked by individual medical practices.

A disturbing pattern that can regularly be seen by a medical billing company that is paying attention is one where a payer will select a set of procedures and underpay this set of procedures across a large number of providers (often by the same amount). This will continue for about 30 days and then the payer will resume paying the procedures at the correct amount and begin underpaying a whole new selection of procedures.

Each individual underpayment is typically less than $20 and often less than $10. It is, however, death by a thousand cuts as these small losses can quickly reduce a medical practice’s revenue by 5 to 10 percent. The tactics of constantly switching which CPTs are being underpaid and then underpaying in amounts that are small at the claim level make it hard for a practice to realize the magnitude of the money they are losing.

Needless to say, it would be difficult for a payment poster to remember enough about the allowed amounts across a practice’s tens of payers and dozens of CPTs to spot the underpayment strategy described above. This is why it is critical that automated comparisons be performed by your medical billing service.

What does all of this mean to your top line? A medical insurance billing service that properly implements the pursuit of underpayments can increase your revenue by between 5 and 10 percent – and this is pure profit.

Spotting the underpayment is only part of the battle, of course, the billing service also needs to have a systemic process in place for pursuing the underpayments. It is critical to pursue event the small underpayment amounts. Once a payer sees that their resources are being tied up readjudicating claims because of a $5.00 underpayment, the underpayments will often cease to happen.

Copyright 2008 by Carl Mays II

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