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Getting Paid Directly from Medicare


So I want to talk about Medicare because there are so many things that are confusing or misunderstood or misrepresented…

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Disclaimer: The following is an actual transcript. We do our best to make sure the transcript is as accurate as possible, however, it may contain spelling or grammatical errors.  Due to the unique language of acupuncture, there will be errors, so we suggest you watch the video while reading the transcript.

Billing expert for acupuncture and the American Acupuncture Council network, as well as the American Acupuncture Council Malpractice Insurance. With another time to get with you to update you on what’s going on, what’s changing to make sure your practice is thriving. Remember the American Acupuncture Council was always your partner.

If you have a question and need an answer, trust me, we’re there for you. So what are we going to talk about? Medicare. So let’s go to the slot. So I want to talk about Medicare because there’s so many things that are confusing or misunderstood or misrepresented that I think are going about. And I’m getting so many calls and requests for this, whether it’s people on my network or coming to seminars, what is going on with Medicare?

What does it really cover? And what is the. Differences between Medicare part, B and C who pays me. So I want to make sure there’s a clear understanding. Regular Medicare part B is what you see on the left side here, that standard Medicare card, but you’re going to know a lot of people have something else called Medicare advantage.

And so we want to kind of talk a little bit about that to make sure there’s a really clear understanding of what’s going on because of course you are being in a. With people requesting information or saying, I heard it’s covered. Take a look at some of these ads. The upper left is from a RP where they put out, Hey, Medicare will cover acupuncture for back pain out or regular med take care of patients sees these types of things and thinks, well, I want to get the care because notice even blue cross blue shield has an ad for it.

In addition, here’s another one, indicating a zero acupuncture for 24 visits. And this was a commercial where they literally show acupuncture on the commercial. Realize acupuncture has become a commodity. For these plans because it’s their way of enticing people to get their plan. Ooh, join ours because there’s a benefit.

Now the confusion of course, is what are the differences between this part a and part B and really what is Medicare? Well, who are the Medicare patients? Will Medicare patients, is it going to be people 65? Obviously, at least as long as you’ve paid into Medicare, I think for 10 years you will automatically get Medicare benefits when 65.

But remember Medicare is not just for people over 65. There could be some people who are younger that have a permanent disability and as a consequence are entitled to Medicare. So don’t be surprised when a Medicare patient is younger, but it also could be people with end stage renal disease, probably not ones that we would see, but certainly the.

Now what’s going on with Medicare is understanding the types of Medicare. Now we have standard Medicare part a, which is the one everyone gets it’s hospitalization when you go to the hospital. But the one we’re speaking of is very typical as well. And it’s Medicare part B I’ll call that traditional Medicare.

So this is the original Medicare benefit that covers going to the hostel. Going to a doctor’s office and having a drug benefit. Now, the good news is these people can use it. Anyone within the system, does it matter? The state and Medicare pays its portion and the patient pays 20% of it. So not bad, a good, nice coverage for people who are over 65, for those that don’t remember prior to the implementation of Medicare, many people who are older would literally go bankrupt with any illness.

So this has been something that’s been quite the good, safe. Bottom line though, is what’s going on for acupuncture? That’s what we’re concerned about. So you notice I have it in red here and it says acupuncture is covered, but it says for chronic low back pain, only under direct supervision of a medical provider.

So all of a sudden, well, yeah, But it’s only covered when done under medical supervision. So that makes it somewhat limited. The low back pain of course is limitations for it as well. But nonetheless, the supervision makes it hard. And part of that reason is acupuncturists have not yet become Medicare providers.

We need to get a bill, which we already have one going. That’s going to make acupuncture providers under the social security, social security. To be part of Medicare. So until we get that, we’re going to be stuck with this type of issue of needing the supervision or, or referral, if you will, from a medical provider, that bill is being moved and hopefully we’ll see something in the next couple of years, but this is kind of the cart before the horse.

If you think that Medicare was really going to first do a study of how good acupuncture could be to see if it was working or not, the evidence was so overwhelming, they decided to cover it. The problem. The cart before the horses while they’re covering it. But because acupuncture’s can’t join, Medicare is still had to have some tangential way of getting in, which means under the medical provider, meaning for traditional Medicare part B, it still has to be billed by a provider within Medicare.

And that’s limited to basically medical providers, so that one’s a little more complicated or a little more difficult, but nonetheless, still the late. Let’s talk about though. Also what a lot of you are experiencing and misunderstanding is there’s this second type of Medicare that’s often referred to as a Medicare advantage plan, or also known as a Medicare parts seen.

I know of those letters can be confusing, but I like to think of it as a Medicare advantage plan. What a Medicare advantage plan is a way for a Medicare patient to literally chip trade their Medicare benefits to this point. And then this plan takes over for the benefits and it’s under companies like United healthcare, Aetna, Cigna, all these ones offer them and they have to offer all the same benefits as regular Medicare.

Sometimes it’s actually even cheaper. Which to me is interesting. When you think of it, how is it that we can manage Medicare patients for like 500, 600 a month in premium yet when we buy premiums for someone that’s younger, it’s thousands of dollars. Well, that’s because it’s insurance companies making sure.

Bottom line though, is that these plans have to cover exactly as Medicare does. So in other words, they have to cover the low back pain, just like Medicare to however many of these fines. And you’ll see this in a second. The last bullet offer extra benefits like acupuncture, and these can be built directly by an acupuncturist to the plan without being part of quote unquote.

Now, some of these plans may require you enroll, and I frankly will have no problem with enrolling because it only gets you into the one and gives you access. These can be pretty darn good, but let’s understand the. Traditional Medicare part B regular. Again, acupuncture is a benefit now, but chronic low back pain only, and up to 20 visits a year or so, not bad.

What it says though, is that the there’s 12 visits within 90 days. And assuming the patient improves another eight, the difficulty for us is that an acupuncturist can perform. But it must be supervised by a medical provider. And this could be an M D a D O a PA, an NP or a CNS. And so these are all medical providers that are enrolled in Medicare.

So in other words, you’re working kind of for this person, if you will, it’s not a referral, but something you’re working with because it has to be built by. So to take a look at it, this under this national coverage determination, you’ll see here. It says the most recent is that it will cover for chronic low back pain.

And that is defined as back pain. That’s more than 12 weeks. Now that doesn’t mean like, oh, I’ve had it exactly 12 weeks, but think of how many Medicare patients talk about all my. I’ve had back pain on and off for the last 10 years. Well, by definition, that’s certainly going to be chronic. It certainly can’t be associated with other inflammatory diseases like infections or metastatic cancer, but traditional, as most people get back, pain realized 85 million people a day habit.

That kind of makes sense. It will be covered. Now here’s something interesting. Obviously you’re all aware that back pain codes updated and part of the complications in dealing with this when they update. Medicare published what codes they were going to allow, even though M 54 50 is one of the codes new for back pain under the Medicare guides.

What they indicated is that it’s only going to be M 54 51 for routine progenic or other specified in 54 59. So make sure if you’re billing Medicare, part of the reason if you’re getting denials is you have to update to one of these two codes and bear in mind. There are some payers that have been delaying until April 1st, for some reason, but.

Those are the codes. If it’s back pain, notice the code, doesn’t say, uh, chronic. It’s just the idea. And that’s why M 54 59 is the more likely now it pays up to 12, but notice it says an additional eight sessions will be covered for patients demonstrating improvement. I think that’s fairly straightforward.

Most patients, in fact, getting acupuncture with back pain, almost always improve, obviously. And it’s just as long as that’s there they’ll allow additional eight meeting up to. Now the complication here is this is not a yearly benefit in the way you might think, meaning it starts over in January. It’s a rolling year.

So by example, it says if the first services performed on March 25th, The next service beginning of the new year, can’t be until March 1st of the following year. So they do it as a rolling month. So it’s literally 20 visits with any within any 12 month period, not January to January, but it could be from March to March and so forth.

Now the complications here is that physicians can furnish it. Of course, medical doctor certainly could physician assistance, but they also have to have some additional licensure for accurate. Bottom line is you’ll notice here. It says auxiliary personnel can do it so long as you have a master’s or a doctoral degree for acupuncture, which is going to be all of you.

And therefore you can provide it. Now here’s the problem you’re providing it, but it says here, auxiliary personnel, furnishing acupuncture must also be under the appropriate level of supervision. Now, a lot of people have misinterpreted appropriate level. It’s thinking, oh, it’s just based on a referral.

And they come in the office, unfortunately, not that simple under this rule, that’s under these two regulations I have, here are 4, 10, 26 and 27. You have to be present in the same office. So it means you gotta be in the office with this medical provider when the service is delivered, they bill for it.

But yeah. This can’t be a simple referral, but in the office, this means either you’re in their office working, or maybe they come to your office, realize that a lot of nurse practitioners, CNS and others are traveling. Maybe they come to your office one or two days a week. This might be helpful, but this is certainly a benefit for someone working in a larger medical clinic.

In fact, this might be an opportunity for someone that goes into a medical practice that does geriatric medicine to deal with low back pain and pain management. So certainly something to think of it. But bottom line. You’re going to be working for this medical provider. Now keep in mind, working for them could be under two ways.

It could be as an independent contractor. It also could be as an employee. So either way it is certainly possible. But again, you can see the limitations here. It has to be done directly under supervise. Now you may wonder, well, what does Medicare pay? So what I’ve done is I’ve just put up a few areas of Medicare payments and you all notice this increased about 10% this year.

So a nice little jump for us, of course, that also helps for the VA as well, but notice in all areas, whether I’m using California, Illinois, Florida, Texas, you’ll notice the first set is generally around $40 or higher, maybe up to 45, the additional sets in the 30 range. So I’m just going to round up. 44 first set 30 for additional sets, which means approximately a hundred plus per visit because generally you’re going to do three sets and I’m not saying always, but generally that’s what Medicare loss, that means a hundred dollars a visit that certainly can be pretty good.

We’ll talk more about that, that money part of it towards the end, but I think this is something viable. If you’re getting a hundred percent. This certainly makes a lot of sense. Now it’ll make the most sense when we can directly. Cause now if you’re working with someone, obviously that a hundred dollars per visit has to be split between two.

So therefore it may not be quite that you’re getting that full amount, but again, this is not. So again about 41st set, 30 for additional sets. Now you’ll notice if you’re doing an electroacupuncture it’s more like 50 and 40. So now we’re looking at probably about 130. If you’re doing a electroacupuncture, by the way, these fees also will apply to VA, but also the.

To Medicare advantage, which I’ll demonstrate in just a second, but here’s what you’ve probably all been noticing. The Medicare advantage is an area that I certainly would say you should be looking into. Medicare may have some limits because of the way we can access the patient Medicare managers. Aren’t that complicated.

Here’s what I took literally off of my television, where they are using acupuncture to advertise this plan. And I’ve seen this over and over notice here. Zero copay. In other words, a patient comes in and they pay nothing. Now with these types of plans, you’re generally going to have to be in network and, or be a deemed provider, which I’ll explain in a moment.

But bottom line is these are going to pay approximately the same and in many instances more, which is not bad. So when a patient has a Medicare advantage plan, this is what you’ll see. They won’t have that traditional Medicare card, but one like this and you’ll notice it literally will say. Medicare advantage right on the card or Medicare part C.

So that’s how you’ll know. Be careful though, the person will still have their old Medicare card. So always ask them, let me have all of your Medicare and all of your insurance cards so you can verify. Cause once they have this plan, they no longer actually have traditional Medicare. They have this plan they’ve traded for it.

And to give you the numbers, there’s about 63 million people with Medicare. That’s a lot. And about half of them now have Medicare advantage plans simply because the benefits with them are often a little bit better, less out of pocket. And yet what’s interesting. How has it, can Medicare advantage plans offer so much?

Yeah, it’s from a plan that Medicare is paying them 600 a month. And again, I go back to, it shows how much insurance companies profit off of others, if they could take the sickest people. So here’s an actual card for a Medicare advantage plan. And this is one that was sent to me. A member of the network was saying, Hey Sam, what does it mean in this Medicare advantage of place?

The Medicare limiting charges, and often that’s misunderstood because acupuncturist aren’t part of Medicare. So you’ve never heard the term limiting charge. Medicare has fees that are called par non-par. The limiting charge is literally 15% higher than the regular rate. So you remember those fees, I just showed you add 15% to that.

So let’s talk now, probably with these closer to $50 for first set. So I want to make sure when you’re billing these Medicare advantage plans, don’t build what you think they’re going to cover bill your normal fee, bill, your 60 or 70. If they allow 50, they’ll pay it. But if you bill thinking, they’re only going to pay you 42.

And you go 42. Well, sure. They’re going to pay you 42, but what if they would’ve been paying you 50? So always bill your regular rate, just know that you cannot collect the difference. And this is what brings up this term deemed provider. Many times when you get into these plans, you may have to join, but often you’ve done.

All you have to do is accept the patient. But when you do accept the patient, it’s like you become in network on a claim by claim basis. In other words, we call it deemed D E M Dean to provider. And what this refers to is this, when you take the patient, then you have to accept what the plan allows. For your billing.

So in other words, if there’s a zero copay, the patient has a zero co-pay except the plant, or if there’s a small copay. Now these benefits actually are pretty darn good. As you can tell what the limiting charge add 15% to what I just said, and you can go, wow, wait a minute. Now, Sam, are you meaning $115 just for acupuncture?

Yeah, that’s exactly what I mean. Now these advantage plans are pretty good and advantage plan has to do exactly the same. As regular Medicare. So it has to cover just like it does here. What is covered the chronic back pain. But most of these plans you’ll notice here. It says acupuncture routine. You can find a net that you can find a network care provider, you know, searching for the acupuncture benefits, online directory.

So what are they looking for? This routine acupuncture. What is routine acupuncture? Routine acupuncture means they cover for pain management, no need for a referral or anything. Notice regular Medicare says they may require a referral or working directly. So I had someone last week contact me and say, Hey Sam, I heard they’re going to implement a referral.

No, no, no, no. For regular Medicare. Cause you have to be under super. But for these plans, you don’t require referrals for routine acupuncture, which means basically pain management, the same you’ll build any United health care plan to illustrate that. Take a look at how they cover it. This is the Medicare advantage plan for acupuncture.

Notice it actually covers dry needling. If you choose to do that, now I’m going to suspect, do acupuncture because that’s what you are. It pays. In addition, you can’t combine dry needling with acupuncture anyway, but notice what they cover here. It’s noting routine acupuncture codes, not a complete list. So what I want to highlight Medicare advantage plans, cover acupuncture, but also covered.

Exams and therapies, because notice it’s not a complete list. It lists the ENM codes and acupuncture codes, and then notice therapies, electric stem, infrared ultrasound exercise. It could include massage and manual therapy always think of what is within your scope. And they will. I have some offices doing some very aggressive care with this.

And while I think it’s a lot for one visit, I have one office that bills well close to $400 per visit. And he literally gets paid almost all of it under this type of plan. Now these are patients that a lot of pain and a lot of things going on, but again, pretty good. So a Medicare advantage plan is something I would probably say I’d want to be part of, because look at the access that they have, the key.

Do people know that you’re willing to take these plans? Are they aware of it? Have you joined any of them? Because to me there’s no downside. If you join a Medicare advantage plan, is there any cost? No. If you join a Medicare advantage plan, does that mean you have to join the regular plans with them?

Generally not. You can join just for Medicare advantage, which means the only downside is you join and you don’t get a patient, but assuming you get one or two more people are looking for a thing of how many people have pain over age 65. I mean, that’s almost a given for many, let’s learn to manage that so that they can start to do it without medication.

So I want to make sure you always are up to date. The American Acupuncture Council Network is always updating information. If you’re not familiar with our website, please go to our website. It’s AAC info network, nothing insurance, but info network. And you’ll notice here we put out newsletters. And one of the things we just put out Aetna is.

Acupuncture to all of their commercial plans now. So that’s a really good benefit, but how would you be aware of it without going to our new section? We want to make sure you’re always up to date. So anytime something’s changing, we’re the resource. Just go to our new section. There’s no cost for it. Just go to the new section and click on it.

Take a look once a week, sign up for our email alert and you’ll get that as well. We also posted out on our social media, in addition though, notice here about how to deal with financial agreements. Remember we did the no surprise, not that long ago. So we’re going to be a resource. Allow me to be part of your practice.

We have a hotline service where you can call me, email me, fax me on any type of information you need questions with. We’re here to help you get paid. We have a vested interest. We want your success. I do because I really want to, before I retire, making sure acupuncture is fully integrated into Medicare.

So take a look at our hotline and we’re always going to be a resource with you. The American Acupuncture Council Network, go to our site. Give us a call. We’re here. I’m going to say, thank you everyone very much. We’re going to have a special Friday show and the guests, the guest hosts will be Shelly Goldstein.

And I’m gonna say to all of you be well, take care of yourself. Remember you’re important, but it’s more important to be good. Thanks everyone.