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'Why would I want to be out of network?': Out-of-Network experts answer 7 FAQs from providers

As ASCs face an increasingly challenging reimbursement environment, more providers are doubling down on out-of-network strategies to maximize on collections opportunities. 

Negotiating higher reimbursements on out-of-network bills can significantly improve a provider's bottom line. Collect Rx has helped providers negotiate higher reimbursements on out-of-network bills since 2006. The organization has grown to serve 1,300 customers across the nation, and its experts process more than $1 billion in out-of-network claims annually.

In a Jan. 25 webinar sponsored by Collect Rx and hosted by Becker's Hospital Review, Richa Singh, executive vice president of sales at Collect Rx, answered providers' frequently asked questions on out-of-network issues, payment processing, regulatory policies, negotiating settlement offers, appealing underpayments, and third-party rental network agreements.

Below are answers to seven commonly asked questions addressed in the webinar.

1. Why would I want to be out of network?

Compared to in-network reimbursements, which leave no room for negotiating rate increases, out-of-network reimbursements are often much higher.

"Leveraging out-of-network represents the last great opportunity for many providers to bring more dollars in the door to improve their bottom line," Ms. Singh said.

2. Is it worth the trouble negotiating if we don't see a lot of out-of-network bills?

Out-of-network bills should always be negotiated. They present ample opportunity to increase reimbursement, as insurers usually only pay a small fraction of the bill charges.

"Even providers with low volumes that have a strong negotiation process, they're able to generate significant additional revenue that would be enough to cover the cost of one or two full-time employees," Ms. Singh said.

3. How can two patients with the same treatment and the same insurance company have two different reimbursements?

Ultimately, it's not the insurance company that defines the reimbursement levels. Rather, that decision is controlled at the employer-group level.

4. Can cases involving international patients be negotiated?

Yes, they can. However, there are some nuances that make it different from negotiating U.S.-based policies. International insurance companies are more aggressive. They know it's often difficult for providers to track down an international patient for billing, let alone collect from him or her.

However, the potential challenges involved shouldn't dissuade providers from billing and negotiating with out-of-network, international insurers. "With proper data processes — and persistence — you can be successful with these patients," Ms. Singh said.

5. Given there is no contract, what is the incentive for providers to agree to a settlement offer when they are out of network with the payer?

There is greater opportunity to maximize reimbursements because the majority of the time if you do not negotiate, the bill may be repriced at a much lower amount, typically close to Medicare rates. There's also a higher possibility of favorable negotiations up front as opposed to appealing on the back end. In addition, providers can receive payment much faster when they agree to settlement offers.

6. Can out-of-network providers appeal low reimbursements for claims?

"Yes," Ms. Singh said. "Every provider should put together a comprehensive appeal process to combat payers when they have been severely underpaid."
 
7. What is the No. 1 key to successful out-of-network negotiations?

Persistence is the most important part of successful out-of-network billing.

"It is what we like to call the persistence game," Ms. Singh said. "Who is going to win the battle of the wills? To succeed, you must have the persistence required to keep fighting for reimbursements."

To watch a recording of the webinar, click here.

To learn more about Collect Rx, click here

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