resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
When Big Pharma Meets Chinese Medicine
Earlier this year, Bayer made a media splash with their decision to buy the Dihon Pharmaceutical Group Co., a Chinese TCM manufacturer.
The Science Behind Happiness
Are you happy right now? Whether yes or no, there are a myriad of reasons why you feel that way. A whole academic discipline has developed to find out what causes or obstructs happiness, and how to amplify it.
Thoracolumbar Syndrome: The Great Mimic
The thoracolumbar junction is a common area of joint dysfunction. The most obvious cause is dysfunctional breathing or lack of diaphragmatic breathing. Treating this breathing problem will ultimately be the long-term cure for the syndrome.
Help Secure Our Future by Sharing It
The National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE) conducts one of the most comprehensive surveys of the U.S. chiropractic profession every 4-5 years.
The Truth About Herbs
I appreciate the effort and research put into the article written in the June issue of Acupuncture Today regarding pesticides and Chinese herbs.
A Glimpse Into China's Top Brain Hospital
The sounds of the city pass through the open window are overwhelming the microphone - car horns, construction machinery - and then there's the family at the adjacent bed talking loudly on cell phones, yet you can still hear the faint beep of our patients monitoring equipment.
The Spirit of the Point
After receiving a large amount of positive feedback on my San Zhen Protocols series, I have decided to focus this article on some relevant clinical aspects of acupuncture therapy prior to moving on to San Zhen Protocols III.
A Healthy Dose of Failure is Vital to Your Success
As an acupuncturist I tend to see people after they have already suffered for years and "tried everything." They are so desperate for some relief that they want to know everything about how to get better, right now.
MPA Media Wins Seven Publishing Awards
MPA Media, publisher of Acupuncture Today, among other titles, has been recognized for editorial and design excellence with an unprecendented seven publishing awards by the ASBPE, the nation's largest organization for business-to-business publications.
News in Brief
NBCE Launches Computer-Based Testing Era; California Chiropractors Get Expanded DOT Exam Privileges; New Jeff Hays Documentary.
History of Animal Acupuncture: Part II
In Part I of this article, I had gone back to 1969 and tried to describe the atmosphere and events of that year that engulfed many of the younger generation, some who were all the core members of the National Acupuncture Association.
Improving Our Political Effectiveness
The November 2014 elections are right around the corner; members of Congress, governors and state legislators are all running. Now is a good time to talk frankly about our overall political involvement.
Thoughts to Live By
When speaking to your patients about their health make sure to ponder the following points and have them assess if they are making themselves even more sick by the thoughts they have about life. Are these some of the traits and thoughts that your patients might have?
If You Get a Request for Records, Respond!
In our previous two articles, we discussed two of the main reasons for denial when chiropractic records are reviewed by Medicare contractors.
Let the Patient Tell Their Story
Often when a patient presents with an injury, they want to tell their story. People by nature like to talk about themselves, particularly when they're worried about their health.
Medicalization and Mindfulness
The past several years have seen a veritable explosion of research on mindfulness. Research abstracts we've published in each issue of Health Insights Today under the heading "Mind-Body News" have increasingly reported on studies about mindfulness interventions.
Healing Community Trauma in Israel and Palestine
It's the beginning of August and Israel and Hamas have just agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire after a month of brutal fighting. In the last four weeks, 1,830 Palestinians and 67 Israelis have been killed.
Uncle Sam Needs You
Scrutiny into the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) continues to grow after efforts to reform the DVA by the former Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, were deemed "a stunning period of dysfunction" by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
The Problem With Prolonged Sitting
We need to constantly talk to our patients about spending less time sitting and about what can go wrong with poor sitting postures. The fact is we sit too long in repetitive malpositions.
A Commonly Missed Spinal Fixation: The Upper Lumbar Spine (Part 1)
When we think of lower back pain, we tend to think in terms of the lower lumbar spine and the SI joint. These joints and their discs are obviously important. However, we tend to miss fixations that occur just above – in the upper lumbar spine. Three questions come to mind: 1) Why is the upper lumbar spine so important? 2) Why do we miss the fixations here? 3) How can we adjust them?
Get Ready For AOM Day
This year, AOM Day 2014 falls on Friday, (October 24th). This is a great opportunity to make your AOM Day celebration or event even bigger by extending it throughout the weekend!
September, 2004, Vol. 04, Issue 09
We Get Letters and E-Mail
By Editorial Staff
Editor's note: The following letters are in response to Vivian Madison-Mahoney's article, "A Word About Insurance Reimbursement," which appeared in the April issue. www.massagetoday.com/archives/2004/04/12.html.
Differing Perspectives on Insurance Billing
I have been practicing massage therapy for 21 years, and billing insurance for about 15 years.I am in this profession for the long haul; if I wanted to get rich quick, I would not be doing massage for a living. However, that does not mean I can afford to ignore sensible business practices!
Unlike Vivian Madison-Mahoney, I believe that billing "just a bit more" for injury rehabilitation is bad business and bad political strategy. One needs to understand the differences between the relaxation and rehabilitation massage markets to understand why. Unlike most other health care providers, massage therapists work in two separate markets. I believe that confusing the two markets has led to charges of greed, fraud and abuse by commentators like Ms. Madison-Mahoney.
Most of us work in the relaxation market, in which rates are determined by what individuals can afford to pay. A few of us also work in the injury rehabilitation market, in which rates are determined by what insurance companies are willing to pay. Both of these markets are self-regulating. If I charge more than individuals are willing to pay for relaxation massage, then they will not hire me to work on them. If I charge more than insurance companies are willing to pay for rehabilitation, then they cut my reimbursement. The similarity ends there.
When I do a relaxation massage, I do work that requires minimal training and experience. No clinical expertise is required. The client pays me right away, and I have no extra duties to perform afterward. The techniques of rehabilitation massage are specific and demanding, and they require much more training and experience to perform well. Furthermore, I have legal and ethical responsibilities to my rehabilitation clients that simply do not exist for my relaxation clients. I do a thorough intake assessment, take copious treatment notes, and fill out umpteen numbers of forms. I have to get a doctor's referral, including ICD-9 diagnostic codes. I have to call the insurance companies involved - sometimes, many times - to make certain that I will eventually get paid. I frequently have to get letters of protection and third-party liens to protect my financial interests. I send progress reports to referring doctors who want them. On top of all that, I have to bill the insurance company myself and wait months (or even years) for payment.
The only similarities between the relaxation and rehabilitation massage markets are the hands-on nature of the work and the licensing status of the practitioner. Three kinds of insurance pay for massage therapy: health insurance, workers' compensation and auto insurance. Health insurance routinely pays for massage therapy in only two states: Florida and Washington. Lawsuits in state courts opened these markets. In other states, health insurance policies rarely cover massage, and those that do typically charge higher premiums for the privilege. Outfits that contract with therapists who are willing to charge lower rates are not offering insurance! They offer the illusion of insurance; clients still pay the discounted bill out-of-pocket. Workers' compensation policies vary from state to state.
Most states will pay us, but coding can be idiosyncratic and reimbursement rates vary. On the other hand, auto insurance has covered massage therapy in most states for years. In my experience, they will usually pay 145 percent to 185 percent of the standard Medicare rates for the specialized physical medicine (97---) codes we use. They pay massage therapists the same amount they pay physical therapists and chiropractors for similar work, regardless of experience. I send auto insurance companies a bill that I consider reasonable, and they pay it almost every time. I can see no reason to charge less money than other health care professionals do for similar services, especially when my work is often more effective. Of course, I will never receive the payment I deserve if I do not ask for it.
Ms. Madison-Mahoney implies that massage therapists who charge rates determined by the insurance market are taking unfair advantage of patients and defrauding insurance companies. Hogwash! If I charged the same rates for injury rehabilitation and relaxation massage, I would be cheating my clients who were injured in motor vehicle accidents caused by others. The medical bills in such cases help determine compensatory damage awards for the clients' pain and suffering. I believe that charging artificially low rates actually harms other therapists and the profession itself by undervaluing our skills.
Ms. Madison-Mahoney also states that insurance companies are reducing fees paid to massage therapists. That is true in some places, but insurance companies have been doing the same thing to all health care providers for several years. Reduced payments to providers reflects endemic problems with our health care system, not specific problems with massage therapists overcharging for services, as Ms. Madison-Mahoney claims. Massage therapists already reduce insurance companies' costs by providing treatments that are more effective and less expensive than the alternatives. For example, massage therapists probably save insurance companies millions of dollars each year by eliminating the need for costly surgeries.
When we prove it with research, the insurance industry will be sending us more work than we can imagine. I do not presume to tell other therapists what fees to charge; however, I do believe that therapists who do not consider the economics of the health care industry when making billing decisions are doing a disservice to themselves, their clients and the massage therapy profession as a whole.
Keeping our fees artificially low only encourages insurance companies to devalue our services. I believe that they will only respect massage therapy as a health care profession when we insist on fair payments that reflect our actual worth. Yes, that means taking legal action if necessary.
Remember that the chiropractic profession only broke the monopoly of the medical orthodoxy by winning an antitrust lawsuit against the American Medical Association. I prefer other options, but I am not opposed to legal action when necessary.
Donald F. Schiff, BS
I believe that the current differences we have regarding fee billing will disappear when we get the codes we need. There will be no need for exaggerated claims and convoluted arguments to justify how we bill. No one will bother trying to do things like using unacceptable interpretations of modifiers to create multiple fee schedules. In 2006, we likely will have an evaluation code. It will carry with it a recommended per-unit fee value, which will allow us to account for our evaluation time separately from our therapeutic time. Following that code will be a code for management purposes, which will allow us to bill for our office management expense. Along with that code will come recommended fee values per unit.
I think it is clear that trying to have a therapeutic code cover the costs incurred for doing business is an inappropriate strategy. Therapeutic codes are for the purpose of billing for the therapy only, not evaluation or paperwork. Attaching evaluation and management to a therapeutic code makes the per-unit value meaningless and useless for statistical and research purposes. It destroys our ability to prove the cost-effectiveness of our therapy. It is a short-term, thoughtless strategy.
The issue then will be to determine how much to charge per unit for our therapeutic work alone, which will be much easier to determine without evaluation and office management attached to the therapeutic codes. The appropriate fee for therapeutic work that I prefer is whatever the market will bear - as long as it is the same fee for the same service. In other words, you must charge your cash client the same as your insurance client for the therapeutic work done.
When we reach this point, we can have cash client fees lower than insurance fees because we would not have the same office management expense. That will provide the price differential many seem to be trying to achieve in other ways. The price differential will be a clear unambiguous difference in service provided. If we are lucky, the ABC codes, or at least some of them, will be accepted and provide us with many codes.
Office management, coding issues and billing need to be taught in our schools using professionalism in business conduct as the standard. The damage being done to our profession will stop when our associations step forward to enunciate the principles by which we are expected to conduct this aspect of our businesses. The profession needs the guidance, which only the associations can provide.
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