A Simple Miracle: Treatment for Mysterious Foot Pain
Under the old ICD-9 diagnosis codes, there was actually a diagnosis for "adventures in medical mismanagement" to describe patients who had been run down the rabbit hole of poor case management and care. I encountered one of those patients in my office today.
VA Choice Claims Denied? Here's How You Can Get Paid
The VA Choice Program (PC3 as well) indeed pays for chiropractic care including manipulation (CMT 98940-98943) and some physical medicine services.
A Soy Isoflavone That Packs a Punch: Genistein
Soybeans contains unique substances called isoflavones, most notably genistein and daidzein, which have been shown to block the buildup the dangerous type of testosterone in the prostate gland linked to prostate enlargement and prostate cancer.
Malpractice Insurance: Understanding the Cover Letter
Purchasing medical liability insurance is quick, easy and not terribly expensive. The benefits are clearly listed on a certificate—but do you really know what you are getting with that peace of mind?
2018 Gallup-Palmer Report: Key Findings
The fourth annual Gallup – Palmer College report is out; here are some of the key findings excerpted directly from the executive summary regarding Americans' experiences with chiropractic care relative to the management of neck and back pain:
VA Chiropractic Reduces Veterans' Use of Opioids?
Utilization of pain medication – particularly opioids – has been massively high in among veterans for decades, but Veterans Administration guidelines that recommend nonpharmacological first-line treatment options create a greater opportunity than ever for VA chiropractors to make a dent in the opioid and overall pain-management crisis.
A Guide to CBD Dosing: The Correlation Between Dose & Potency
There is an abundance of information available about the daily use of whole plant hemp CBD oil to help maintain and support a healthy lifestyle, however there remains a lack of sound guidance on CBD oil dosing.
Dietary Supplements That Help Restless Leg Syndrome
It is estimated that 7-10 percent (possibly up to 15 percent) of the U.S. population has restless leg syndrome. It is a bit more common in women than men.
Goodbye, Year of the Dog: Two-Thousand-Eighteen Comes to a Close
As Year of the Dog (2018) comes to a close we can look back and see the progress this profession has made. For example, the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) added traditional medicine codes, which were released in June.
The Truth About Malpractice Claims Against DCs (Pt. 1)
Over the past 20 years of active practice, I have seen a number of scary case scenarios regarding signs, symptoms and patient presentations in my office. These presentations scream, This patient is going through an event or This patient does not need chiropractic care, they need emergency care.
Exercise Therapy Following Motor Vehicle Trauma (Pt. 2)
In cases of cervical spine trauma, particularly trauma related to a motor vehicle accident, my plan is to teach the patient one exercise per session and build a progression. This is an effective approach I call an "activation circuit."
Bad for the Back! Exercises That Can Prevent Healing
The questions "Who gets well? Who doesn't? Why?" prompted the following observations based on my close to 40 years of chiropractic practice.
Year in Review: DC's Best of the Best for 2018
As 2018 winds down, let's highlight the most popular articles in Dynamic Chiropractic by month (December – this issue – excluded, of course).
Acupuncture in Hospital Systems: Transitioning From Tolerated to Celebrated
I've had the pleasure of working with Susan Luria, Director of University Hospitals Health Systems Connor Integrative Health Network (CIHN) for the past year on the Integrative Health Policy Consortium (IHPC) Board of Directors and Federal Policy Committee.
Reaching for Our Roots: Healing Digestion With a Simple Traditional Therapy
Are you ignoring a powerful tool in your doctor's bag? Many acupuncturists realize that Spleen Qi deficiency has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. Yet, we don't prioritize educating our patients about the importance of warm, cooked foods.
Reality Check: Do We Need to Try Harder?
While waiting for a flight to a recent chiropractic event, I overheard the ticket agent at the gate next to mine on his cellphone. His side of the conversation went something like this: "Where are you now? How long before you think you can be at the gate? OK, that will work, see you soon."
A New President for AOMA: A Conversation With Mary Faria
Dr. Faria was formerly a health care executive for over 30 years, the last 17 of those years as vice president and chief operating officer of Seton Southwest Hospital in Austin. She chairs the board of Austin Mayor's Health and Fitness Council.
Knocking Down the Doors: Big Media Success for F4CP
Three articles authored by a DC or a chiropractic organization and promoting the value of chiropractic care – par for the course if you're Dynamic Chiropractic, but if you're Forbes, BOSS Magazine and Becker's Spine Review, three media outlets tailored toward high-level executives and decision-makers, we're talking about an entirely different story.
Acupuncture is a Science-Based Medicine
A longstanding patient of mine came in for a routine treatment after she recently began seeing a chiropractor for neck pain. She saw him a couple of times and wasn't getting the relief she had hoped for, so he recommended she let him do dry needling.
Cynicism and Burnout: It Can Happen to You
Trying to achieve fulfillment as a doctor in today's health care environment is a "rigged game" and physicians are programmed to burn out. At least this is the opinion of Dike Drummond, MD, in his thehappymd.com blog.
The Top 5 Strategies to Manage Your Reputation Online
You don't need an acupuncture website anymore! Okay, maybe that statement is a little over the top. But it's not that far from the truth. A recent study on Google searches revealed that 34 percent of all searches resulted in no clicks at all.
The Raw Food Debate: Practitioners Discuss Nutrition & TCM
Licensed acupuncturist and fellow blogger Elissa Gonda joins this month's column for a conversation about raw food diets. She brings her perspective on the healing potential of a raw primal diet.
Electrotherapy Gives Hope for Patients With Spinal Cord Injury
There has been little optimism for recovery from a spinal cord injury because the central nervous system does not repair itself well. The severity of the injury depends on the affected area.
News in Brief
A Comprehensive Model of Spine Care; Dr. Christine Goertz Appointed Vice Chair of PCORI Board of Governors.
Map It: Understanding the Customer's Journey
One of the biggest marketing mistakes most practice owners or administrators make is not putting themselves in their prospective or current patients' shoes. How do they think and feel about you and your practice? What makes them take action?
October, 2009, Vol. 9, Issue 10
An Issue of Reimbursement
By Vivian Madison-Mahoney, LMT
Most patients and massage therapists are not aware of the fact that "massage therapy" and/or "manual therapy techniques/myofascial release" is a covered service by most insurers, including Medicare and self-insured employer plans which fall under the Federal guidelines of ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act).
However, there is a catch.
While insurance companies do pay for the services we perform, they do not directly reimburse us for our services. Instead insurers will pay PTs, MDs or DCs who have massage therapists on staff. (I might add at increased costs to employers and insurers.) Therefore, we are not faced with the issue of getting insurers to reimburse for our services; it is an issue of getting them to directly pay those who perform this hands-on, intensive, time-consuming work.
Patients typically must go through practitioners who have massage therapists on staff to receive full insurance coverage. But many practitioners do not have massage therapists/bodyworkers on their staff. In this case, a treating physician may write a prescription for medically necessary massage/manual services for the patient. However, because the patient is dealing with a referral (and a non-staff therapist), the patient will very likely have to pay out-of-pocket for the service. As a result, many patients will simply choose not to pay for the much-needed treatment.
I have no objections to physicians, chiropractors, etc. hiring massage therapists to perform work in their offices as an employee or independent contractor if this is what both parties prefer. However, more often than not, I hear that both the therapist and physician would rather work on a referral basis. Unfortunately, this is only possible now with liability type insurance and a few health insurance exceptions. Therefore, only very limited coverage is available to patients in comparison to what would be available if insurers provided coverage and direct reimbursement for all medical referrals to massage therapists.
The Time Is Right
Health insurance coverage is expanding as we educate insurers, legislators, employers and the public to the benefits of massage. Employers across the nation (including insurance companies) have massage therapists come to their offices to provide stress relief massage therapy to their employees and incorporate massage therapy in their wellness programs. They are beginning to understand and value the benefits of massage therapy when performed by those who are trained and licensed to provide this service. However, they do not yet realize the cost-effective savings of reimbursing massage therapists directly.
If insurers or employer group plans allowed direct reimbursement to state-licensed, certified or trained therapists to provide therapy for prescribed medical conditions through their health insurance programs, employees would be able to better stay on the job, return to work faster after injury, and be more productive. Reimbursing other practitioners for services provided by massage therapists only increases insurance companies' payments as they are paying a "middle-man", costing them more in the long run. If other health insurers, Medicare and the VA directly reimbursed state licensed and/or certified massage practitioners, their costs could be considerably reduced due to direct provider reimbursement. Direct reimbursement to those providing the services would also decrease patient's co-pays and in some cases, their deductibles.
As mentioned, most of us who have been accepting insurance cases have only been successful with liability type insurance cases such as auto, work, or slip-and-fall as well as some health insurance situations. When I began in this field in 1984 no one was billing insurance for massage. To my knowledge not many physicians knew about massage therapy as a benefit to their patients. Before I sold my practice, in one county alone, more than 172 physicians were referring patients to my office. Now they are doing it across the nation. They understand the benefits to their patients.
Now is the time to make insurance companies, self-insured employers, Medicare, VA and private health insurers understand the value of these services and savings to them as well.
I know, some are against direct reimbursement. Some worry that their fees will be lowered if insurance companies were able to reimburse them. But reimbursement would be an option; therapists would not be obligated to change their way of doing business or forced to accept insurance for reimbursement. We need to always protect our rights to choose as well.
But, I can say this: since 1984 when I began billing insurance and since 1990 when I began providing CE courses on insurance billing procedures, laws and rules to massage therapists, I haven't seen any massage therapist doing any worse because of it. If we were directly reimbursed by health insurance companies, working under the prescriptive orders of a physician and only able to make what the going Medicare or state workers' compensation fee schedules are, it would surely be more rewarding for those therapists losing business from out-of-pocket patient referrals.
I know for myself, we worked on volume, charging extremely low fees such as $58.50 and $65 per hour (or more), and built a massage practice earning a half million a year back in the late 80s and early 90s. There are many therapists who would be happy to make anything working in a field they love rather than wondering where the next dollar is coming from or searching for other forms of income as, sadly, I so often see these days. So if money were pretty much guaranteed, would it not be better to have the capability to accept or reject new clients/patients as your office (or hands) permitted?
When contacting an insurance company, many massage therapists hear the following: "We will reimburse a PT or MD to provide massage therapy or manual therapy services but not a massage therapist." "We do not allow massage therapists to become in-network or participating providers." While we may complain that this seems like discrimination, it will not change things as they are. We need to work together to change the way insurers reimburse for physician-prescribed services.
What's Your Take?
I realize reimbursement is not for every therapist. For those of you who command much higher fees, you may be concerned by this possibility. I want to hear from therapists on both sides of the issue.
As a health care advocate, I'm requesting feedback and possible future assistance from those interested in helping to reform the way health insurers, Medicare, VA and employer group plans reimburse for massage/manual therapy services.
Please email me at or send mail to: Massage Today/MPA Media, 5406 Bolsa Avenue, Huntington Beach, CA 92649.
Your input is welcome and appreciated!
Click here for previous articles by Vivian Madison-Mahoney, LMT.
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