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Medicare and Acupuncture Updates



Most of you’re gonna hear something starting now because the Medicare enrollment period begins October 15th and goes all the way through, I believe, December 7th.

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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.

Hey, greetings everyone. It’s Sam Collins, your coding and billing expert for acupuncture, the American Acupuncture Council, and really to make sure you’re getting paid. What I wanna go over now is Medicare. There is still so much confusion. I do seminars. I travel the world for on behalf of acupuncture. I deal with so many different groups throughout the United States, and I get so many calls from network members that are asking.

Sam, my patient called me and says they have direct Medicare or what’s going on, what’s changed? And what I wanna do is hopefully clear up a lot of the confusion ’cause in fact, Most of you’re gonna hear something starting now because the Medicare enrollment period begins October 15th and goes all the way through, I believe, December 7th.

So you’re gonna see probably a lot of television ads and other things talking about acupuncture and Medicare Part C plans where I find they’re actually using the profession to help promote their own insurance. But then what is the difference of these? What is Medicare? How does it cover acupuncture? Is it different from when it started in 2020?

So let’s get into that. Let’s go to the slides, everyone. You’ll see here. I wanna talk about Medicare and acupuncture update Medicare, part B and C. Do not be confused. A lot of people hear the term Medicare and it realize it encompasses a lot of things. The two areas that focus for acupuncture though are part B and C.

Part A is for hospitals, nothing to do with us. Part D is for drugs. And then supplement policies don’t affect US either, so it’s part B and C, and most commonly people get part B automatically. When you turn Medicare age, but many people now are trading for these part C policy. So I wanna make sure we understand the differences.

’cause part B has not changed when it comes to what type of acupuncture coverage there is. Part B coverage is still limited to chronic low back pain and so forth. So the problem is though, this is the type of thing are your patients are seeing the public, they’re seeing ads like this that says Medicare now will cover acupuncture for chronic low back pain.

They call Medicare and they say, oh yes, you can get acupuncture. Not understanding the differences with regular Medicare Part B. Yes, there’s coverage, but there’s some obstacles or some hurdles to cover to make sure it’s covered. The one that’s a little bit simpler, of course, are the Medicare Advantage plans.

These are the Part C. In fact, I like to use this one ’cause this is taken off of an ad from television for a Medicare advantage plan for UnitedHealthcare. In this particular plan I look at this and I thought, wow, this insurance company is using acupuncture to promote the sell of their service.

They’re letting people know, Hey, come and join us. Don’t have regular Medicare and you can get acupuncture for a zero copay. Is that gonna be attractive to some people? I think so. So certainly wanna look at that. And just to keep in mind, part B is what people automatically get. But many people are trading for the Part C policies.

In fact, you can tell that because look it, there’s ads all over the tv. Here’s one for Clever Care, Medicare Advantage. It doesn’t even talk about acupuncture in this part of it, but it’s showing someone talking about dentists and see your doctor, but showing someone getting needle. And obviously there’s a big push.

A lot of people are recognizing, Hey, acupuncture can be helpful for me. Where do I go? How can I go and does my insurance pay for it? ’cause particularly a Medicare patient, generally gonna be on a fixed income though, could, some can be wealthy, they’re still fixed. They’re joining, they’re, they’ve got pensions, they’ve got retirement plans, they have social security.

So they’re certainly gonna pay with their pocketbook, meaning they’re gonna look to see if they have any coverage. So the confusion comes in when someone comes in. How do we identify them as a Medicare patient? I’ll make a real simple statement. You’ll know they’re a Medicare patient. If we’re over 65, everyone in the United States that is over 65 gets Medicare.

Whether you want it or not, you get it. Now, the part A is the automatic, the Part B you pay a little bit for, but everyone does it. And that’s the card on the left. This one here, you’ll see that’s regular standard Medicare Part B. Notice it’s A and B. The one on the right, this is an actual card from someone that is a Medicare Advantage plan, and you’ll know it as such because you’ll notice right on the card it indicates.

United Medicare, silver. There’s golds and so forth, but you’ll see that, but this one takes over. Don’t be confused when a person trades their policy for a Medicare advantage plan. They’re not gonna make them give back their regular Medicare card. So when someone comes in, always ask them If using, let me see all of your cards.

Because if they have one of these advantage cards, this regular Medicare is gone. They’ve traded for this, and I believe this year is gonna be the first year. Last year, about 48% of people I. Change to a Medicare advantage, Part C, whereas 52% were regular. I think this year is gonna be the tipping point.

’cause these plans just offer generally a little bit more generous benefit and frankly better for us. So let’s talk about regular original Medicare part B, regular Medicare Part B. As far as acupuncture coverage covers only chronic low back pain, which is defined as. Back pain over 90 days. That’s not too hard with an older person, certainly, but still something we have to have.

The bigger issue though, is this. The chronic low back pain can be treated by an acupuncturist, but it must be what they’ll say is under the adequate supervision of a medical provider. Now, I want to take back here, you’ll hear some people say direct supervision, and in many instances it will be direct, meaning you have to be in the same office.

However, adequate could mean . If the medical provider feels comfortable enough working with you, they may not be in the office at the time you’re delivering the acupuncture. The problem’s gonna be, it’s not a simple referral. They can’t just refer to you at another office. You have to be working in the same facility, whether they work in your office and make your office part of theirs, or you go to their office.

So this one makes it a little bit more complicated. It’s probably a little bit easier in this way because it can also be a nurse practitioner. Or a physician assistant who are a little bit more traveling, but you have to be working with them because they’re who are billing it. You’re not billing directly.

You’re gonna be working for them, whether as an employee or an independent contractor. Now, the good news is adequate supervision means you might be able to have an arrangement where maybe they’re in the office two days a week. And on days they’re not there with the prescription, you’re doing the acupuncture and they’re supervising remotely, if you will.

That can be allowed. So keep that in mind. But it is not a simple referral, so don’t get confused. The other thing is they require very specific diagnosis, and I apologize for the typo here. I did redo this short just a moment ago, but the diagnosis codes you’re required to have are M 54 51. Which is vertebral genetic back pain or M 54 59, which is other specified meaning specifying is chronic.

If you use M 54 50, it’s gonna be denied. So I have a lot of people going wait a minute. My claim was denied. The simple reason didn’t have the right code. They do not accept M 54 50. But again, that part B one’s a little more complicated. I do have several offices doing it now that have done quite well.

But you really have to get someone that’s a medical person that you can work with. Remember, it must be medical doctor. Physician assistant nurse practitioner. It can also be a certified nurse specialist. Those three, it cannot be a chiropractor or physical therapist. Now Medicare Advantage Plans. Part C plans are ones that people trade for and frankly, this is the one you can bill directly.

So don’t be confused. Part B, no direct billing by an acupuncturist. Part C. Plans advantage plans will allow you, in most instances that you can, they do have the same parameters of coverage. They cover for chronic low back pain, but many of them offer what we call routine acupuncture, which means they pay for pain management, and these you can directly bill.

In fact, in many instances, you don’t have to be in network. But just willing to provide the service. The one thing to keep in mind though, you will be subject to their fee schedule. If you choose to bill a Medicare advantage, you cannot balance bill your full fee, but the amount they allow, frankly, it’s gonna be a little bit more than Medicare, however, so that part I will say is good.

Now remember, not all Part C policies necessarily will have the additional routine acupuncture, which means direct billing. Most will, but always verify. What I can guarantee is they will all have the chronic low back pain supervised, but you’ll see that coming up. When I show you a little more direct policy.

Now what does Medicare actually pay? And I think this is where a lot of confusion Medicare will pay for three sets of acupuncture. I. The initial set, and this is gonna vary, this is why I have the variation in fees. This is gonna vary depending on where you’re located. Different states, different counties all have different fees, kinda like house prices.

But you can say on average the first set’s probably gonna be 40, though I’m putting 40 to 55 ’cause some states are higher, depending if it’s elector, acupuncture as well. And then the additional set is 30, but it can be as much as 40, again, depending on the area. So I’m gonna highlight that for three sets.

It’s roughly a hundred dollars a visit. Now that does indicate about a 40 minute visit, of course, but nonetheless, a hundred dollars. I think for a hundred dollars visit. I can make that work. It is not great. I’m not saying you’re getting paid thousands, but that’s not bad. Assuming 20 visits, that’s $2,000 per Medicare patient of reimbursement.

Not to mention the medical provider gets to bill for an exam or other services they may do for that patient, but your services would be paid at about a hundred per visit. Now, Medicare part C policy, and I apologize, this is a little bit small. This is UnitedHealthcare one and up here talking about what is covered.

They’re letting you know the same as Medicare. What’s the same 12 visits to start? Eight visits if it’s showing improvement for up to 20 for chronic low back pain. However, many of these plans don’t require and or direct referral because they’ll have, as you’ll see here, acupuncture, Medicare covered, and then they’ll talk about routine acupuncture, which means.

They cover for pain management, and I’m gonna say to you, the majority of these Medicare Advantage plans usually have that benefit. So you’re not gonna be limited to just low back pain only, but just about any condition so long as it’s painful. Keep in mind, however, for back pain though, they too will still require M 54 51.

M 54 59 to give you a good feel for it. Take a look here. It talks about acupuncture C P T codes that it covers, and you’ll see here, even dry needling, if you felt so inclined to do it, I wouldn’t. Dry needling doesn’t pay very well and I don’t think you’re doing that. You do an acupuncture, but the four acupuncture codes, and then it says here, common routine acupuncture codes, not a complete list.

So what I wanna highlight, this plan is noting that they’re not just gonna pay for the acupuncture, but they’re gonna pay for exams. The acupuncture codes. But then notice they’re listing several therapy codes. In other words, they’re gonna pay you within the scope of practice for common services that are payable under the plan.

On these plans, you can see sometimes some pretty generous reimbursements. I’m not gonna bring some of those up because it’s way beyond what you may are be billing, and I don’t want to entice that. But I’d say on average some pretty good pay. So take a look here for an Aetna patient, this is for three visits.

Three visits with two sets. They’re getting paid $234. It’s not bad. I would take that and the patient only has a $9 copay. Would you think a patient might be interested in that? I would. I think a patient would certainly be interested in coming in if they only to pay a $9 copay for three visits. In other words, three bucks a visit.

Here’s another one for Humana for a single visit, you’ll notice about 67, again, two sets, if there were a third set, probably would be a little bit higher. So would I say these are ones that are viable to you and ones you can directly build? Absolutely. But just be careful. Regular Medicare Part B has not changed.

We’re working on it. When I say we, we as a profession are working on getting acupuncturists fully into the Medicare system that you can register. Then once we can do that, we’ll have direct billing that’s gonna happen that just don’t know how soon, I’ve, I could say two years, five years. I really have no idea.

We have to see if we can get Congress to get together. Vote for a speaker, , and then we can start voting on some real bills. But nonetheless, I think this is a real positive. Think of the number of people who have Medicare now realize 10,000 people per day become Medicare eligible. I would certainly wanna let people know I’m out here.

’cause when you are looking at this type of plan that’s paying you at least a hundred, maybe even as much as 200, would that be something that could boost your office? What if you got five of these per month? And keep in mind with these, you do have to bill insurance. Is that a big deal though? In my opinion, no.

If I have an insurance that I know is gonna pay me, I can figure out how to bill. That’s not that hard. But I’m not gonna accept everything, so I want people that are doing cash. Don’t be beholden thinking because you take one plan. Like for instance, what if you say, Hey Sam, I’ll accept Humana and United, but I don’t take Blue Cross Medicare Advantage.

That’s your choice. Remember your choice to what you wanna bill is there, but keep in mind, it’s your choice. If the patients come in, they probably can have zero or very little copay on these cases, and again, can pay pretty decently. I would say look at what your cash price is. Anything that gets me up equivalent to that, that billing is simple and easy.

I’m all in. ’cause realize all of these plans will have portals where you’ll be able to bill electronically and so long as you do it through their company, it is going to be free. So I say, why not? So be aware. You’re gonna see a lot of this coming up because we’re in the enrollment period. Take a look at the commercials coming up.

They’re promoting your business. Let’s make sure we’re saying, Hey, you know what, we’re here and available here would be the thing though. How does someone know they even have benefits? Have you ever put anything out in your office that says, we accept Medicare or Medicare Advantage? Because otherwise they’re not gonna know.

I still think a lot of people don’t understand there’s even the benefit, so we wanted to start to do things to promotes that people know there’s access, and particularly for the plans, we know that are the good plans. As always, I’m here to help. We do seminars. By the way, what year is it right now?

It’s 2023 Sam, but what updated this month? Diagnosis codes. If you’ve not been to a seminar with me, you have a few coming up. You may want to get there to understand there’s been some coding changes, particularly for migraine headaches. Where will you know how, what fees to charge, the Medicare rates? All of that stuff is something we cover.

We do our network services. Just go over our website. We’re always there to help and I’ll bid you a due. Until next time, everyone, thanks so much. This is Sam Collins and I’m out. . .