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Grace Period Included in the Affordable Care Act Could Pose Financial Risk to Healthcare Professionals and Providers

MLS Blog Label 2By Michael L. Smith, R.R.T., J.D., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law, and George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

A little known rule published by CMS to implement the Affordable Care Act (ACA) could pose a significant financial risk for doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers. The rule requires health plans participating in the exchanges to provide individuals purchasing insurance through the exchanges a grace period before terminating the coverage for non payment of the premiums. Doctors and other healthcare providers will continue to provide care during the grace period, but the insurance plan will not be required to pay the claims incurred during most of the grace period. The result could be that physicians and other healthcare providers would provide a significant amount of uncompensated care.

Details of the Rule.

The CMS rule provides individuals that purchased subsidized coverage through the exchanges a 90-day grace period before their coverage is cancelled for non payment. The insurance plan is required to pay any claims incurred during the first 30 days of the grace period, but the insurance plan is not required to pay the claims incurred during the last 60 days of the grace period if the individual’s coverage is terminated. The insurance plan is allowed to place all the claims during the last 60 days of the grace period in a pending status. The rule requires the insurance plan to notify the healthcare providers when an insured individual is in the last 60 days of the grace period.

Risk Falls on Healthcare Professionals and Providers.

The rule imposes a significant risk for uncompensated care on the healthcare providers. The rule does require insurers to tell healthcare providers when patients are behind on their premium payments, but he rule does not specify how the health plan will provide that notice to the providers. The only notice some providers receive will probably be the pending status placed on the unpaid claims by the insurance plan.

Many doctors and hospitals are reluctant to participate in insurance plans offered on the exchanges due to the increased financial risk associated with the CMS rule. The result could be that individuals enrolling in insurance plans through the exchanges may find it difficult to find a healthcare provider willing to accept them as patients. CMS has been asked to modify the rule so that insurers are required to pay claims during the entire 90-day grace period.

How Grace Period Can be Manipulated to Benefit Patients.

The CMS rule may also result in individuals manipulating the system. Some individuals may intentionally pay premiums for only part of the year and become serial abusers of the 90 day grace period. Another unintended consequence of the ACA is that individuals that choose not to pay their premiums and have their coverage terminated can reenter the exchange and enroll in a plan regardless of their pre-existing conditions so there is little incentive for some individuals to maintain their coverage.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in the Representation of Health Professionals and Providers.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, pain management doctors, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists and other health providers in insurance company or other third party payor reimbursements.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

Were you aware of the 90-day grace period? As a healthcare professional or provider, are you worried you don’t have adequate financial protection? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Fiegl, Charles. “Medical Groups Fear ACA Grace Period Will Lead to Unpaid Claims.” American Medical News. (September 2, 2013). From: http://www.amednews.com/article/20130902/government/130909984/4/

Block, Jonathan. “Providers Protest Rule Putting Them at Financial Risk if Patients Don’t Pay Premiums.” Modern Healthcare. (August 13, 2013). From: http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20130813/NEWS/308139968

Adams, Samuel. “Hospitals May Absorb Risk of Insurers’ Debtor Patients.” Bloogberg. (August 17, 2013). From: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-08-16/hospitals-may-pay-for-insurers-debtor-patients-under-obamacare.html

45 C.F.R. Section 156.270

About the Authors: Michael L. Smith, R.R.T., J.D., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

 

 

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Verifying Patients’ Affordable Care Act Exchange Insurance is Putting Doctors’ Office Employees Through the Ringer

10 Indest-2008-7By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The ultimate goal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is to provide millions of previously uninsured Americans with access to health care. Open enrollment does not end until March 31, 2014; however, practices are already seeing an influx of patients who have bought insurance through the exchanges. With that, some offices are reporting a new challenge being presented in doctors’ offices.

In a National Public Radio (NPR) article, some doctors’ office employees report having to call insurance companies to verify that each exchange patient is paid up. These calls are reportedly taking up to an hour or more, which costs the practice both time and resources.

Click here to read the entire NPR article.

Doctors’ Offices Used to Check Insurance Online.

In the past, practices were able to verify patients’ insurance quickly through online verification systems. However, for exchange patients, some doctors’ offices are choosing to call insurance companies to make sure the patient has paid the premium. It if is not paid, the insurance company can refuse to pay the doctor for the visit, or recoup payments already made.

Financial Risk Part of the 90-Day Grace Period Included in the ACA.

Individuals that purchased subsidized coverage through the exchanges are granted a 90-day grace period before their coverage is cancelled for nonpayment. The insurance plan is required to pay any claims incurred during the first 30 days of the grace period. However, for the next 60 days, nothing is guaranteed. If a patient visits the doctor, the insurer can “pend” the claim and wait to pay until the patient pays the premium. At the end of the 90 days, the insurer can cancel the coverage and refuse to pay the pended claims or recoup payments already made. To read a previous blog on this topic, click here.

Risk Falls on Health Care Professionals and Providers.

The rule imposes a significant risk for uncompensated care on health care providers. The rule does require insurers to tell health care providers when patients are behind on their premium payments, but the rule does not specify how the health plan will provide that notice to the providers. This is why some practices are opting to get in front of the insurance companies by calling and verifying everything is in order before proceeding with the visit. However since the calls are taking so long, this means longer hours, more overtime and higher overhead expenses.

The Office Has Options.

If the premium is not paid, the office is at risk to not receive reimbursements. Instead of taking that risk, the office can provide patients with other options. The patient could reschedule the appointment for a later date. Or the patient could pay the office in cash and then apply to the insurer for reimbursements. Either way, the practice will receive its proper payment.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in the Representation of Health Professionals and Providers.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, pain management doctors, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists and other health providers in insurance company or other third party payor reimbursements.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

Has your practice been calling insurance companies to verify patients have paid their premiums? As a health care professional or provider, are you worried you don’t have adequate financial protection? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Source:

Gold, Jenny. “Doctors’ Offices Get Put On Hold Trying to Find Out Who’s Insured.” National Public Radio. (February 25, 2014). From: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/02/25/282115303/doctors-offices-get-put-on-hold-trying-to-find-out-whos-insured

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Department of Health and Human Services Announces Mental Health Parity Final Rule

By Lance O. Leider, J.D., The Health Law Firm

On November 8, 2013, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the promulgation of the agency’s final rule related to parity of coverage of mental health and substance use treatment. According to Sebelius: “For way too long, the healthcare system has openly discriminated against Americans with behavioral health problems.”

The purpose of the regulations is to close the gaps in coverage that permit insurance carriers to treat mental and substance-abuse related treatment different from traditional medical and surgical benefits.

Among the key provisions of the regulations are the elimination of separate mental health deductibles, co-insurance, etc.; elimination of limits on lifetime benefits; as well as several other measures insuring that mental health benefits are treated on par with traditional medical and surgical benefits.

Compliance with the final rule will be required by group health plans and health insurance issuers offering group health insurance coverage on the first day of the first plan year beginning on or after July 1, 2014.

Click here to read the press release from the HHS.

Effects on Healthcare Providers.

From a business perspective, this final rule may change the type of coverage that is required to be offered by a practice to its employees. Likewise, employed practitioners may see changes in the way the coverage offered by their employers works.

Also, these rules may allow primary care providers to significantly limit their exposure to civil and administrative complaints resulting from the provision of basic mental health services. Often times patients who are unable to afford mental health coverage rely on their primary care physician for assistance. This sometimes leads to primary care doctors prescribing and managing medication for which they are inadequately trained or otherwise uncomfortable with.

By ensuring parity in coverage, primary care physicians should be able to make referrals to mental health providers with confidence that their patients will not face any artificial barriers to coverage.

Additionally, mental health providers will likely see an increase in patient volume and utilization. These increases will likely come from additional referrals from physicians as well as increased self-referrals from patients seeking to take advantage of their coverage.

Finally, with increased utilization comes increased revenue, and with increased revenue comes increased scrutiny. Private insurers have undertaken an auditing protocol that is remarkably similar to that of federal payors like Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE, etc.

Considering the abuses that have been publicized in the mental health sector and the increased scrutiny coming from federal and state governments, we expect mental health providers will receive the same or similar audit treatment from private payors.

Be Prepared for Possible Change in Mental Healthcare Field.

Should the Affordable Care Act (ACA) ultimately serve to dramatically increase the number of Americans with insurance coverage, mental health providers may find themselves at the forefront of a rapidly expanding part of the healthcare field.

Be prepared for these changes by reviewing your processes and documentation. Consult with an experienced healthcare attorney or other similarly qualified expert to make sure your practice is ready.

The Health Law Firm Supports the Mental Health Parity Rule.

The Health Law Firm fully supports the Mental Health Parity Rule. The provision of mental health services for our citizens is long overdue.

Many fail to recognize the costs paid by our society to deal with those who have mental health issues outside of the healthcare system. Jails and prisons are often the final repository for those who should receive hospital treatment. Many individuals who are homeless, who are veterans, or who have serious mental health issues could lead constructive, productive lives if they receive proper mental health treatment.

Psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors and social workers should be happy for the adoption of the regulation. In addition, law enforcement officials, judges and relatives of those with mental illness must also be thankful.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in the Representation of Mental Health Counselors, Psychologists, Social Workers, and Marital and Family Therapists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to mental health counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and family therapists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, business transactions, contracts, structuring business ventures, clinical privileges actions, professional licensure matters, Board hearings, business litigation, Medicare and Medicaid audits, and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

Were you familiar with the final mental health and substance use disorder parity rule? How do you think it will affect the mental healthcare field? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Source:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Press Office. “Administration Issues Final Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Parity Rule.” U.S. Department of Health and Humans Services. (November 8, 2013). From: http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2013pres/11/20131108b.html

About the Author: Lance O. Leider is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

 

 “The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

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