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The Acupuncturist's Problem
I want share with you some observations and insights into what seems to be the most common problem my colleagues in the acupuncture profession struggles with. If you also struggle with this problem, I hope you get a valuable "aha" moment from reading this.
Term Limits: What's in a Word?
It was the French historian and philosopher Voltaire who once declared the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy nor Roman nor an empire.
PCOM Granted Regional Accreditation
Pacific College of Oriental Medicine (PCOM) recently announce it has received regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). This achievement reflects five years of hard work on the part of faculty, staff, and students.
A House Divided?
The American Chiropractic Association's House of Delegates voted on 30 resolutions at its annual business meeting in Washington D.C., but two in particular took immediate center stage due to their controversial nature.
Low Back Pain in Professional Golf: A Common Muscular Relationship
Every sport creates its own unique demands on the body. Some sports require such a myriad of body positions that assessing pathology is often difficult and unpredictable.
Applying the Thin Skull Principle
The "thin skull" principle, also known as the "you take your victim as you find them" principle, is a legal principle that can be summed up by the following statement.
Medicine is Clumsy, Don't You Be
All medical systems have clumsiness in them. If the technique isn't, the practitioner is. Everyone in every form of medicine is striving to improve. That is why we call it practice.
Marijuana, Apathy and Chinese Medicine, Part 1
This article was written in response to the unheeded acceptance of marijuana as a harmless substance that potentially does good when used for the medical relief of pain.
5 Simple Steps to Create an Effective Marketing Calendar
In the educational experience of most healthcare practitioners, business and marketing are overlooked topics.
The Tide is Rising in the Acupuncture Profession
Former President Ronald Regan said, "When the tide rises all boats float." The tide is rising for the acupuncture profession. Many forces outside the profession are helping the tides to rise.
Turning a Blind Eye to History – and Reality
The American Medical Association is taking the Supreme Court's Feb. 25, 2015 decision exactly as it always does – by turning a blind eye to history, legal precedent and reality.
Talking to Patients About Lumbar Facet Denervation (Medial Branch Neurotomy)
Lumbar facet denervation, more appropriately termed medial branch neurotomy (MBN), is a procedure that may be considered when patients suffer from recalcitrant non-radicular axial back and/or leg pain.
A View From the ER
The University of Western States has inked an innovative agreement with local nonprofit health system Legacy Health whereby UWS sports-medicine fellows can experience observational clinical rotations in emergency-room settings within the Legacy system.
Optimism = Compassion = Trust
A randomized clinical trial recently published online in JAMA Oncology examined how patients viewed their doctor based upon how the practitioner presented bad news to the patient.
5 Tips for Using Pinterest to Market Your Practice
Pinterest is a very popular, but often under-utilized, social media platform where people can bookmark, or "pin," fun and interesting things from all across the internet.
Animal Acupuncture: A Case Study in the Treatment of Traumatic Injury in the Equine
The rise of animal acupuncture in the U.S. began in the early 1970's as a result of the work by members of the National Acupuncture Association in Westwood, Calif.
Functional Hip Impingement (Part 1)
Every time I sit down to write an article, I realize how much more there is to know about musculoskeletal pain. I also learn something new every time. (I want to give special thanks to Lucy Whyte Ferguson for assisting with this article.)
The Challenges of Integrating Eastern and Western Medicine
My Masters thesis was titled, "The Challenges of Integrating Eastern and Western Medicine," which highlighted several reasons why it is hard for these two worlds to mix.
Sleep, Less Sleep or No Sleep?
I had a dream I wasn't getting enough sleep. It was a very realistic dream, even though I was probably slightly awake and not really deep dreaming. Most likely I had been dozing, caught in that twilight of sleep and wakefulness.
Integrating Art with Clinical Practice for Patients with PTSD: The Artemis Project
Are you restricted by those one-on-one clinic dynamics? Why not join colleagues and clients in experimental group settings? Three of us volunteered to do just that in Austin on behalf of women veteranss from all branches of the service.
October, 2002, Vol. 02, Issue 10
By Vivian Madison-Mahoney, LMT
While it seems there are no laws regarding fees that may be charged to patients or insurance companies, there are certainly ethical and other considerations.
I am asked frequently to write about or offer my opinion on massage therapist fees.This is a sensitive subject with some, and therefore a difficult subject for me to write about. I ask you to please bear in mind when reading this article that mitigating circumstances may modify what one may charge or expect for reimbursement.
I am not recommending fees, but offering my opinion and suggestions, which are based upon personal experiences. My experiences consist of 16 years of billing and being reimbursed by insurance companies for prescribed medical cases referred to our office. Experience also comes from 37 court appearances, hearings and depositions. My opinions and advice also are based on communications with insurance companies, auditing companies, and defense attorneys. I am asked often about the legal and/or ethical billing practices of massage therapists, including fees and codes used. Finally, my recommendations are based on reports of denials or reductions from those who charge high rates and call or e-mail me later asking what they should do.
Insurance companies will not tell you what you can charge. However, they do set the amounts they will pay. Insurance companies normally reimburse at the established usual, customary and reasonable, (UCR) rate per geographical region.
I know some people who teach billing to massage therapists and advise them that they can or should bill high -- upward of $145 - $175 or more per visit. In my opinion, this is totally outrageous. Their explanation or reasoning for this is that insurance companies will pay it, usually based upon RBRVS.
According to the glossary of terms in the 2001 edition of the American Medical Association (AMA) publication Medicare RBRVS: The Physicians' Guide, RBRVS is defined as follows:
RBRVS takes into consideration the cost of a physician's practice overhead, rent, staff salaries and benefits, medical equipment and supplies. It is one of three resource cost components included in the formula for computing Medicare payment schedule amounts. Another of the three resource cost components includes the physician's work. "Physicians work includes the physician's individual effort in providing a service, which includes time, technical difficulty of the procedure, severity of the patient's condition, and the physical and mental effort required to provide the service."
You and I both know that our overhead cost of doing business and professional liability insurance are nowhere near a physician's costs, not even taking into consideration the work components involved. So if you think you are worth the same fee as a physician, or think you should charge outrageously high rates, please think twice. (A recent report stated that most physicians' medical malpractice insurance is in excess of $250,000 a year, causing some physicians to have to retire early or relocate their practices to other states).
For example, some insurers may allow as much as $45 per each unit or 15 minutes of treatment for CPT Code 97140, Manual Therapy Techniques. Does this mean we need to be billing that much? No! Does that mean we need to be reducing our fees per code to $10-$15 per unit? No! Billing too low can be as bad as billing too high. Carriers enter codes and fees into a database. They later establish usual, customary, and reasonable fees, according to fees and codes entered in their databases per geographic region.
If we bill too low, we harm the other professionals who may use these codes and who have a higher cost of doing business incorporated in their fee structure. By the same token, if we charge too much, we harm ourselves in several ways:
When I began working with insurance companies in 1984-85, we billed our prescribed cases at $56 per hour of therapy, later raising our fees to $65. We retained this fee for many years. The maximum fee we ever billed from our office was $95 with one or more modalities added, and only when prescribed. (This did not include special services or initial visit fees.)
If all insurance companies suddenly got together and decided that our services were costing them more than it was worth, what would we do? What would those patients who need our services do? Unfortunately, most insurers do not really care about patient recovery, prevention of medical problems, etc. Insurance companies care about the bottom line: cutting costs and saving money!
We have just begun to get our feet in the door and be recognized and accepted by insurance companies. Make no mistake; we have a long, long way to go.
What type of wage were you making before you became a massage therapist? Many of us were making minimum wage, if that. What makes us think that, just because we obtained a license with minimal training, we should now be making the same as others who have invested untold capital and spent years of training and residency time?
In the past few years, I have seen and heard of too many therapists just out of school who thought they could earn a ton of money without having to work for it. With this attitude, it is impossible to achieve any great level of success. (If it is possible, will someone please tell me how?) I have heard of massage therapists who complain to patients that they are not making enough money when working for a chiropractor or in another therapist's establishment. They complain to clients that they are only being paid $25 (or more). They complain, while working in a clean, quiet, air-conditioned room, with no overhead or worries, to clients who work in 95 to 100 degree weather or in rain and snow and make only $8 per hour. Now tell me, how in the world do you think that makes clients feel? Do you think they will feel sorry for therapists, especially when it is their $8 per hour that is being scrounged and saved to pay for massage? (This may be exaggerated a bit, but I guarantee, not by much). My husband, for example, a licensed funeral director and embalmer, managed a multimillion-dollar funeral home earning only $20 per hour. He certainly does not feel sorry for us when we complain about what we earn.
We need to reassess our values, training and goals. If we don't, what we have all worked so hard for will be priced right out of reach of the average person, and massage will be right back where it once was, available only to the wealthy as a luxury treatment.
Yes, we work hard -- probably harder than any other health care professional. Our work involves constant giving, caring, and it requires great physical effort. Additional educational training is expensive and time-consuming. Setting up our offices with the best equipment and supplies is expensive, too. I have been there, I know! But we still do not fall into physician or other health care provider categories when it comes to expense and time involved.
We are so fortunate to be in a profession that has grown so much and been so widely accepted in such a few short years, so to put it bluntly, let's not screw it up!
Let the following be your guide for rate setting:
As I was sitting down to write this article, I received a call from a defense attorney in Orlando, Florida regarding a therapist's billing practices. In this particular case, I believe I helped prevent the therapist's bills from being denied and avoided a potentially embarrassing court proceeding. However, it is not always that easy, especially when I am deposed to testify, as has happened before. I do not like testifying, or even indicating to an attorney or an insurer that a therapist is possibly in the wrong. I want to help you, not go against you!
Click here for more information about Vivian Madison-Mahoney, LMT.
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