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Massage Today
January, 2009, Vol. 09, Issue 01

Insurance Acceptance and the Economy

By Vivian Madison-Mahoney, LMT

Unfortunately for some, the time has come. During these economically difficult times many therapists are expressing to me that they are now more than ever so grateful that they had taken the time and made the investment to learn how to accept, bill and be paid by some insurance for their client's therapy. At the same time, many therapists are now calling to request information about insurance billing, asking how they too can accept insurance because their clientele has dropped considerably due to the current economy.

Here is an example: A physician writes a prescription for a patient who is covered by insurance for an injury case. It doesn't matter that the patient may have lost their job, may have difficulty paying bills, buying groceries or gasoline. If they are legitimately injured, have insurance and their physician writes a prescription for medically necessary treatment, and you are the massage therapist willing to learn to properly accept and bill their insurance for reimbursement, you will be the one getting paid!

I'd like to share a true story with you; many of you will recall Hurricane Andrew. On Aug. 24, 1992, just before dawn, this hurricane nearly wiped Homestead, Fla. off the map, slamming into the entire city of 26,000 people as a Category 5 storm. Winds of up to 155 mph caused the loss of 23 lives, leaving no building untouched with damages costing insurance companies $26.5 billion. During the next recovering year or so, the insurance companies were holding onto their money in the process of deciding how they were going to cover and recover their losses due to this massive storm. Causing devastating financial hardship to several physicians, it was reported that many of them left Florida due to late or nonpayment of claims.

My massage therapy establishment was unbelievably successful. At the time of Hurricane Andrew, we were treating 23 to 27 insurance patients a day. During this time, insurance was slow to pay and we had a very difficult time keeping our heads above water. It was without a doubt a disheartening time. It was even more disheartening when I had to hold a meeting with the massage therapists working for me to inform them that we had two choices: close our doors or pay them $15 a session instead of the $25 to $35 some of them were making. I promised them if they would stay and accept $15 per session while we were going through these hard times, I would pay them the balance owed plus a $5 bonus per session, if and when we pulled through this crisis.

Not one therapist left me, and in about six months I was able to pay every one of the 12 therapists the entire amount I had promised! Not only did I pay the therapists but also my incredible landlord, a chiropractor, who knew my word was my bond and trusted me to pay when I could. As my rent of $3,900 a month began to get several months behind it became a very scary situation. Through it all, I kept my faith that all would work in our favor, and it did! I paid the doctor in full including even the free month he offered me.

Is accepting insurance always easy? Is life always easy? Are there ever any guarantees? No, but as in any situation, you have to do what you have to do. Preparing ahead is always best but if you have not been accepting insurance for your clients, why not start planning now to help in those times where money is tight? In economically hard times, I found that even the Palm Beach residents held on to their money or tried to get the best discount rates when they paid cash for their massage services.

Over and over, I thank God for opening those insurance doors and for physician referrals because it was only through this avenue that we were able to grow. It was only through this avenue that I was able to have several therapists working for me so that I was able to be with my family and by my youngest daughter's side when she was in an accident, spending months in intensive care and years in rehab centers. It was the kindness of not only friends and family but of our wonderful, caring patients and their referring physicians that helped see us through those very trying times.

It was only through this avenue that I was able to help so many injured and disabled patients through their physical, and even some of life's, challenges. When their insurance companies discouraged them, I was able to lift their spirits, show them the way, help them fight for their rights and otherwise, help them through their own trying times. I was able to learn and grow and am now able to help several other therapists to find a new life as I was so fortunate to do through accepting insurance for reimbursement.

I would like to wish everyone a very safe, healthy and prosperous New Year and thanks to all of my readers for your kindness and support in 2008!!

Click here for previous articles by Vivian Madison-Mahoney, LMT.


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