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Massage Today
November, 2011, Vol. 11, Issue 11

Take the Fear Our of Billing Insurance

By Vivian Madison-Mahoney, LMT

Have you been finding, as I have, that the days, weeks and months just keep going by faster and faster? All while each of us are trying to figure how to make a living and keep it going from one day to the next?

When it came to the money, it was always tough for me, day-by-day, wondering where the next dollar would come from, how to feed my daughters, put gas in my car, how to survive the holidays, even sometimes how to buy the next tube of toothpaste or roll of toilet paper. I know this is not new, so many of you have gone through, or may right now be going through the same thing and I certainly empathize with you.

December 17th 1984, I received my massage therapy license. After only three months in the business, I was able to repay the doctor who purchased my first massage table for me to get started. I was able to keep the clients I had obtained by hiring another therapist to provide their service while I was on vacation and I learned then how to begin to build a business, not just "do massage."

Shortly thereafter, my business began to grow as doctors began to hear of my good work and that I accepted some insurance for payment. By 1997, I counted 172 different doctors who had referred patients to me and my massage establishment. Over the years, it grew to right at 500 client/patient visits a month. Yes a MONTH! We were treating (with full hour or more sessions), 28 to 32 patients/clients a day. Like birds of a feather, they flock together. Patients tell doctors, doctors tell other doctors and attorneys, attorneys tell attorneys, insurance companies refer policyholders, and so on.

The Secret to Success

Build a great reputation and your business builds itself! I had a tremendous cash-based, outcall business. However, it was during the second week of receiving my license in hand that I received my very first insurance case. I tried this on a whim and a prayer. I took on this case knowing NOTHING about insurance billing and at that time no one to my knowledge in the country was actually accepting, billing for and being paid by insurance for massage therapy services. I had to learn it step-by-step, the hard way. Doctors from all specialties began to refer their patients to us. (Us, being myself, 8 to 14 of my on-call therapists and my office staff, consisting of an office assistant who did all of our insurance billing and collections.)

So, why am I telling you all of this? Because I KNOW what it is like to scrape with the chickens, while your heart and mind want to soar with the eagles. I know what it's like to work hard, doing 8-hour or more massage sessions in a day, from one house call to the next, each from one to two hours, bumping your butt on door knobs, squeezing you and your table in the tightest places, walking up flights of stairs, standing on hard marble floors, putting up with the weirdo's, working until 10 p.m. or 11 p.m., trying to raise three daughters and sometimes my granddaughter. I know what it's like to cry yourself to sleep because your hands ache so bad you wish you could cut them off. I know what it is like to do a massage to put gas in the car, the next massage was to feed the kids, the next massage was to buy more massage equipment or supplies, and so forth. But when the insurance checks began to arrive, it was like heaven had smiled down upon us. Life turned around on a dime for us.

This is what accepting and being paid by insurance is all about. Accepting and billing insurance is not about hard work, paperwork, how much time you spend on the phone or dealing with doctors and attorneys. It is about the good you get from it; the income, the helping of others who would otherwise never know what massage even was, or who could have never afforded it on their own. It's the freedom from wondering what will happen from one day to the next or to just get by, squeezing it out of life, as life has squeezed it out of you. When done accurately, ethically, timely and when you are ready, it can be your life changer, too!

An Example You Can Relate To

Pretend you are out in a desert, walking for hours, dying of thirst. Suddenly, you see ahead of you 10 water wells with eight of them having a notice on them of "empty." The other two assured you that you were in luck. Which of the 10 wells would you go to? Common sense, a desire for success, the fulfillment of needs and desires, for life sustaining support all are there before you just for the taking and accepting insurance is no different. You do not have to walk in the sand and heat and worry if it is out there for you. You may have to do some minor investing in time and money to get the knowledge, but then when you have it, the money is just a matter of following the procedures, guidelines, laws and rules. If you are not accepting insurance at this time, if you have tried it and for whatever reason have not been successful, If you wanted to try it but listen to the naysayers, those who did not do it or did not do it right, I urge you to take a chance again, accepting only those cases (wells) which have the money (water) for you to enjoy and survive on!

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


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