I Don’t Want to Enroll in Medicare!!!
Do I HAVE To?
In true Medicare doublespeak … The answer is both YES – and NO.
There are three categories of Medicare provider enrollment. The government expects all Medicare-eligible clinicians to make a choice and enroll accordingly.
What they DON’T want, is for clinicians to refrain from choosing. The government expects all Medicare-eligible clinicians to enroll in Medicare or opt out. There can be negative consequences to staying outside the system.
Attention: Counselors and Marriage-Family Therapists, beginning in 2024 this will include YOU, as well!
For the uninitiated, Medicare seems designed to frustrate, with all its acronyms, lingo, and peculiarities. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Upcoming Webinar! Therapists: Medicare Demystified!
Your Billing Buddy will be your guide to the next upcoming webinar Friday, March 10th at 10 am Pacific / 1 pm Eastern.
The 3 provider enrollment categories
Participating – There is no “credentialing” in Medicare. Compared to a private insurer, it’s a relatively
straightforward and short process. (Keyword here being relatively…!)
To enroll on paper, you file the appropriate forms:
CMS 855I (for individuals)
CMS 855B (groups)
CMS 855R (individual group members reassigning benefits)
CMS 588 (electronic funds transfer is required)
CMS 460 (participation agreement)
Or, you complete the same information on PECOS – Medicare’s online enrollment system.*
*This June, CMS will be launching a redesign of PECOS. If you plan to enroll, I suggest enrolling by the end of April – or wait to start once the upgrade is complete.
Medicare’s enrollment process takes 30-45 days once your enrollment application is deemed complete. If something is missing or incomplete, you will receive a letter and are given 30 days to resolve the deficiency.
There may also be a site visit. If you work mostly remotely, or in an office owned by another entity, call the Provider Enrollment department at your MAC (Medicare Administrative Contractor) to ask how to proceed. Site visits are a negative consequence of past fraud.
Medicare needs to ensure you are a legitimate business.
Once enrolled, your Medicare provider number will be made retroactive 30 days from the date your application was received.
To bill, hook your billing system up to send claims electronically…and off you go! (Medicare does not accept paper claims except in special circumstances).
Participating clinicians are required to:
- Submit claims for clients.
- Accept the Medicare allowable rate as payment in full.
- Only collect deductible/coinsurance from your client. (No superbills)
Non-Participating – It’s not all that different from Participating, but with a few key features.
During enrollment, you will NOT sign the participation agreement. (CMS 460). The lack of this form is what enrolls you as non-par. Otherwise, the enrollment process is identical.
Non-participating providers are allowed to charge more. Specifically, in a Medicare
mathematical sleight of hand, 10% more. Here’s how it works. When Medicare processes your claim, they will allow 95% of the amount paid to participating providers. The non-participating clinician is then permitted to add 15%, with the total net gain, therefore, being 10%. The 15% is what is referred to as the “limiting charge” – the amount that a non-par provider can add on top of what Medicare allows.*
*Some states, such as New York, restrict the limiting charge. Contact a licensed healthcare attorney in your state.
You MUST file the claims for your client. However, you do NOT have to accept the assignment. (Accepting assignment = Medicare pays you). You are allowed to collect in full at the time of service: the Medicare allowed amount + the limiting charge. Upon receipt of a non-assigned claim, Medicare will reimburse your client directly.
Unlike with a commercial or a Medicare Advantage plan, the benefits to your client are NOT reduced if you are non-participating. However, your client’s supplement or secondary plan may not reimburse them for the limiting charge.
Still want absolutely NOTHING to do with Medicare?
Then you need to Opt-Out! Opting out is the third enrollment category.
Opting out is the simplest of all. There is a short form you file to Medicare, called an affidavit. Each Medicare contractor has one available for download on their website.
Opting out is an all-or-nothing proposition: It applies to all Medicare beneficiaries. If you currently have clients with Medicare, they will lose their benefits too – not just your new clients. Want to keep your current Medicare clients, just don’t want any more?
Tip: close your practice to new clients rather than opt out.
Opting out covers all services/procedures covered by Medicare.
Opting out puts your NPI on a publicly searchable list and applies to ALL practice locations. So know this…
If you’re out – YOU’RE OUT!
You cannot be opted out in your private practice but then accept Medicare clients at a group or facility.
What if I opt out but want to re-enroll in the future?
You can! There is never a barrier to changing your status, although naturally, there are a few rules… (hey, it’s Medicare!)
- For clinicians who are in their first opt-out cycle, there is a one-time “buyer’s remorse,” or Early Termination. You can cancel your opt-out enrollment within the first 90 days of your opt-out date. This is not available, ever again.
- Be mindful of when your two-year cycle ends. You can only re-enroll at the end of the two years. You must re-enroll no later than 30 days before the start of the next two-year cycle.
Note for clinicians who prescribe medication: As an opt-out provider, the drugs you prescribe will ONLY be covered by Medicare if you stay enrolled with your privileges restricted to order, certify, & prescribe. This is an option.
The Private Contract
Each Medicare contractor has one of these available on their website as well. My advice is to download it, and don’t modify it except to cut & paste the verbiage onto your letterhead.
It’s important for you to know – What does it say?
A lot of things, some of which are obvious enough that I do not need to rehash them. The main points are:
- Client agrees to pay & agrees not to file for reimbursement.
- Client understands Medicare, Medicare Advantage, and/or supplement plans will not pay.
- Client understands Medicare limits on charges do not apply.
- Client understands that the services could be covered by Medicare, if obtained from a provider who had not opted out.
- Client acknowledges this agreement is voluntary.
There’s more – do not take what’s written here as everything you need, if you want to opt-out. Go to a Medicare contractor’s website to download their form – or attend the March 10 webinar!
Opt-out private contracts MUST be in writing and kept on file in your paper chart or EMR. As with anything else, if it isn’t documented – it didn’t happen.
Can I use a Good Faith Estimate instead?
NO. “Good faith estimates” do not apply to Medicare clients.
What happens if I stay unenrolled?
They don’t examine lists of licensed professionals and compare them against enrollment databases.
All it takes is one Medicare client who pays you, obtains a superbill, and then files for reimbursement. You’ll receive an extremely frightening letter.
The letter will state:
Medicare guidelines outlined in Section 1848(g)(4) of the Social Security Act, require the physician or supplier to file a claim on the beneficiary’s behalf for service(s) rendered to a Medicare beneficiary that may be covered. … Physicians … who fail to submit a claim or who impose a charge for completing the claim can be subject to sanctions and/or monetary penalties.
DON’T IGNORE IT!
If you’re unaffiliated with Medicare and you’ve received the above letter, choose an enrollment category and get onboard. They will not prosecute you for a first offense, IF you take prompt action. Enrolling in one of the above categories will demonstrate your compliance going forward.
Warning: You may be required to refund fees collected from your client(s) for sessions that didn’t follow Medicare’s rules.
Where is this written? LEGALESE – click at your own peril!
Medicare IS manageable – But you don’t have to go it alone!
Learn all the secrets to working confidently with Medicare, without hassles, and getting paid:
Therapists: Medicare Demystified!
Friday, March 10th
10 am Pacific / 1 pm Eastern
Until next time, Your Billing Buddy is always here if you need help!