Everyone hears about the fact that much of the cost of healthcare is driven by the expense of processing and adjudicating claims. What is often not mentioned is what is truly at the root of these expenses – payers that are attempting to withhold from physicians the money they are due. I mentioned in a previous article (Outsource Medical Billing Must Have: Comparison to Allowables) how ClaimCare Medical Billing Services constantly sees payers systematically underpaying claims. We also see claims that have been properly submitted and for which we have proof the claim was accepted simply “lost” by payers and the claims have to be resubmitted (sometimes multiple times) in order to secure payment. I know from experience with many practices that this “lost” claim phenomena is rampant across payers and practices. Now, here is a shocking fact – over 50% of claims that payers “lose” or are underpaid are never pursued by physicians (and therefore the payers never have to pay the money they owe to the physician or facility). This means that payers have a powerful economic incentive to play games and make the medical billing process complicated. Here is another shocking fact – it costs the average insurance company about $25 each time a representative has to get on the phone and discuss a lost or underpaid claim with a medical billing specialist. A final key fact is that most payers “grade” each provider. The lower a provider’s grade (i.e., a D versus an A) the more likely the payers are to lose or under pay the provider’s claims. Why? Because these providers have no track record of catching these problems and pursuing them.
So, how do all of these facts tie into my title about Medical Billing Services fighting the rising cost of healthcare? If each and every underpaid or lost claim is pursued (which is what Medical Billing Services should do because they have the scale to have groups of people that do nothing but follow-up on such claims) then eventually payers will lose all economic incentive to play games and make the billing process complicated and expensive. Imagine if every physician pursued every claim until it was paid in full. The payers would see their cost to adjudicate the claims rise and they would see their payments to providers rise because the lost/under paid claim games would no longer prevent providers from ultimately being paid. This combination would lead to each physician ultimately being paid quickly and without fuss because the insurance companies would lose significant money by playing games ($25 per extra phone call generated by the games) and they would gain nothing since payments would only be delayed, not avoided.
There is lots of talk about the dream system where claim adjudication happens in real time and physicians immediately receive their reimbursements. Such a system will never happen until the economic incentive payers have to maintain a difficult, complicated and veiled system are removed. This is what medical billing companies (and medical practices with internal billing) can do by doggedly pursuing each claim and insuring that every one of their clients is rated an “A” by all of their payers.