resourcesABOUT MT AUTHOR GUIDELINES CLASSIFIEDS EDITORIAL CALENDAR MEDIA GUIDE MASSAGE MART SCHOOLS & EDUCATION FEEDBACK
An Integrated Approach to Chronic Pain
Findings from a unique Medicaid pilot project in Rhode Island involving high-use Medicaid recipients from two health plans were recently presented to the state's Department of Health, demonstrating stellar outcomes with regard to medication use, ER visits, health care costs and patient satisfaction.
An Unexpected Diagnosis: The Result of Lacking Communication
A couple years ago I had a case that showed me the importance of open communication between health practitioners. We need to show up with less fear, and let go of our judgments so we can do better for the patient.
The Visual Error Scoring System: A Concussion Tool
Postural stability and oculomotor function are the most easily recognized physical indicators of neurologic motor dysfunction associated with concussions.
New Relationships, Old Trauma: AOM & Other Healing Strategies
Being in love is one the most beautiful and enjoyable experiences. Most of us are willing to pay almost any price to have that experience, and still often find it elusive or fleeting. Navigating the ups and downs of loving relationships are often challenging — even for the most psychologically balanced among us.
Is It Time to Rethink Mental Illness? (Pt. 1)
Invariably, patients will ask their chiropractor about depression or various mental illnesses. Some practitioners will reflexively offer a cervical adjustment, suggest St. John's wort or contemplate a referral to a specialist.
Creating Good Business Buzz
What do patients really think about working with you? Rarely do you hear the whole truth. Those who improve may be candid in their gratitude.
Why I Quit Doing House Calls
My father was a chiropractor who did house calls, so when I became a DC, I figured doing house calls was part of the job. My March article recalled my experience as a small boy, accompanying my dad while he went to patients' homes to treat them.
Women's Hormones: A Western & Eastern Perspective
Sometimes it may seem that you require a degree in medicine to understand hormones and how they function.
Balancing Spring Challenges
As the winter months come to a close and warmer spring weather appears, patients may begin to present with new challenging pattern presentations.
Is the New Medicare Reporting Exemption Right for You?
What you've heard is not a rumor – there will be exemptions for providers of Medicare patients, with no penalties assessed for offices that do not do Quality Payment Program (EHR, PQRS, MACRA and MIPS) reporting.
Give Yourself the Digital Advantage
When you see this article in the print version of this issue and swear you read it already, don't be alarmed: you probably did. That's because by that time, the May issue will have been available online in digital format for three weeks.
A Major Role in Back Pain: The Multifidus
Back pain affects roughly 80 percent of the population at one time or another and is one of the leading causes of doctor visits.
Universal Design: Principles & Practice
In many respects, universal design serves as the core of ergonomics. It's also a good tool to use when designing a return-to-work program for injured and/or ill patients. Let's take a closer look at universal design and why it should matter to you and your patients.
News in Brief
ACA Adopts New Governance Model; ACA 2017 Awards; CCA Helps Calif. DCs "Share the Love"; $1 Million to Help Advance the Profession; D'Youville Raises the Bar on Anatomy Education; ErRatum.
Raditation & Your Smartphone: Is it Worth the Risk?
If radial arteries could talk (and in my experience they can to some extent), they would say, "Step away from the smartphone." At least that is the message I am receiving loud and clear as I feel the pulses of many patients.
Taking the Chiropractic Message to the Press
"There is no better place on earth to have a news event," the National Press Club boasts, and it's easy to understand why: Every year, the 108-year-old Washington, D.C.-based organization hosts countless press conferences on the hottest topics impacting America and often the world.
Bill With Confidence: Learn What to Collect
Q: I am trying to understand what I may collect from my patient when there is insurance. Do I have to accept the amount allowed by the plan or may I collect up to my billed amount? Please note, I am not a member of any insurance plan.
Clearing Blocks: A Way to Improve Cosmetic Acupuncture
As a Five Element acupuncturist who teaches facial acupuncture classes nationally, I was surprised to learn that one of the basic principles I was taught in school is unfamiliar to most acupuncturists.
Eczema & Acupuncture: A Sound Solution (Part 1)
Eczema affects approximately 3.5 percent of the global population and is one of the most common skin complaints seen by dermatologists.
A Daily Strategy for Heavy-Metal Detox
In modern society, we are constantly exposed to heavy metals such as cadmium, lead and mercury. These heavy metals have no essential biochemical roles in our body, and conversely, can cause us a great deal of harm if they build up to toxic levels.
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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