Tag Archives: billing and coding

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New Year, New Fees?

 

 

Click here to download the transcript.

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.

Hi everyone. This is Sam Collins, your coding and billing expert for acupuncture, the American Acupuncture Council. And of course for you giving you another episode with, to the point from the American Acupuncture Council and malpractice carrier on keeping you up to date, what’s changing. What’s new as the coding and billing expert always want to make.

You’re on top of everything that’s going on and what the changes are going to be for next year. So let’s get started with understanding fees. So let’s go to the slides, what I want to make sure there’s a good understanding of is how do I determine fees? And so you’re going to see what I have here, the RVU update, which stands for relative value units and how that affects your fee schedule, what changes you can make at the beginning of the.

And how your fees are going to be paid. Well, let’s talk about what are our fees. When you hear this term, you see our, or usual customary and reasonable, what does that mean? Well, it’s the amount that’s paid for medical services based on your geographic area. In other words, what is usually in customarily pay kind of like houses, what’s the usual and customary for your neighborhood.

It’s based on what the houses sell for. So in that sense, that’s usually the fee that’s charged for a doctor for a service and falls within the rains that others charge within the area. It is a service deemed necessary to their current condition. But what is the usual fee? Now keep in mind that usual fee has some variances.

Are you on the upper end or Lauren? I hope that we’re somewhere in the middle because here’s my concern. Let’s say you’re charging $50 for a service. That someone, including insurance companies are willing to pay $75 for if you’re only billing it at 50, of course, what are they going to pay you 50, even though they would pay at 75.

So I want to give you some tools that help you to establish a better way of understanding your fee. What let’s understand, what is the model we deal with? There’s a course in the insurance model. And that’s the reasonable customer feed that insurance has say are the acceptable range. And of course there’s a lot of variation to that.

And of course, as you can expect, if you belong to an insurance, like say you joined blue cross or blue shield or Ash, that’s going to be a set fee, which is probably not usual and customary, but the trade-off is I joined. And hopefully you get more patients, but you take far less money, not something we’re really that tickled with and less volume can be there.

So I look at it more from the patient value. What is the service worth that a patient is willing to pay for? And this is where we have to provide the value of the service. So someone’s willing to pay. And I think this is the model that acupuncture really thrives in the American physical therapy association has indicated that they find that as soon as people have a $30.

They start losing about a third of their patients. Do you know that’s not true for acupuncturists? So I’m always a little nervous that we sometimes undercharged for what we’re doing, because we’re afraid of that amount being something that’s going to scare the patient off, but what you have to think of, what’s the value and want you to think of as an acupuncturist, think of the value for a moment.

How many of you have been to a medical. And when you went in, you’re in pain and when you left, you felt better. And I’m not saying this as a negative in a way against medical doctors, but that’s not the way they treat. Think of how many times you have a patient come in. Maybe they have a headache or back pain, and they’re not even sure acupuncture is going to work.

But then after the visit, they’re like, oh my God, I can’t believe I’m not in pain. I’m 50% better than. There’s a lot of value there. So I want us to start to think of the value of the service and how we establish rates and using something called the relative value units. The relative value unit is a value determined actually by the federal government on the cost of each medical service.

Every CPT code has a relative value. Now what this relative value does, it allows you to compare the value of one service to another. So by example, if there’s a service that has a value of one. And another service that has a value of two. That would mean that service that’s a value of two would be twice the cost.

And so one of the things I want to do with this is take the RV use to help us begin, to establish a reasonable fee for the services we provide. The development of this started way back in the eighties and Harvard, and it continues to be updated every year by CMS. In fact, it is updated already for 2022, and I’ll give you a preview of that coming up.

So here’s what I’d like. You all to do. Take a moment. And tell me, what is your fee for these four codes now, obviously you don’t have to tell me, but I’d like you to think or write them down. What do I charge for the first set of manual acupuncture? What’s my fee for the second set or additional set. How about a mid-level new patient exam?

What do you charge for that? And then what do you charge for massage? What I’m trying to point out is if I can tell you the value of any one of these servers. Based on the relative value. I can tell you what the value is for another. In fact, that’s how insurance companies decide to pay for certain services is based on the relative value of each.

So let’s take a look at what is relative value. You’re going to see here a whole page of relative values. And I put all the common codes. If you’ve been to a seminar with me, you’ve seen this, but this is the update for 2020. What you’ll see immediately is that there’s been an increase. If you notice that I put the arrow around it, you’ll notice the relative value for now.

4 9, 7, 8 1 0 is 1.16. Whereas last year was 1.06. That’s about a 10% increase. So if someone says to you, Hey, acupuncturists are having an increase in fees. Actually that’s true. And it’s based on the relative values have been increased relative value though, just compare one service to the other. So the easiest way to think of this is if you look at the relative value of 9, 7, 8, 1 0, you notice as a value of 1.16, and then the value of 9, 7, 8 1 0 is 0.87.

Now, when you look at that, you’ll go, what does that mean, Sam? Well, I’ll make it real simple this way. What if you charge and again, this may be a little high. What if you. $116 for your first set. What would be the price of the second set? $87. That’s the idea. So if you can tell me what you charge for one code, and if that code is accepted and paid by a payer, I can tell you what they’re going to pay for everything else.

Now, the good news is you don’t really have to look at that many codes. I know this list is a little. But I want you to think of what services are you billing on a regular basis? That’s all we need to look at. Don’t worry about all of them. So how would I do this? You’re going to see her on the right. I did some calculations.

Now don’t be put off by the math part of this. It’s not complicated. All you have to do is tell me, what do you charge for 9 7, 8 1 0. So now I want you all to think of that. I asked you a moment ago. What do you charge for 9, 7, 8. You’ll notice I put a charge of 65. Now you might say, well, Sam, how’d you come up with 65.

I’m just saying that’s a typical fee for a lot of acupuncturist for the first set. So let’s just say 65 was your fear is your fee to figure out the fee for every other service you don’t guess and go, well, I guess I’ll charge $10 less. Here’s what we do. We take our. And we divide it by the services relative value.

So you’ll notice that I take 65 divided by 1.16, and it gives me 56 0 3. Now 5,603 is actually not the price of something. It’s the conversion. I then take that number and take any other codes relative value. Multiply to tell me the fee of that service. So by example, you’ll notice here 9, 7, 8 1 1 has a value of 0.8, seven.

So I’d take 56 0 3 times 0.87. It gives me 48 75. So that means if my price for a 9 8 9 7 8 1 0 is 65. What should be my price for a 9 7 8 1 1? Well, I would round up to 49, but I think you get my point that way you make sure you’re not cheating yourself. And I’ve seen a lot of providers do this. They’ll build a first set of 60.

And the second set of 50, 65. Now, of course, that’s your option. You can do that, but he won’t be my concern. What if the insurance company pays you in full for the second set? What does that tell you? You’ve done with the primary code you’re billing way below. So I can do this backwards as well. If they allow 65 for the one, one, I do the same calculation the other way, and I do it the same for every service.

So think of it in simplest terms, the difference between the first set and the second set is about 30%. So if your first sets a hundred seconds, that would be 70 or in this case 65 to 48, 75 or 49. Well, the same applies with any of their code. Like you might say, well, what do I charge? Or what should I charge for an exam?

Well, you notice the relative value for 9, 9, 2 0 3 is 3.2. So I take 56 0 3 times 3.29, and it gives me 180 4 33. Now the reality here is if you look at 1.16 to 3.29, it’s not quite three times the amount, but you can see it’s pretty close. So really what you want to think of is that the price of. Exam should be three times the price of your acupuncture service based on the relative value of the service.

Now, how these relative values work, they determined that the amount of work that’s involved with each service, and that includes not only the work involved with the service, but the type of provider, what your malpractice costs are and so forth. So again, 180 4, based on a $65 price or about three times the amount would be pretty reasonable.

Well, what about other services? Have you ever built, you know, let’s say. How would I figure out my price for massage? Well, massage value now is 0.8, eight. So I’d take 56 0 3 times 0.88, and gives me 49 30. What I want to make sure is that my prices for my services match each other. I’ve seen offices, bill out some pretty large amounts for one code at a very low amount for the other code.

And my question is why are you doing. What was the purpose? Now, if you can say to me, well, Sam, I did that because I just don’t want to charge my patients as much. And you have a good reason, I’ll say, okay, because maybe that fits your neighborhood, but if you’re doing it because you don’t know, like by example, what if you charge 50, 65 for the first set and you charge only $30 for massage?

Well, you. But if someone’s willing to pay 65 for a first set based on relative value the exam, or excuse me, the price for massage would be about 50. So start to really go through these coasts and start to see that. And here’s the beauty. It increased for acupuncture. So, I’m not sure you’ve heard this or not yet, but the prices for acupuncture related to rates associated with Medicare rates, or anyone will go up next year.

Now let’s not get too excited. The rate increase is about six to 7%, but that’s well above cost of living. So, yay. Finally, we’ve got an increase. Do you know? No other profession got an increase. If you go through all the fees, actually chiropractors, medical doctors, physical therapists, all got about a three to 4% return.

Acupuncture got a 6% increase. And I think mostly because the relative values are becoming more apparent. So you’ll notice the relative value for 2021 was quite a bit less now, 1 0 6 to 1.16, you think? Well that’s 10%. Oh, no. Because remember that’s again, already up at that level. So again, probably about six or 7% to give an example of what I’d like you to do though.

Now, if you’ve been to a seminar with me, you’ve seen this RVU sheet and if you’ve never been come to a seminar or join our network, so you can get this type of information, but here’s what I’d like you to do. You don’t need to do every code, but start coming up with a competent, reasonable fee schedule.

Cause I don’t want you to. But I certainly don’t want you to undercharge. And what I find for most offices, frankly, you bill about five or six services regularly. And I would say the average acupuncturist has three to four of those that have the wrong value, which means 50% or more of the code you bill are undervalued, which means you’re just losing 50% of your income.

So what I’d like you to do is go through, do this for your ENM codes and not every code you don’t bill, all of them, acupuncture codes, probably heat like infrared or other ones. Bodyworker massage, pretty typical as well. And maybe a little bit of exercise. Now you might say, well, Hey Sam, I do some other services.

Fine. Do those as well, but realize you’re not going to do a bunch of these. And what I would like you to do with this is begin to break down the cost. So here’s an example, and this is just for California, Southern California, specifically for Los Angeles and orange county. Now this is something we do for our network members in seminar attendees every year is we give you the updated.

For Medicare, which of course means the VA. And you’ll notice there’s been an increase notice 9, 7, 8 1 0 last year was $40 and 7 cents. Now it’s 42 67. Now, is that enough to go? Oh my God, we’ve got a lot more money. No, but a 6% increase if you’re generating a hundred thousand dollars a year. Just on acupuncture codes.

That should be an additional 6,000. So you can see here a nice little jump. Now, remember these are just for the California rates. Every state, every county has their own rates. And again, if you’re a network member with me, or if you’re coming to an upcoming seminar, you will have access to all these. So, you know, the rates that way, you’re making sure that you’re getting paid the right amounts, because my concern is, if you build below these rates, what are they.

That rate. So you want to start to understand what is the value of my service, but let’s go beyond that a little bit. Here’s what I’d really like. You all to do, take a moment to create a spreadsheet, like what you’re seeing here. And you’ll notice what I’ve done is I just put some common codes for acupuncture from exams, through acupuncture, massage.

What I do with one column is put the RV use and then maybe the next column might be what’s your time of service discount. Maybe that’s your price for cash, you know, maybe. You know, five or 10% below what you normally bill, but then you have your regular rate, just regular. What I, bill insurance then of course, what I’d like you to do is go through from payers that have paid you in the last six months or a year and put down those amounts.

What does Aetna pay? Blue cross blue shield. Cigna. I guarantee you all have that. One of the things I do with network members is to go through this and say, Hey, look, let’s start creating a competent sheet. The realization. You don’t bill as many codes as you think. So you don’t have to do a lot, but go through that way.

But what if it isn’t a patient comes to you and they ask you because of course the next year we have the no surprise billing. Okay. What does my plan pay? Well, you can go to your chart and go, oh, your plan is going to pay XYZ dollars. And this is going to be your balance. What it also does though. It’s a chance for you to look to go, which of these are good or bad because as your practice begins to go into next year, what is your plan?

To really begin to maximize your office. One of the plans I would do is let’s do a survey of what is the better paying plans that we may deal with and how much are they paying now? By example, Medicare work comp are all standard fees. Most states have standard fees for that. So you can already put that in and at the very least I’d want you doing that.

So here’s an example with RV use. You can do a lot to determine your care. So by example, if you’re in the state of. The work comp rate in Texas, what they do is take this value 61 17 and they multiplied by any RVU. So by example, I can tell you exactly what the fee is for work comp in Texas for 9 7, 8 1 6.

Remember, it’s 1.16. So it’s 16% above this, or roughly close to about 67, maybe $68. Or how about if you’re in the state of Utah? What they do is use a conversion, but two different ones. If it’s an ENM code, they convert with a 56 conversion or 52 for other codes. So realize that the Medicare conversion is roughly $37 plus or minus depending on your county.

So that would be a starting point. And I’ll give an example. What if you’re admitted? If you’re in Michigan, what they do is they just simply take whatever the Medicare rates are and double them when it comes to personal injury. Now, one thing to be concerned with here is if you just double your rates on personal injury, that’s good because personal injury will pay you.

But what if you charge your other patients less? Remember you can have two different fees. So you’ve got to make a decision, even though I can charge double for personal injury. If you’re charging maybe only 1.5, that’s what you’re going to charge for them. What my suggestion is. Probably be at least 1.25 to 1.5 above Medicare rates.

Notice by example, the Medicare rates in for work comp in Michigan, they just take a conversion of 47 66. So this is where using RV use will help you. But take a look at this one. If you have a patient that’s with Boeing and particularly Boeing uses, and they’re employed with Boeing they’re blue cross blue shield, they sent a directive out this year.

What they pay is 175% of. So what if you got 90% of your patients with this plan and you’re billing a hundred percent of Medicare, you’re losing 75% of your money. Now keep in mind, maybe you don’t want to charge 175% because you still have a lot of patients that can’t afford that. So it’s going to balance somewhere, but my concern is, am I setting my fees off of my best insurance or best richest patients?

Or am I sending it off of my port? So I want to be somewhere in the middle there, but what I want more than anything is a competent fee schedule. If someone says, how did you determine your fees? You’re going to say, I use relative values to determine the value of my service. Tell me what an insurance will pay for one code, and I’ll tell you what they’ll pay for any other code, because relative values goes across the board.

As you can see here, by example in California, we’re comp is 1.2. And so simple way of looking Pennsylvania, 113% Florida, 200% for work comp. So lots of changes here that allows you to start to use this as a way to competently set up a fee schedule. And I’m going to suggest it’s the new year. Let’s start looking towards that.

Obviously, if you’re dealing with a VA patient, you’re going to get an automatic raise, but what if you don’t raise your rates? So what if you bill at last year’s rates, what are they going to pay you for next year? So you’ve got to make sure to bill the higher rate or bill your normal rate to make sure you’re getting the maximum amount out of it.

So here’s something I want to make sure everyone’s aware of. Do you know when we posted this, if you’re a member with us, you received an email on this Medicare fees. The deductible acupuncture fees increased six to 7%. Really good notice we posted this a month ago or thereabout. If you’ve not already go to the American acupuncture council network, Facebook.

And take a look at our Facebook page or in our site, just click on the new section. We update you there all types of things. The American acupuncture council wants to be your resource. We want to make sure that your claims get paid, because if you’re not getting. You don’t need our services. So frankly, we’re symbiotic.

We have to do a good job of helping you to make sure you have claims. We also offer a service. We call the network, take a look at our site, come to a seminar, be informed about information that’s coming out for you. Cause if you’re not informed about. You’re probably left behind. Take a look. We’ve got lots of live, meaning in-person seminars, upcoming, but also virtual.

So just pick the date that fits best for you because we have a vested interest in you. We want you to do well. That’s what we always give you this information. So I’m going to say thank you very much. Next week’s hosts are going to be Dr. Jeffrey Grossman. I wish you all a very good new year in a Merry Christmas, but also let’s plan and have a good prosperous 2022 see you next time.

 

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Identify and Use the New ICD10 Updates

 

 

So every year when you hear the new codes is started, always remember it begins October 1st. So it’s important to note, am I making sure I have the codes that I’m using? Have there been any types of updates? So let’s move forward and talk about those.

Click here to download the transcript.

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.

Welcome everyone. This is Sam Collins, the coding and billing expert for acupuncture and the American Acupuncture Council. Give you another episode of our show that keeps you up to date and what’s changing and moving forward. And as of course, I’m sure you’re aware. There has been an update to diagnosis codes. Keep in mind that diagnosis codes don’t update. At first of the year, they actually update October 1st of the year before. So every year when you hear the new codes is started, always remember it begins October 1st. So it’s important to note, am I making sure I have the codes that I’m using? Have there been any types of updates? So let’s move forward and talk about those. Let’s go to the slides. So here’s what we’re going to focus on. What are the 2022 updates, but I’m going to be pretty acupuncture centric. I want to make sure we’re focusing on the things that you code regularly because obviously each year that can be a lot of changes.

So keep in mind, October 1st is the date and it begins for this year with changes to back pain. So that’s really, what’s new, but it’s more than just back pain. And that’s what I want to kind of warn you about now. Probably not as maybe common, but the focus is we want to be certainly acupuncture centric. And as you well know, you’ve seen these updates year to year from 2017 to present every year there’s updates. And it’s confusing in a way, because often you go, well, if they’re changing 1,974 codes, do I need to know all those changes? And in fact, I would say, no, we want to know about the code you bill, the codes that are reimbursed and whether or not those have updates. So each year you’ll see these changes some years makes literally no difference. Other years can be a tremendous difference.

Beginning in 2021. Of course, there were some updates of course, that you had to work for a headache. Now you can think, okay, got headache codes update, but it was only to I’m sure you remember the [inaudible] in our 51 9. Good to note that those codes did update from our 51. And they are both reimbursable, whether you were billing like Aetna or Cigna, all the other payers. So those went right into the protocols of payment. And that to me is the focus. It’s not just knowing the changes, but what codes are payable. And I think that’s a confusing and often frustrating part for acupuncturist is not knowing what codes you get paid for. Well, for this year, there’s been updates where there’s 159 additions, 32 deletions, and you’re thinking, oh my God, what do I need to do? Well, let’s focus on what has changed for this year.

The one that’s very acupuncture specific of course is low back pain, low back pain is the most universally covered condition for acupuncture. In fact, I would say just about any insurance that covers acupuncture will cover for low back pain. So what does low back pain mean? The old code was M 54 5. Now that code is gone. Don’t use that code anymore. And the approximate synonyms for low back pain are all types. It could be acute chronic, whether it’s pregnancy related with radicular, apathy, mechanical, low back pain, you know, simple lumbago loin pain. Now the key here is that you’re just describing the pain. You’re not necessarily describing the causation. And I think that’s where often some acupuncturists get confused. Should it be better to decode like a sprain or a string? Well, potentially depends on the payer, the most ubiquitous and likely covered those to keep it simple, go with just back pain.

So what has been updated while there’s a new code? That’s M 54 50 that says low back pain unspecified. Now I want to keep in mind that this update began October 1st. So don’t be confused if you treated someone in September and you’re sending the claim. Now you’re going to use the old code. If you treated someone October 1st or later, you’re going to use the new code. So keep in mind that type of issue. But bear in mind, I’ve had a few people that go Sam I’ve built out in 54 50 and it came back as invalid. But I want you to bear to keep in mind that that was likely because of the clearing house. It wasn’t the carrier, but the clearinghouse often they’re just not updating their systems often enough. So what does low back pain unspecified really mean? Well, we’ll get into that. There’s another code and 54 51 for, for T progenic meaning related to the spine that looks promising, but we’re going to talk about that more specifics as to whether or not it’s going to fit for a typical acupuncturist.

And how about M 54 59? So here’s the update three new codes for back pain and 54 50 51 and 59. Now you may already be familiar with them, but let’s dig into what each of them mean, unspecified low back pain. And you think what does unspecified mean? It means that there’s a non-specific low back pain defined and not attributed to a specific pathology. Now often in many states, acupuncturists cannot make a quote unquote Western diagnosis or differential. So this might be your safest bet because you’re simply describing it hurts. You’re not differentiating. Why? So in other words, if there were something like pain in the low back related to a sprain or a strain or radicular apathy that potentially could be coded that way. And for like a Cigna insurance, they wouldn’t accept that, but Aetna would not. They’re going to take only the pain code. So it’s kind of knowing your carers, but this would be a good, easy code to indicate just low back pain.

And I would say this is the one that probably represents the change over from what M 54 5 was. I think this would be a safe bet or a safe bet to use, just to describe the plain symptom that you’re not differentiating it, but just that there’s a symptom of pain. Now you may be differentiated into, you know, B syndrome or cheese stagnation, but I’m talking about differentiating from a Western standpoint, like ridiculous apathy. Well, what about M 54 51? Now that’s specifying that there is specific pain from the vertebra or spine. Now I liked this because it seems like, oh goodness, I’m going to say it’s spine related, but let’s understand this really doesn’t, isn’t going to be used very much because the purpose of this code, which wasn’t well-publicized the purpose of it was to describe more specifically, what’s called vertebral endplate pain, which means actually a pathology of the bone that’s causing it.

So I would suggest this is not one you would use for like, oh, it’s something related to the spine, like a sprain strain. You would code that. So M 54 51. I’m not saying it’s not usable, but not very likely unless you have a differential of end plate pain in the vertebra of the low back. So not likely it’ll be a covered diagnosis, but make sure you have some specificity for it. The spine related conditions, such as sprain strain, radicular, apathy would not be appropriate for this. Cause simply code that. And again, I’m going to implore you. Here’s kind of the weirdness, Aetna wants only pain. However, Cigna will allow you to differentiate. So Cigna will accept back pain as well, but they allow you to differentiate to sprains and strains. So depending on the carrier, it may allow it for instance, Anthem would do the same.

Well, what about this other one? It says other low back pain. So we have unspecified and then others. So this is determined to be kind of non-specific low back pain is defined as low back pain, not attributable to a recognizable known pathology while you’re thinking, well, wait a minute. Isn’t that? What other or unspecified mean? Other means, I think you can kind of recognize that there’s some sort of causation, but just not one that you’re directly attributing it to again, pain, but not F not differentiating like spraying string. So the reality is it’s likely that you’re going to be coding M 54 50 or 59 as an acupuncture provider to replace the M 54 5. The key factor is making sure that you’re describing low back pain with the correct code. Keep in mind. They now require five characters. I know some of you are going to say, but standby have built in, has been rejected.

Remember that’s likely from the clearinghouse and potentially what you’ll need to do is just simply wait until they get an update to it. The problem here is that what about some of these plans that have a very short window to send claims? So check with your clearing house to figure out why they’re rejected because the carriers have certainly updated. What’s the best practice for this best practice. Use them 54, 50 or 59, simple 51 again, end play pain. I think gets a little bit, um, outside of probably scope. I’m not saying no, if it’s predetermined, you know, by example you could code are riotous, but it’s not going to be by you directly, but from, you know, their medical provider, they bring in the note. So again, best practice and 54 50 59, well everyone’s onto those codes, but are you aware that there was another code that updated headaches are also universally covered for acupuncture?

And there’s a new code specifically for what’s called a cervicogenic headache. Now cervicogenic means that it starts in the neck. So it’s a neck problem, but the pain is perceived in the head. So a little different from tension, but it’s usually involving some type of range of motion or other issue that’s directed into the neck. Now what’s the reason they’ve added this code is because they wanted to make it somewhat more specific, a cervicogenic headache before this code would have been coated with our 51 9. But now that there’s this specificity you could use code by example, our 51 9 would include things like, uh, I would say probably, uh, a headache where you’re saying it’s a sinus headache or some type of facial pain. Whereas this one is just a bit more specific. Would this be covered for acupuncture providers? Oh, absolutely. Again, you’ll see this one with Cigna.

I believe Aetna will adopt as well, but at this point I would hold off and stick with the R codes until we get a for sure on it. This is something that isn’t going to be a lot better to coach cervicogenic headache compared to say just a headache. Well, I will say it’s a slightly more specific and it might mean why you’re doing other things. Maybe it’s involving some neck pain. I mean, certainly you could have a headache which is playing neck pain, but again, I just liked that there’s some additional codes that you can kind of specify a bit more. I always will say medical necessity often as determined by the complexity of the condition you’re treating. So if we have simple back pain or simple headache, we’re not thinking very severe, not longterm, but in turn, if I said migraine or cervicogenic, there’s a little more severity and chronicity to that same would apply.

Let’s say you have low back pain where there’s radicular apathy. That’s certainly going to be more than simple pain, but again, it’s knowing your carriers, which carrier will and will not accept. And that’s, what’s important to know. That’s one of the reasons we do the service that American acupuncture council, the networking seminar. So make sure you stay on top of not only what the new codes are, but which ones are and are not payable. Well, what also updated now, this is when you’re going to go, well, sing them. This is, you know, I don’t cope, cough. It actually, I’ve not seen cough covered for any carrier though. I’ve seen some that do cover respiratory issues, not all, but some do well. This is a new code for cough, and I’m not sure, obviously that many of you were using these, but they did update them.

The codes now no longer are three characters. They now are four and in dictates the type of cough, but here’s why I’m bringing this up. Could this be a complication? Could this be what we call a comorbidity or adding to the complexity of the patient’s need for care? Let’s say a person has back pain, neck pain, and they’re coughing a lot. Could that irritate that so-called, Valsalva fecal pressure caused that pain to get irritated maybe. And I’m pointing out that these are things like let’s say a patient has a significant cough. Would that be something I want to document as part of their care, as part of their history and indicate anything that might increase the need for care, realize that even American specialty health and these types of carriers, when you’re requesting additional care, they’re not only wanting to know what’s going on with the patient in the sense of the primary reason for care, but all the other potential barriers to the patient responding well.

And that could be things of this nature. So always keep in mind, diagnosis is going to be the lifeblood of payment. It’s what we’re doing, but all plans have a specific code that they allow. Remember Aetna and Cigna are a bit different Evercore, a little bit different, a little bit more ubiquitous, but what about United? And now there’s a lot of similarities, but differences. So make sure you understand the codes that they are allowed. Make sure you’re using the code to the highest level of specificity, which means the new back pain codes have to add a digit, but most important, make sure it’s on their list. By example, if you were to code back pain to both Aetna and Cigna, those would be payable. But if you were to code a sprain of the lower back as 33, 5 XX, a Cigna would pay you, but Aetna would not.

So then how would I code back pain or sprain to Aetna? Well, you got it. If there’s pain well, will a sprain cause pain. Absolutely. So I simply just code the pain. So what’s allowed here is that Cigna, for instance, or Anthem allows a greater specificity in severity, but it still will be covered by sticking with the code. And that’s the part I want you to get. Don’t overcomplicate this, make sure the codes that you’re billing, which you’re probably eight to 10 on a regular basis are accurate. Correct. And up-to-date to make sure that your claims simply can be paid without the right code. We’re going to have a problem. So it’s easy to understand codes update every October 1st. Are there any other codes that have updated? Sure. But how often do you build Sjogren’s syndrome? Have you ever coded that? Probably not. They updated that code, but again, not one we would use regularly.

So I always will say, don’t be afraid to be a little acupuncture centric, just have the right code to note your claims get paid. And that’s really our role. The American acupuncture council is always here to be your help. Not only is it your malpractice carry, but also your support. Remember there are seminars and programs we do to make sure your claims get paid. Like if you’re saying, how do I get that list? Well, that’s where our network services do. And what I would ask all of you to do, take a moment to go to our Facebook page, to the American acupuncture council network, click on our Facebook page. There’s weekly updates on all types of issues, coding this week’s questions on how to do an ENM. And do you need a 25 where there’s also updates regarding vaccines and other types of issues. It’s always going to be a good source for you. So take a look. We always want to be here to help. That’s really our goal and mantra. Your success is our success. So I’m going to say thank you for being with me next week’s guest will be Dr. Taso-Lin Moy, and I’ll look forward to seeing you the next time. I hope to see it a seminar take care of everyone.

[inaudible].

 

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Are Vaccines Mandatory for Acupuncturists?

 

 

What’s happening, what’s mandatory, what’s mandatory. What’s not mandatory. What can I do? What do I have to do? And who can tell me to do it? So let’s go to the slides and let’s talk about what is mandatory and requirements for an acupuncture provider.

Click here to download the transcript.

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.

Hi everyone. This is Sam Collins, your coding and billing expert for acupuncture and the American Acupuncture Council Network and information network, as well as the insurance company, of course, and welcome to another edition of, to the point and how to make sure your practice is doing well. This time, the topic is not going to be on coding and billing, not this week because obviously with a lot that’s going on very timely because we’re now getting close to October is what’s going to go on with vaccines. What’s happening, what’s mandatory, what’s mandatory. What’s not mandatory. What can I do? What do I have to do? And who can tell me to do it? So let’s go to the slides and let’s talk about what is mandatory and requirements for an acupuncture provider. As far as vaccines are concerned, do I have to get one and who can tell me to get one?

So you want to think about who can mandate, well, several things. There can be a mandate by the government, whether it be the federal, it could be the state, even local. You might have a city or a county. And then of course also private businesses may do so as well. So we have to remember, let’s look at, to see who is doing it, what they’re saying we have to do, and whether or not there’s going to be compliance for it. Because one of the things that’s occurring is a lot of people have gotten misinformation about who’s doing, or when they’re saying it, who they actually are including. So let’s start work first with this misinformation and misinterpretation. So you’ll see here in July 6th, the office of the alphas of legal council mandated that they said, no, we can do vaccine mandate. So there’s nothing constitutional.

We can say, oh, well I have a private citizen, right? And so forth. Well, we have a lot of rights, but do you have to wear a seatbelt? You know, do you have to wear a motorcycle helmet in some areas? So it’s that type of thing. So be careful if someone’s saying they can’t do it, they can, we have to look at, are they mandating it for us to do it? So let’s go here and let’s talk about federally, what’s happening for Medicare. So you’re going to see here at president Biden, you know, back a few weeks ago, made this big statement about Medicare, that Medicare is mandating it and they have to in federal and everyone was up in arms like, oh my God, is it going to have to be something we have to do? Well, they made a mandate that it said, yes, the key is, does that include acupuncturist?

Who does it include? And it’s often says facilities and people wonder what’s a facility. Well, facility generally is going to be a facility that provides services within it, such as a hospital, skilled nursing, that type, not generally individual provider offices. So with that said, what about the Medicare part under the federal? Does that apply well currently, of course. And I’m sure you’re well aware. Can an acupuncturist join Medicare? No. So that means absolutely not. Now a quick note, is there a bill right now to get acupuncture, to be part of Medicare? Yes. So make sure you’re supporting it. But as of now, there is no mandate for acupuncturists to even be in Medicare. So we want to be careful. That’s not part of it. There is a mandate that for Medicare facilities and providers, hospitals, that doesn’t include individual providers fee for service providers. So let’s just say you are working in a Medicare facility like within a hospital or a big clinic there you might be.

But for most of us, we’re working in private offices. So even if we were in Medicare, we wouldn’t have to, in fact, look here, it says a spokesperson directly. And this was just a week ago. This regulation does not directly apply to physician’s offices. If these are considered regulated under the provider specific Medicare health and safety regulatory provision, generally referred to as a condition of participation. In other words, in simplest terms as an individual provider, even if you were treating Medicare patients in a private office, you do not have to have a vaccination. So the federal rule actually does not apply to everyone. Now, if you are a medical doctor working in a hospital, yes. If you’re a nurse working in a hospital, if you’re an acupuncturist working in a hospital and there’s a few of you, that could be, but so long as you’re working in a private office, absolutely not.

So that being said, let’s talk about the conclusion of this and really what it means. Acupuncture providers can’t even join Medicare. So the, the mandate really doesn’t match. The only way it would, as I mentioned, would be if you were working inside one of those facilities. So again, from the federal level, nothing to worry about as far as a federal mandate for an acupuncture provider to do a vaccination or have a vaccination. And remember when they’re saying vaccinations, they’re also referring to also staff. So let’s talk about another federal plan. I’m sure many of you have heard or seen the VA made an announcement that they’re going to require vaccinations. And so here is on July 26th, they said the department of veterans affairs, making vaccines mandatory to all VA health personnel, including physicians, dentists, podiatrists, optometrists, and even went so far as to say anyone doing veteran administration through the VA choice program.

And so of course, everyone’s like, oh, what does this mean? Is this something that it’s going to be mandatory for me? And of course they had to make a clarification because everyone were all upset. Like, no, and you’ll see here. It says, and this is something the VA has posted. They are not requiring community providers, which is where acupuncturists fit. If you are working in your office as a community provider on a standard episode of care, where they refer a patient, there is no requirement for you, whether you belong to the Optum on the east coast or try west on the west coast. Now they do say they strongly recommend that you should have the vaccine, but there is no mandatory requirements. So both on the federal level of Medicare, the federal level of the VA, there is no requirement for vaccinations unless you’re working within a facility doing those services.

So by example, there are acupuncturist who work in the VA hospitals, or work in the big VA centers for those acupuncturist. If you work there, you will be vaccinated as every provider within that. Heck if you’re a janitor in those types of facilities, you are going to have to do, um, a vaccination. Well, let’s move the next step. What about state rules can states make that happen? So the first one I’ll point out here is for California. Now this is just an example of one for California. The department of health first came out and said they issued a mandatory vaccine for offices. And of course, everyone was like, what lost their mind going crazy? And I always will say, make sure that you understand the full rule read in detail. You’ll notice here. They made it mandatory. But however it says, we have exemptions which include acupuncture offices.

And in fact, this includes all types of facilities that are not covered under this order. So this means acupuncture offices. And of course all the rest of these meaning chiropractic as well as natural paths and almost every individual office occupational therapy, okay. Optometry offices, podiatry offices, physical therapy places. So in other words, it’s really, again, kind of going back to the facility areas, not the individual providers, again, facilities. So California does not have a mandatory facility for you even first days. If you work at a theme park, some people that if I’m a theme park nurse, I have to do it. So pretty much exempt except facility. So I will go back to kind of California followed the mandate of the federal government, which said facilities. However, we have to be careful. Some states are pushing it. So by example here, what about the state of New York?

Well, New York has made a mandate that says as of August 25th, their regulations include a broad vaccine mandate for New York health care facilities. So again, I want to use this term broadly and say facilities. And so here are the emergency regulations apply to each of the following types of categories in the state of New York, which is going to be general hospitals, nursing homes, okay. Diagnostic and treatment centers, including without limitation, community providers and birthing centers, again, big places. And then along with that certified home agencies and so forth, but I will highlight again, home health in person hospices, but this does not include acupuncture, adult care. So notice again, kind of the facilities area of this. That is where it applies. But while California New York don’t what about the state of Washington? Now, Washington is a bit different now you’re thinking, well, Sam, I’m not in one of those states.

What I’m going to implore you to do is make sure to check your state. There’s only a few that are, but definitely Washington is making an issue Washington as had a proclamation by the governor that on August that they’re requiring it. And within this, this means that you are mandatorily required to have vaccinations. And it has to be by October 18th. So this status includes again, acupuncture offices. It includes every employee providing healthcare. So it means everyone in your office, which means this is going to be difficult. Every one of us has to be within this. And it does mean acupuncture providers are included. So Washington’s going to be a bit tough. Now, are there exemptions you might be able to have absolutely. There can be exemptions, but it’s mostly religious exemption. So I would be careful, I would say, make sure, make sure that you verify within your state.

Cause I’m going to tell you for Washington right now, they’re pushing the issue. Now what’s going to be interesting is how are they going to enforce it? Are they going to require each licensee to send information? And they may, well, what if you don’t send it, could they suspend your license for a while? Possibly. So something I would look at well beyond the state of Washington there, again, as I mentioned, there’s exemptions, but I want to highlight Oregon is doing the same thing. Oregon is requiring it by October 18th, as well with no exemptions other than religious. So again, know your state. So if we go down just the west coast, Washington, Oregon, yes, California, no New York says no, at least for us, but you’ve got to be careful. So again, on a state level, if your state is enforcing it, please look at your licensing board, make sure, check with legal counsel to make sure am I in a position where I’m willing to fight back on this or do I just have to get the vaccination?

That’s gonna be a tough choice for some obviously, well, let’s move on to the next thing here. If the healthcare provider works in a healthcare setting, they must register request accommodations for the operator, which means, again, be careful of these exemptions. If your staff says that they can’t be there certainly could be healthcare concerns that do it. If they have a healthcare issue that doesn’t allow them, but be very careful. Am I really doing things that are vaccinated? It says if an individual does not qualify for an accommodation, they must get vaccinated. And notice it says, testing, not allow. There are some states that will say, Hey, no vaccine, but get tested. California is doing that. But of course that means for us, it doesn’t matter. Cause it’s not a requirement. But if you’re working in a facility, they would require this testing. So others are pushing back.

Well, what’s the next place. Okay. So we went from state and I get I’m an employee to look at your own state. What about local employers? Can they do it? According to legal side, a private company is allowed to mandate vaccines. You know, kind of private company mandate a lot of things, dress code, and otherwise in the United States, you’ll see here in the second box, mostly our employers and employees are at will. And this employment means you can be dismissed for anything, which could be, Hey, you relate to times this week, but if you won’t get vaccinated, so it becomes one of those ones. If local is doing it, meaning an employer, they could enforce it. Now could you try to bring a lawsuit? I’m sure you could. But in the, between of the lawsuit, would they allow you to continue working? Probably not. So I want you to be very conscientious of knowing within the rules of what is having to be done.

I’m not finding for us, that’s going to apply as much because you’re the employer. But let’s say you’re employed by someone. What if you work in an office where you’re with an MD or a chiropractor or anyone else and they mandate, Hey, we want you to have that. Well, I’ll give you an example. Take a look at this. Does Disneyland. If you work for Disney, can you have facial hair? Do you know up into 2000 at Disneyland, you could not have even a mustache. Even though Walt had a mustache, Disneyland wanted to be clean cut and no one could have facial hair. So that meant if you wanted to grow a beard, you can, you’re just not working for Disney. And so Walt had one, but up into 2000, you could have a very small trimmed mustache. Now the rule is you can have facial hair, it’s allowed, but notice what they say.

Employees are allowed to have beards as long as they’re kept shortened and trim. So what I’m bringing this up for is that always understand who has the right to do it as an individual. Do you have a right to say, I don’t want to do something. Sure. But that could mean you don’t have a right to like come into the business. For instance, could you say, I don’t want to wear clothes and go into a store or I don’t want to wear a shirt. Let’s not even go that far to just say no clothes at all. And we all know that no shoes, no shirt, no service. So the same thing applies. What I want to make sure is I hope most of you were on board with this, but I will tell you many of you have not. And I’m going to ask you, where are you getting your information?

This is the webpage of the American acupuncture council network. And I want you to see, I put it in red here talking about federal vaccine mandates do not include acupuncture offices. We’ve put in three times this. So if you haven’t already go to the American acupuncture council network page, go to the new section and sign up for our newsletter. Cause we keep you constantly updated as to what’s going on. And I want to just as a little tease, do you see that one I highlighted in blue? It says ICD 10 updates happen. October 1st include new new codes for back pain. How many of you were aware of that? So a week from Friday new codes for back pain, are you on top of that? The American acupuncture council, we’re here to be your resource, the network, especially seminars, our network service. If you don’t have a place to get this information correctly, you’re going to be lost.

Remember the internet is not your friend when it comes to this information because there’s just as much bad information come to the trusted resource, go to our site. If nothing else, at least get into the new section. Because if you don’t, we’re going to have some problems. Please make sure you’re always set to understand what’s new, what’s changed. And we’re always that resource. So be careful. Do I have to get a vaccine on a federal level? No VA level, no. Some states, yes. I gave just a few examples. So make sure, and of course, if you work for someone, it could be from them. If you need to know more information about that, we are the place to go. So what I’m going to say to all of you is thank you very much. If you want the resource go to our website, it’s just simple AC info network. We’re going to help you. We do continue education and much more than that. And for next week next, our host will be Poney Chiang. Remember the American Acupuncture Council is always your resource. And if you don’t have the right information, you’re likely not getting paid. And of course we want you to get paid. See you next time, everyone. Thanks for being with me.

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97140 for the Acupuncture Provider – AAC Info Network

 

 

And I always like to have a little bit of time to talk about what codes are billable, how do we build them? What do we do correctly? I think that’s often a problem, by example, what actually is manual therapy?

Click here to download the transcript.

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.

Okay. All right. I apologize for some technical difficulties, but welcome. This is Samuel Collins, your coding and billing expert for acupuncture, and specifically the American Acupuncture Council network, your go-to place for making sure you’re coding and billing are together. And quite frankly, your business sense. So if you’ve not checked us out, come to our site, but let’s focus in on what we want to talk about today. And I always like to have a little bit of time to talk about what codes are billable, how do we build them? What do we do correctly? I think that’s often a problem, by example, what actually is manual therapy? What does that mean? And how is it different? So let’s, let’s start here. Let’s talk about what manual therapy is. Well, part of dealing with CPT codes. I’m not sure if you’ve ever watched the show, the bachelor, and I’m a little embarrassed to say.

I have seen it not very much, but I, one time looked at the CPT codes and realize CPT codes are often simply like the bachelor. What I mean by that is you ever notice how kind of ambiguous sometimes they are. So think of it this way, the bachelor like CPT codes tends to be ambiguous, overlapping, and not clear to what their intent is. So think along these lines, when you look at these two codes and you’ll see here, I have them highlighted massage 9 7 1 2 4 and manual therapy, 9 7 1 4 0. How are those different? I mean, if you think of it, isn’t massage a manual therapy, isn’t it hands-on. And so that’s one of the issues we have to kind of deal with was where’s this differentiation.

So by example, take a look at these two pictures, the picture on the left picture, on the right, which of those actually would constitute bodywork. And what I mean by that is, is the one on the left massage, or is it manual therapy or is the one on the right? And there, I think is one of the issues I think we have to address for acupuncture providers is to really differentiate between the two as to what are we doing? Why are we doing it? If you will, where we’re doing it. And all those factors come into the coding and billing. Obviously body work is something that’s integrated into the acupuncture principles and traditional medicine for that matter. So let’s take a look. What is massage? Massage says, it’s a procedure that includes Effler Rouge, you know, circular motion, petrosal lifting and squeezing to potent stroking, percussion, even needing.

So again, kind of the standard massage things we all think of. And what’s the purpose of it? Well, muscle function to an extent, but if you think of it, probably relaxation, circulation, stiffness, uh, generically, it’s used to increase circulation and promote tissue relaxation. If you think about why do people get massages to relax that can help modulate pain a little bit. So, okay. So that’s the purpose of massage and that’s the style now, conversely, let’s talk about what is manual therapy? Well, let’s first look at the code manual therapy or the service manual therapy, 9 7 1 4 0. It says specifically in the CPT manual that says they are manual therapy techniques that include by example, mobilization manipulation, manual lymphatic drainage, manual traction, and it says one or more regions. Now that’s not a very big description when you think of it. So manual therapy techniques basically are hands-on services that go beyond standard.

Just simple massage, more, I would say deep tissue, if you will kind of to break up adhesions comparative to say just simple massage notice here, it includes things like manual trigger point therapy or myofascial release. Those would certainly be considered within that. Now let’s talk about it from a standpoint, how is it defined under the standards by the American physical therapy association? Since they’re the one that commonly used it let’s look at what they say. It says manual therapy techniques are skilled hand movements and skilled passive movements of joints and soft tissues that are intended to improve tissue extensibility. Now, I want you to notice here, the difference of that two massage massage said relaxation. This notice says tissue extensibility, and it says increased range of motion, induce relaxation. So there’s some overlap, modulating pain and reduced soft tissue, swelling, inflammation, or restrictions techniques may include manual lymphatic drainage, traction, you know, massage mobilization.

So you’re kind of going, well, wait a minute. They’re just kind of saying the same thing. So really how do I differentiate? What is manual therapy, comparatively? So types of manual therapy, well, manual traction. Is that something that acupuncturists might do? I think so joint mobilization. I want to be a little bit careful there because obviously you can’t do manipulation, but mobilization of movement certainly makes sense. And then there is of course myofascial release, and I think that’s the one we focus a little bit more on. So you notice here, a myofascial release says soft tissue mobilization. One or more regions may be medically necessary for the treatment of restricted motion and the soft tissues involved in the neck and extremities. So in other words, notice the emphasis towards manual therapy to be about tissue extensibility, that there’s restricted motion.

So manual therapy, what’s the difference? The difference is more about the goal of it. Obviously you put two hands on a person like those pictures I showed earlier, which is massage or manual therapy. It’s more about what you’re attempting to accomplish. So notice here, it says the goals of manual therapy are to treat restricted motion of soft tissues in the extremities, neck or otherwise, and restore soft tissue function or muscle function, meaning a restricted area. You’re breaking up the adhesions. So there’s normal movement movement without pain and increased extensibility. So you notice the keep emphasis here on extensibility. So how would you differentiate if you’re doing a hands-on simple squeezing, I would say certainly would fit massage, but if you’re doing it to break up literally adhesions in the muscles or restricted muscle that has now been shortened, that would be the myofascial release or if you will manual therapy.

So where do we fit that though with traditional medicine statements that include things like TuiNa or Washa? So TuiNa of course is literally the meaning of pension pool refers to a wide range of traditional medicine bodywork, but it’s considered probably the oldest. In fact, I would say everyone that’s doing massage is probably a form of this to an extent anyway. So with between a fit, as manual therapy or massage, well, I will say it could fit both because it depends on the level, the depth and what you’re trying to accomplish. So think along the lines of more, what is the goal of the therapy more than just because it’s hands-on, hands-on doesn’t necessarily mean it’s massage or manual therapy, but what you’re doing, but the why you’re doing it now, what about what shadow it says to scrape? That’s what it literally means. And it says a method in traditional or in traditional Chinese medicine, which includes the skin of the neck back.

And shoulders are limbs with dis lubricated and pressured or scraped with a round edge instrument. I think much like that. You’ve seen where people do these things called fascial abrasion techniques or breast in which I think often is just really a bastardization of Washoe to an extent. Now I’ve seen wash out, include a lot of things. So I want to be careful, I’m talking about that tissue scraping. Now, what would that purpose be? It’s done manually, even though it’s with the tool, it could be with your hand. Would that be more for a release than it would be for relaxation, obviously, an area that has an adhesion. You want to break apart that scar tissue that’s going to be more the myofascial release or the manual therapy. So what I’m trying to bring back here is that what you want to look at when you’re doing hands-on therapies to distinguish whether it’s massage simple or manual therapy is more about what is the outcome that you’re looking for?

What are you looking to change? So within that, I want you to think of purpose. What is the purpose of what I’m doing? That’s going to define it more in CPT. What they say is don’t choose a code that approximate, but what says exactly? So you might be doing a manual therapy. Let me use the term broadly, but yet it could be massage or it could be the more deep tissue work which equals the code for manual fare. Remember manual therapy was a code introduced in 1999 that replaced a lot of codes. It replaced traction, it replaced myofascial release. So it’s kind of a conglomerate code, but more meaning again for our purposes, kind of the deep tissue. So what I’d like you to think of is that when you’re appropriately coding for manual therapy, what is the purpose? If it is for tissue extensibility and range of motion, manual therapy after for simple muscle relaxation and pain modulation massage, okay.

Now beyond purpose, then I’ll go back to this picture, which of these is this massage or manual therapy? Obviously, as I mentioned, you can’t tell, but I will tell you the one on the right is the manual therapy picture. And the reason why is that one is being done to break up adhesions within the gastrocnemius and soleus in order to reduce restricted movement to the Achilles tendon. Whereas the one on the left, though, you could argue, what’s going to be, could be as deep that’s clueless, just relax the trapezius area in the shoulder region, if you will. So think of if I’m going to bill for manual therapy or provide manual therapy, just make sure you’re documenting the manual therapy. It’s hands-on but more about the purpose and the goal. So within that, what do you need to document? And this is really important part.

Obviously, if you’re billing for manual therapy, the big issue is that we have to show it. So documentation must be include that area. You’re doing the service also though, the or technique you’re using. And again, there could be a wide variety. Don’t be afraid of describing things like muscle, energy, PNF, things of that nature would fit certainly statements of myofascial release. What I want you to be careful of is don’t simply say I did manual therapy, identify what the styler technique was also indicate there, the start and stop times, or frankly, just the time. Remember this is a time service, much like is acupuncture. And so you do have to document time. Now you can document time. A couple of ways. You can just tell me how many minutes you spent, or you can do from into, if you say, Hey, I started at 10 and I ended at 10 20 of the 20 minutes either way, tell me how much time you spent because it’s time derivative.

And then along with that, the expected goals, and this is probably the more important factor to make sure you distinguish it from massage. I did myofascial release to the right shoulder to increase range of motion due to restrictions about the, you know, the clavicle area or the deltoid, something of that nature. Subscapularis you name it? Any of those would certainly be fit, but just tell me what the goal is. It’s more about the outcome then the service, could there be a mixture? What if you did some deep tissue work, but it also included a little bit of massage? Well, that certainly is fine. Just remember the bulk of the work would be the manual therapy. Therefore that would be the more appropriate code to bill. Now it is a 15 minute service and I’m sure you’re all aware. Does it require the full 15 minutes to bill for one unit just like acupuncture.

You do not have to spend a full 15 minutes face-to-face but at least eight minutes. So remember the eight minute rule does apply with this code as it would with massage for that matter. Now what it was billable here though. So here’s something I want to bring up about the eight minute rule. That’s often confusing. In fact, I did a program this weekend at the Florida state Oriental medical association. And one of the questions that came up was about timing. So I’m going to give you a little quiz here. Let’s see if you can pass. What is billable here? What if I do tend to 10 minutes, face-to-face doing acupuncture. You know, I insert some needles manual. And in addition to that, I do another 10 minutes of massage or manual therapy, either one don’t care. So I’ve spent 10 minutes on one, 10 minutes on it, the other, what can I, bill?

What will you bill for this visit? Can I bill for both codes? I’ll give you a moment to think about it, which is appropriate. Well, what is going to be appropriate? We have to do the eight minute rule. The time you spent with the patient, if you recall was 20 minutes total, remember 10 minutes in 10 minutes. Therefore, how many units is 10 minutes? We’ll look at this little chart and you’ll notice one unit is eight to 22 minutes. So if you only spent 20 minutes, can you bill for two units? And this is what’s important to remember, even though you’re doing two separate services, the time is cumulative. So if you’ve only seen, I spent 20 minutes, you cannot build both codes. Now you get to build one of them. Of course. And you always get to build the one that has a higher value, but you can’t build both.

So do make it important to always document time. Now, keep in mind. That’s because you spend 20 minutes. What if you actually spent, say 13 minutes on acupuncture and 10 minutes on the manual therapy would both be billable. Well, they would because you’ll notice two units is 23 minutes. So it becomes very imperative that you document the time properly in your file because frankly, that’s all someone’s ever going to look at. They’re not going to question so much the service as much as did you document it. What did you do? Where did you do it? And how much time did you spend?

So what about modifiers though? And this is a confusing area for acupuncturist because I’ve seen many of you say, Hey, do I need to have a modifier 59? When I bill this therapy? And the Frank answer is you do not. No modifier is typical on a claim for an acupuncturist when it comes to physical medicine codes for most plans. Now, bear in mind. Some people will think, oh, I have to put modifier 59. That is necessary for chiropractic providers, but it is not necessary for you. Chiropractors have to demonstrate a separate from manipulation, but not for acupuncture. So a 59 is not necessary on this code because it doesn’t have to be distinguished from something else. There’s no correlation of manual therapy to acupuncture. However, what but you want to make sure is is that though I don’t need to distinguish it from acupuncture. Are there some things we might have to do?

And this is something I want to make clear to not have anyone confused. We’ve done a program on this. You’ve been to a seminar with me. You’ve heard me talk about it as well. How about plans like United health care, Optum health, Anthem blue. Those companies require that when you build a physical medicine code, which includes manual therapy, you have to include modifier 59 or excuse me, modifier, GP, excuse me. So that true for all physical medicine codes. So if you’re billing a physical medicine code to United Optum Anthem, put a GP. Now notice, I didn’t say Aetna, I didn’t say Cigna. So don’t automatically add those in just because you’re billing, but to those carers only, but distinctively doesn’t acupuncturist need to put a 59 on manual therapy. You do not. There’s no need to distinguish it as a separate distinct service. So keep it simple, provide the manual therapy, why to reduce adhesions, increase range of motion.

If you’re doing it more for relaxation, likely massage bottom line is let’s make sure we’ve documented and build for it. Ultimately, if you’re providing a service, I want us to be reimbursed for it. I don’t think you should have a free clinic. No one has free clinics or at least at least no one. That’s trying to make a profit off of it. So I want you to keep in mind though. What about your state now? Of course, this is going across the whole United States. Now do most states have licensure for acupuncturists where they can do manual therapy or therapies? They do. By example, I’ll give one New Jersey has a very broad scope of practice, which clearly allows the service, but New York does not states like Florida do. And most states do so make sure you know, your state and what you’re allowed to do. But I will say generically, most states do allow adjunctive therapies and this can be within scope, but always check within your state to make sure am I practicing within my scope because some states do not.

So I don’t want to make this a blanket that everyone can do it because it may not be within your scope. Ultimately, what we want to be able to do is to make sure your practice can continue to thrive and enhance the care of your patients. I want you to do the services that are necessary for your patients to recover and get the best outcomes. Manual therapy certainly can be part of that. Let’s make sure we bill it right by documenting what we’re doing, where we’re doing it and the purpose. And of course time, ultimately we are your resource. If you’ve not taken a moment, come to our site, the American Acupuncture Council Network, AAC info network. We’ve got a new section there that is free to all of you. Don’t even have to be a member. We normally have a membership where I become part of your office.

I help you on a day-to-day basis with all types of issues, but we post a new section. So if you’ve not seen that, I would suggest take a look there. Cause we’ve got a lot of updated information on requirements for vaccines, whether it is or is not what’s going on with other issues regarding the ADA and other issues for acupuncture offices. So with that, I’m going to say thank you all very much. I’m glad to always spend time with you. Next week will be Virginia Doran and as always the American Acupuncture Council is always your resource as am I come and take a look, go to my Facebook page as well. And I welcome any questions from you. Thank you everyone. See you next time.

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What Modifiers Are Necessary On An Acupuncture Claim?

 

 

We’re going to give you always some updates on coding, billing, documentation, things to help enhance your practice.

Click here to download the transcript.

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.

Well, good day, everyone. This is Sam Collins, your coding and billing expert for acupuncture, the American Acupuncture Council and the American acupuncture council network. Welcome you to another program. We’re going to give you always some updates on coding, billing, documentation, things to help enhance your practice. Remember, our goal is the American Acupuncture Council is to always enhance you. We’re symbiotic. We obviously offer malpractice insurance, which I’m sure many of you have, but we also offer our network service, which gives you some up-to-date information. And this is partly what we do here is to make sure that your practice does well. So let’s get to the point. Let’s start to understand what’s happening in currently going on with modifiers. Let’s go to the slides. If they’re not up. Those modifiers that we run into often are very confusing for many acupuncturists. And there’s been some recent changes that you may not be aware of, that you probably have gotten some denials.

So let’s talk today about what is necessary for modifiers on an acupuncture claim. What do we really need? And believe me, I think there’s a lot of misinformation, unfortunately, and does not get you paid without the right information. So what are modifiers? What modifiers of course are referred to as what we say, a level one modifier and it’s to supplement information about the claim itself. There are usually two digits or two characters in line, and they tell us something specific about the service. By example, modifier 25 to indicate it’s a separate, distinct service things of that nature. So the modifier is there to tell us something more about it. In many ways, the lack of a modifier will cause a denial. In fact, I bet many of you didn’t learn about using a modifier 25 until you got up in practice and you were like, why do I never get paid for an exam is because we’re not using the right modifier.

Remember a modifier does not alter payment. It just indicates a specific specificity about the code so that it can be paid. And so where do modifiers go? This is a portion of a course of a 1500 claim form. You’d put the data service and notice here. There’s a section that says modifier and notice there’s four spaces, 1, 2, 3, 4. So is it possible that you might have to use more than one modifier? It certainly could be. It would be unusual in an acupuncture setting, but possible just bear in mind that you can always add up to four now, what is the most common modifier for acupuncturists? And this is the one I will say. Every acupuncture is going to use at some point and it’s modifier 25. And what modifier 25 indicates it says modifier 25 is defined as a significant separately, identifiable evaluation management service by the same physician or other healthcare, other qualified healthcare professional on the same date of service of another procedure.

So all that gobbly goop means that the modifier is required when you’re doing an ENM evaluation management or exam code the same day as acupuncture or any treatment to indicate that the exam was separate or above and beyond what we note as the pre and post service evaluation. So by example, when you see someone on a first visit, you’ve never seen them before. It is clear, you’re going to do a significant examination. You can’t just say, Hey, I don’t care. What’s wrong with you. Put them on a table and hit them with needles. But what you’re going to do is take their history, do a full evaluation. So that is clearly an exam above and beyond normally what you do. So that’s why on a first visit, when you build an exam, you always will put a 25 modifier. However, let me make a clarification.

Some acupuncturists have the misinformation that they’re going to do an evaluation management or an office visit on every single visit. And that is actually incorrect. And here’s why the acupuncture code includes a pre-service and post-service evaluation. So by example, I just noted the first visit. The first visit. Clearly you have the history of the injury. When did it happen? What did you do? All those things, but on a follow-up visit, yes, you are going to do a small evaluation. What are you going to do on a follow-up visit? Like if I were your patient on the second visit, you would say, Hey Sam, how are you feeling today? Is that better? Last time when you left, the pain was much less. So in other words, it’s going to do a review of the chief complaint that is called the pre-service. So the reason you can’t bill an exam every day is because the acupuncture code or actually any treatment code includes a small evaluation.

So the reason you’re putting a 25 modifier on the first exam is your notification to the insurance that this exam is above and beyond the exam associated with treatment beyond the normal day to day, how are you feeling better, worse tongue pulse and so forth. So again, an exam can’t be done every day, but there is an evaluation every day. That’s part of it. So for billing purposes, take a look how it goes. The modifier goes right next to the code and the mid-level exam, 9 9 2 0 3 and a 25. If you forget to put the 25, it is an automatic denial, just a hundred percent will not be paid. The 25 is there to indicate that it’s a separate and distinct service and payable. Doesn’t alter the price, but does indicate that it is a payable exam because it’s above and beyond the one you do day to day.

Now this, I will say every acupuncturist does no question, the first visit. And re-exams probably about every 30 days. Be careful do not build one each and every visit and also be mindful. Some carriers that you belong to, and that can include some of the blues as well as, um, some of the, uh, uh, United health care policies. Depending if you have a membership through like Ash, they may pay only one exam a year. So it’s not an issue that you didn’t use the right code or modifier check your contract. But assuming non contracted one should be paid. One done so long as you include the 25. Now you’ll notice I did put here a new patient exam, but it could be an established patient 9 9 2 1 3. So that again, most common one. Now here’s one you may not be familiar with, obviously, regardless of that, COVID seems to be tailing off.

Might there still be a use for telemedicine visits for an acupuncturist, particularly for a patient on their first visit. Maybe they don’t have the time to come in for an hour visit. So maybe you do the first half of the visit telemedicine meaning the non-treatment part. So how do you identify telemedicine? Well, there’s a unique modifier for telemedicine. It’s modifier 95. Now you’ll notice I have it right next to an ENM code because a telemedicine visit is an evaluation it’s counseling. So you would use an ENM code, but to identify it as telemedicine put a 95. Now, remember telemedicine does mean audio, video and live. It cannot be recorded as not a phone call. It must be live interactive, audio video. Now the one of a unique difference for this one is not just the modifier. You’ll notice. The place of service says zero to the zero to places.

Service indicates also a telemedicine setting. So it not only needs the 95 modifier, but the zero two, if it’s a telemedicine visit, now remember telemedicine. Obviously we can’t treat, but could there be places where there’s counseling for a patient where they can’t come in or let’s face it? What if they can’t come in timely or don’t have the time to spend an hour an hour and a half, which may be the history, might it be more convenient? Would it make more sense to maybe do a telemedicine, at least that part, and then follow up with a half hour visit where you actually do treatment. So a viable one they’re 25 on exams with treatment, but telemedicine 95. Now there’s another modifier. And this is the one I’m sure many of you have missed out on it’s modifier GP. I’m sure if you’ve billed the VA, you’re aware of it.

But what this modifier is called is called an always therapy modifier. It’s what’s called a HICPAC modifier, HCPCS healthcare, common procedure coding system. And it’s a letter one, and it’s always therapy because every time you build a therapy to some payers, they need to identify who’s providing it, meaning a therapy provider. So for acupuncture purposes, you’re going to use modifier GP. Now you’re going to think, well, GP indicates physical therapy. That’s true, but that’s within your scope. So you’re going to put a GP, not a geo or a GM, just understand geo means services by an occupational therapist, G N by a speech therapist. So for our purposes under scope of practice, it would be a GP. Now, what does this add on to literally every physical medicine rehabilitation code? So when you think of what is that, that’s going to be every therapy code, right?

We all the way from hot packs all the way through the unlisted service. So common services, massage, gosh, manual therapy, infrared heat exercise. In fact, what I will say is any therapy code that begins with the nine seven, not including acupuncture will require the GP and who requires it well United healthcare as of April last year, that includes Optum health. It also includes anyone going to the VA, which you’re probably already aware of, but here’s the newest beginning April 1st of this year. And I’m sure you’ve noticed it on a lot of claims going to Anthem. And this includes blue cross blue shield of Michigan notice blue cross of California. Now let me be clarified here for anyone from California in California, blue cross and blue shield are separate companies. So it includes blue cross in California, but not blue shield. So do be aware of that nuance and most other states they’re combined.

And that includes all of these states, including Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Vermont, and Wisconsin. And I think others as well. So check your EOB is if it comes back and it says this service is missing a modifier and it’s a therapy, chances are it’s the GP. Now that means all physical medicine codes. The question you may have though, is any other payers? Well, Medicare is one of them, but remember Medicare, we’re not billing directly, but technically if you’re looking for a denial for Medicare, you would put that on there, but again, not common. And so how does the code look like? Well, take a look here. You’ll notice I did an exam, same thing, but notice 9 7 0 2 6 GP. The GP does not change the price. It’s just a requirement for payment. So you may think, well, Hey Sam, can I add the GP to every client?

Why not just add it to everything? Well, that could be partially problematic. And I wouldn’t blanket it because there are carriers that may not recognize it and may deny it. So for now, I’m going to say Anthem policies, United healthcare and their affiliates and the VA a hundred percent. And if you ever get a dial back that says this claim for physical medicine services or physical therapy is missing a modifier, it’s likely a GP, but again, don’t Blake. It, it, because here’s what I’ve also found. If you put a modifier on something, they’re assuming you’re trying to tell them something unique and chances are, they may deny it. So for now stick with just those payers, if you’re wondering, well, how would I know this? One of the things you can do, the American acupuncture council is your partner and our website for our education division.

The network has a new section go to AAC info network, click on the new section, and you’ll see all these updates. It’s one of the ways we try to keep you up to date. So if you’ve never gone to the network website, please take a look, AAC info, network.com, click on news. And in fact, just sign up for our email subscription. And what we’ll do is send you once something has changed, because here’s the difficult part I come to you probably once a month or every other month, but what happens in between us, something has changed. So it’s our way of updating. So again, GP on all physical medicine codes, and we want to give you a portal where you can start to use it. Now here’s an area that I think is often very confusing and a lot of acupuncturists have bad information. They will say, Sam, do I need to use modifier 59?

Well, what does a 59? It says a distinct procedural service. And it says under certain circumstances, it may be necessary to indicate that a procedure service was distinct or independent from other services, not including an ENM. So a lot of acupuncturists have made this assumption that, oh, I put that on my second set. You absolutely do not. A second set is already distinct. There’s also another other modifier. That’s common. It’s more or less the same. And it says a separate structure. And it’s excess. Now I’m bringing this up to make sure you understand what these modifiers are and why you wouldn’t use them, because you do not have to indicate that the acupuncture is to a separate area. We don’t have that type of rule or protocol where I think this comes from is people not understanding chiropractic claims. And part of the unfortunate thing is often people who teach you are not teaching you specific things about acupuncture, but that’s something that may be related to what a physical therapist does or what a chiropractor does.

So let’s talk about specifically a chiropractic claim versus an acupuncture claim. Chiropractors have to use modifier 59 when they’re using massage or manual therapy. And it’s because the rule is a chiropractor is not separately reimbursed for massage or manual therapy. If it’s done in the same area as manipulation, hence why that modifier is there to show, oh, it’s distinct. It’s a separate area. Now this edit doesn’t apply to acupuncture. There’s nothing about acupuncture and manual therapy that will require a 59. So if you’re putting a 59 with it, there’s no absolute necessity for it. In fact, it may cause the claim to be denied. So as a general rule, the modifiers you’re going to use as an acupuncturist are going to be 25 on exam codes in GP. For those, those companies that I mentioned now, would you ever use a 59 will never for acupuncture, but I’ll give a scenario.

Some of you, you may be doing a little bit more of a rehab style with a patient. Maybe they have back pain and you’re doing some exercises and therapeutic activities. Particularly this could apply with a VA patient. If you were combining exercise 9 7 1 1 0 with therapeutic activities and 9, 7, 5, 3 0, you would put a 59 or one or the other codes to distinguish them as separate. And the reason why is those two services are very, very similar in fact, to be the exact same thing, but the outcome being different. So you want to distinguish that part of the service was, you know, exercise and part was a therapeutic activity. So that would be about the only place I would ever see the use of 59. So don’t get caught up that, oh, I have to use it. Trust me, it’s innocuous information and just incorrect. So again, 25 in GP, but not a 59.

And the reason I’m bringing up news, I’ve done a program with you before where I talked about Cigna at American specialty health, I’m going to let you know no, this doesn’t apply to California, Oregon, Washington, but to other states, if you’ve not seen it, they’ve delayed the change to September and they’ve upped the ante to 89, a visit from 55. So that’s a nice change. You should have received some information on it, but if you have not, how do you find out go to AAC info, network.com, click on the news tab. And you’ll see, I’ve written an article piece on that. Our job at the American Acupuncture Council, keeping you up to date, keeping you paid keeping to make sure your practice survives. So if you’ve not been to our site, this is the site. Notice here, the new section, click on that. You’re right in.

But let’s talk about what are you doing to really make your office do well. Have you ever thought of where do I get my answers? Who do I get them from? Hire an expert. We offer a service called the network where for a small fee per year, you get complete access to me where I become part of your staff. You can ask me questions on coding, billing, documentation, medical necessity. Hey, Sam, a claim got denied. Get to a place where we’re making sure your claims getting paid. Here’s what I guarantee you. Join our network. I’ll get your money back within a month because all I have to do is answer one or two questions and it’s always related to money. You’ve gotten paid back and it’s going to be triple fold because guess who gets notified? First people who are in the network, we send out an email chain to everyone.

That’s a network member when something’s changing. Anytime there’s an update. You’re notified first. So let’s help you get your claims paid, go to our site. Here’s a QR code you can go to, but simply go to our site. AACinfonetwork.com. We’re here to help as always the American Acupuncture Council is your policy holder or your policy holders, but we’re also your advocates. Now next week’s program will be Virginia Doran. I look forward to seeing you all next time. Take a look at the site. Let’s get you paid and best wishes to everyone. Thank you very much.

 

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CIGNA ASH Update for Acupuncture Providers – Sam Collins

 

 

Well, as always, let’s kind of work with what’s going on and changing for us in the realm of coding and billing. And specifically this episode, we’re going to spend some time with American specialty health and Cigna.

Click here to download the transcript.

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.

And we’re Live. All right,

Greetings everyone. This is Samuel Collins, your coding and billing expert for acupuncture and the American Acupuncture Council. Welcome you to another episode of, to the point by the American acupuncture council. And thank you for spending some time with me. I will always want to give you some updates. What’s changing. What’s going on. What’s new. If you have not, please take a look at the American Acupuncture Council Network site to check our new section. Cause we do update information there. Along with these shows. We also have information on our Facebook page too. If you’ll take a look there. Well, as always, let’s kind of work with what’s going on and changing for us in the realm of coding and billing. And specifically this episode, we’re going to spend some time with American specialty health and Cigna. Cause I know a lot of you have gotten some letters, so let’s go to the slides, everyone.

All right. As always here’s our website, of course, we’ll take a look there. That’s where the new section is, but let’s kind of focus in on what’s been going on or what is going on with Cigna. So let’s take a look at this letter that I’m sure many of you received. Notice. This one is just dated February 26 and it says here Cigna is pleased to announce that they are expanding their acupuncture per provides our customers with access to services effective June 1st. Now let’s read this thoroughly because it says we encourage you to become a participating provider with Ash to support acupuncture services for Cigna customers, benefits plans nationwide beginning June 1st. So let’s start first with notice. It says encourage it. Doesn’t say we require. In addition, it says as a result of this program, this will contract directly with providers for acupuncture services for Cigna benefits.

Now, for those that are familiar with American specialty health or Ash, it is one of the largest plans out there that manages typically chiropractic acupuncture as well as physical therapy. And most people often will give a kind of negative outlook to this company. Now I want to be careful. I’m not saying they’re a bad company, but the one factor that many people focus on is that they simply have a very low reimbursement. They do have some other requirements, but as far as being negative towards it, I’ve heard people say it’s not so much the company. I think they’re fine. It’s just the reimbursement as well. So it says here, we’re going to use that company, which means reimbursements are going to decrease based on this. And it says, provide contract administration, medical necessity, review, and claims processing. Now I will say this. They have a very good plane claims processing portal that can make things easier.

And actually if you use their portal, they actually give you a bonus payment. So that’s pretty good. Don’t get too excited. That bonus payment is literally pennies to a dollar nonetheless. Um, this is what’s occurring now. What’s important. It says we encourage you and then notice here. It says what this means to you. You must be contracted with Ash in order to provide in-network acupuncture services. So what that is saying that if you wish to be in network with Cigna, you must Ash. Now. Sure. Some of you have been through the program with Accu care, maybe a couple others that were handling this. They’ve just simply moved the contract over to Ash. So does that mean they won’t have benefits? No. It just simply means that if you want to have in network benefits, now this is where we really have to decide how well this is going to work.

Now it says here about advantages, continuity of care, access to their Ashlyn, which is their, um, billing portion, no fees to join. That’s all good advantages of a hundred percent, a hundred percent. Peer-to-peer here’s the downside. The downside is they’re often very strict when it comes to medical necessity. Now I’m not saying they’re too strict, but you have to remember, they’re going to look for how well is the care working? What are the changes being made? So it’s something you really want to start to take a look at as to whether or not that’s something you can work with or how many visits you see. Because often after five visits, they’re going to request additional information, which I will say is terribly hard, but it doesn’t mean that’s going to be extra work. And we have to decide whether or not this is going to be a benefit we want.

Well, there’s a second part to the letter and something I want to emphasize here is this. It says for applicable areas, this is not going to include California, Washington, state, Oregon, or Tennessee. So those areas already have contracts with Ash. So you won’t necessarily have to join, but the benefits can be managed there. And it’s not including benefits for North Carolina and Virginia, which they say are upcoming. So what they’re saying is if you want to join, they’re looking for you to join sometime around April 1st. Now that’s when you can begin, do you have to join for you to have these benefits? Is what my concern is. The answer is simply no, the patients will still continue to have the benefits, but what will it pay and how do we decide? So here’s one of the things we do. I do seminars, of course, I’m sure many of you have attended.

And I also have a consulting service that our network that I work with you one-on-one. Well, one of the things you have to do is kind of do what I do with my members. And that is to figure out how worthwhile is it to be a member of this? Let’s start to talk about it this way. I’m going to keep this kind of simplistic for the timeframe we have. But think of it this way. When you join Cigna or Ash, you’re trading something now, what are you trading? You’re trading generally, you’re going to get less money per visit, but more patients. That’s kind of the advantage. If you’re in network, are you going to get considerably more people? So one of the things to consider is how does Cigna patients come to you in the first place? Were they coming to you because you were in network with something or were they simply coming? So in other words, if you are already getting the patients, how has joining going to bring more? In fact, my concern would be, if you join, you simply are going to get less. So the choices, if it can give you much

More volume and will it make up

For the decrease in reimbursement. So let’s talk about the in network and out of network in network means you’re controlled to those fees and you may not collect anything different other than what’s allowed. If you are out of network, they’re going to pay what they allow, but then you can balance bill the patient. Now that balance billing is fine, but how much will the patient take? How much can they afford? Would it be better for them to go to an in-network doctor where they have to pay maybe a $15 copay compared to coming to you where it could be $40? So that’s something to consider. Although I will say this, don’t be afraid to offer your patients good service. People don’t choose acupuncturist because you’re cheap. They choose it because you can help them and make them feel better. And there’s a value to that.

So before we begin in talking about what the fees are of this thing, let’s talk about joining. When you join, you have to wait out what what’s good. What’s bad. So I suggest take a piece of paper, draw a line down the center on one side, please. Yes. On the other side, put no and start looking at the potentials. One thing to start with is, is this plant exclusive? Well, I’ll start with, it’s not, so that’s going to be a no. Why would I join something? That’s non-exclusive unless somehow it could send me many more patients. So I’m going to check a no on that one because it’s not exclusive. The next thing says is the pay reasonable? Well, I’m going to show you in just a moment. Not very now. I’m not going to say it’s horrible, but it’s not very good. So that’s already two there.

The only thing I could think that this would do for you is bring you a lot of new patients. Because if I look under the note, it’s, non-exclusive, it doesn’t pay very much. If they’re already current patients, how does that help? And there’s other requests they have after you do a certain number of visits, probably after five years, I have to do what’s called a treatment authorization. So this is, there’s a lot of downside to this in the sense of the extra work. Not saying it’s too hard, but please go in with your eyes open. I want you to think of the value. Well, let’s talk about what does it cost to treat a patient in your office? By example, let’s say your overhead per month is $4,000 and you see about a hundred patient visits. It’s a month now, again, that’s 25 a week.

That means it costs you $40 just to keep your office open on those number of patients. So by example, under some of these Ash policies, they pay 1550 $5 max per visit. So therefore if you’re getting $50 or $55 max, that means you’re making only 10 or $15 per patient think of how much extra volume. So in other words, if you have only asked patients, you’re going to go broke this one, you have to be a value added patient. And maybe this is where this can make a difference. Can it bring you someone that you have not already seen that will be new to your office? My key factor is going to be, does it really bring that type of value is the trade-off worth it? Well, let’s take a look at what they’ve done in California. Over this past year, American specialty health has worked with blue shield of California.

And what it allows is a car, an acupuncturist to do ENM codes. So exams, acupuncture in some objective therapies. Well, that sounds pretty good. Realize too, this plan doesn’t cover massage or TuiNa. So those services can be built with a patient separately so long as you inform them beforehand. So that sounds good. Except when you see, well, what’s the allowance. Well, even though they say they cover all of these things, the max per day is $55 and it’s inclusive and all visits count towards. So if you have a patient come in and get one service, it’s going to count as a complete visit. There’s no like, Oh, I just did a therapy. It’s still going to count. So here’s their allowance. This is the California. One $30 for exams essentially. And then 20 to 30 for re-exams. Okay. Not bad, but remember that’s still within the max.

So you’ll notice here. The plan says it pays $55 max per visit. Well, isn’t it interesting that the first set is 45 and the second set is 10. So in other words, as soon as you do two sets, you’ve maxed out. Even if you did an exam, do you get paid separately for that? Nope. The max per day is still 55. So therefore there’s really no additional benefit of them to think it’s paying you 55 per visit. Even the therapies you’ll notice are $10. So therefore, even if you did these therapies plus the acupuncture, what are you getting? Pre-visit 55. Now I’m not attempting to sound overly negative. I’m just saying, be aware of what the plan pays. This particular plan with Ash in California pays $55. Now American specialty health does do a medical necessity. And I would say, this is something I believe they’re pretty good at.

They kind of look at the patient. Yeah. As an overall, what do they cover? Things like headaches, hip or knee pain with arthritis or not extremity pain, mechanical irritation, pain, syndromes, back and neck pain. And of course not vomiting. And of course, you know, that Cigna has one of the most prolific diagnosis, allowances of all plans. I don’t foresee that changing the concern is how much, well, how much also relates to, well, how many visits are you going to get out of this? What they do pay attention to is your diagnosis understand less severe diagnosis. Don’t get as many visits, back pain compared to, let’s say a disc injury are very different. They do pay attention to things like this. And when you do your authorization, keep in mind indications in their history, such as it acute or trauma or traumatic chronic. Those make a difference.

A patient with comorbid factors, things that inhibit their recovery should be brought up. But when you do an exam, anything, you do the range of motion, palpation, orthopedic testing. If you do it, neurologic testing, quantify it. Don’t just tell me it’s positive. But also they do pay attention to tongue and pulse. So I’ll give them credit. They do follow some traditional principles. However, at the end of the day, what they’re looking for is can you show that you’re making the patient better? So understand that for $55 after five visits, do you have to do more of this information to get additional visits potentially? And it depends again on severity of diagnosis, they also look at the goals, how are you going to get the patient better? Well, let’s look at what this Cigna proposal is. And I couldn’t put the fee schedule up because it says it’s proprietary, but this is one I received from the, uh, Idaho area.

And, and I should say Midwest. And so you can see here, it’s not much different than what I just showed you. The 33 to 44 exams. The acupuncture they’ll notice here are going to be far cheaper. They are doing $40 for acupuncture. And I want to point out, I put a mistake here. This should be 40, not 45. The additional sets are paid for nothing. They’re just certain inclusive. So if you do one set or 10 sets, you’re going to get the same money. So something to consider when joining these plans, if you are a four set type of provider three set, this is going to be hard to absorb because that means you’re spending 45 minutes with a patient and getting $40 of reimbursement. Now, what if you’re the type of provider that does one set can be efficient. You needle the patient, make sure they’re finding, maybe they rest for a while and you’ll come back kind of a battlefield acupuncture or modern acupuncture style.

Maybe it can work because you can do volume. The difficulty is how much volume can you do? You know, at some point there’s a finite amount of things that an acupuncturist can do. Well, here’s what their fee schedule. Again, same thing for acupuncture and for therapies. So notice $10. So again, what is the maximum per visit? Well, it’s going to be 50 assuming, uh, acupuncture and a therapy. What they haven’t made clear, will they always pay the therapy separately. Now here’s for the region for the East Eastern areas. This is when I got out of DC. You’ll notice about the same prices, prices a little higher than the Midwest, I guess, but then you’ll notice fees are all the same. So what I’m going to suggest when you get into this, notice every therapy. Now the thing that frustrates me with this is how do you justify charging $10 for a hot pack and then $10 for exercise.

When exercise requires one-on-one care, that’s detailed undocumented compared to just lay in a hot pack on someone. How does that seem reasonable? So my bone to pick here is they should be paying providers more. And so I’ve had a lot of providers asking me, Sam, what I joined this? Now, all I can say is I’m going to give my opinion. Each of you have to make a decision on your own, how well this works. If you can do a high volume practice and there are a number of patients that are going to come in, only because they’re in this space, it could be worth it. However, if you are a two or three set provider, right, and you’re getting only $40, that’s going to be hard to swallow, but here’s the point. If you’re out of network, is it going to be the same thing?

Anyway, the difference is you can charge the patient. And what I’d explained to the patient is your plan pays $50. My visit is 80 and what you’re going to get with my visit is a much better level of care. I will be able to spend more time with you and really correct it as opposed to what I call a poke and run doctor, meaning, put the needles in and run out. Now, I’m not saying that in a negative way, there’s places for all types of providers. I could just find this very hard to work with now, how is this going to work? If providers do not join, will they still have benefits? Nothing has been shown from Ash or from Cigna. That patient we’ll lose benefits. If they go to out network providers, I think mostly this is a way to get the PR profession to join where they are going to gain more control.

Now I’m not against the medical necessity side. I think that’s fine. I just think that this reimbursement level is a hard one to sustain a practice. Let’s face it. If all you got were $50 from every patient and you spend a half hour with every patient, that means you make a hundred dollars per hour, assuming everything works efficiently or 800 per day, you can say, Hey look, that’s 4,500 per week. You know, or knowing that 4,500, excuse me. Uh, but those amounts could I, well, there’s 4,500 per week. Could I make that work well? Sure. But that’s, if you’re very efficient within that. So is it terrible? No. Is it really commensurate with what they were already paying? I don’t think so. And so that’s something that as a provider, you’re going to have to look at and decide, is it worth it to me now?

I will tell you, I’ve given you a little thumbnail of information. I tried to get it out there to you to get a little understanding. If you need more or want more, we offer services to do that. Our seminars at the American Acupuncture Council do that, but also we offer a service. That’s called the network. Just take your phone, scan this, come and take a look at the services we offer. Allow me to be part of your team where you can call me, email me, text me, or fax me questions. And we can work this through the, see how this is going to work and how to make sure you can keep your practice viable. I’m not going to be overly negative, but I want to say that obviously this is going to create a much greater level of control with much lower reimbursement. And that’s something I’ll say it’s not a positive for the profession.

So I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from different States and I’m talking to their state organizations where they have surveyed and a large number of providers have indicated they’re not going to join. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s not very many, what will Ash do or Cigna? All the patients will still have access to benefits. So what I’ll say to you is make a good decision for your office, make an informed decision. And the good news is what if you do join or don’t join. Can you always go back and change your mind? Sure. You can always go back and drop out or join. You want to do what’s best for your practice. Remember you are important to your patients and it’s good to be important, but it’s more important to be good. And to give that good service, you want to make sure that you have a viable practice to do it, allow us a chance to help you, but also the American Acupuncture Council is always here for you. Next week’s class is going to be with Poney Chiang. So pay attention to that. Otherwise I’ll say to all of you, best wishes, keep a close eye out and don’t be afraid to take a look and decide to be or not to be if you will. Thanks everyone. I’ll see you next time. This is Sam Collins, your coding and billing expert.