Almost all medical billing companies are paid a percentage of what they collect. This means they are only paid when you are paid. It also means the more they collect for your practice, the more they are paid. Internal medical billers, on the other hand, are almost always hourly employees. They are paid based on showing up in your office, not based upon how well they perform your medical billing or how much money they collect for your practice. This is not an alignment of incentives.
This issue, however, is often not fully understood or appreciated by many providers. These providers frequently say: "the staff works directly for me in my office-- they are more loyal and will do a better job and I can see what they are doing". Experience has shown, however, that this is often not true.
I recently spoke with a partner at a busy cardiology practice. While one of the billers was out sick, some paperwork was required and the supervisor went looking for it. When the supervisor opened the missing biller's desk, a stack of unfiled, old claims was discovered. It turned out about $40,000 of them were past timely filling deadlines. They were lost. I repeat-the practice lost $40,000! When the biller returned from her leave, she was "sternly" reprimanded. Let me say it one more time-she was reprimanded. Not fired, but reprimanded. Either way, the practice lost $40,000 in just this one instance alone.
Why wasn't more severe action taken? Because of concerns with upsetting the billing staff and exacerbating a staffing problem that existed. The biller was moved from follow-up to the front desk where she is now being trusted to collect the critical demographic information required to properly bill claims.
This volume of missing charges should not have gone unnoticed. There should have been multiple reports that could have identified such a problem. The practice, unfortunately, did not know how to properly utilize the capabilities of the billing system and so, the required reports were never run. Proper use of a billing system requires much investment in time and training, an investment that hourly employees often do not make. This $40,000 in unbilled charges is likely a proverbial roach of this practice - in other words, for the one you see there are likely hundreds you do not.
If you select the correct billing company you can avoid nightmare situations like this. Here are some of the key elements you should seek when looking for a medical billing company:
- A fully integrated tracking system (charges by locations/provider and payments by source - lock box, office, PO Box) should be in place and you should have full visibility into the system at all times.
- Your medical billing company should reimburse your practice for what you would have been paid by the payers based on your allowable for any claims that go past timely filing for reasons within the medical billing company's control. What this means is that you never suffer financially if the billing company drops the ball. Try to have your billers reimburse you if they drop the ball.
- The practice should always (24 hours a day, 7 days a week) have access to the medical billing companies system. This allows the practice to see at any time exactly what is happening with their account.
Physicians are working harder for less as costs rise and reimbursements fall. This is exacerbated by selecting a medical billing approach that does not have the proper alignment of incentives to prevent disasters (such as $40,000 in unbilled charges) from occurring.
It has been said that the definition of insanity is doing things the same way and expecting different results. This certainly applies in the story outlined above. The biller that left $40,000 in charges unbilled will likely continue to cost the practice money. Just because she works for the practice does not mean she represents their best medical billing solution.
Selecting a world-class medical billing service that provides total visibility into their process and has incentives that are fully aligned with those of the practice is the most reliable road to outstanding medical billing and financial excellence.
Copyright 2008 by ClaimCare Medical Billing Services