In recent times, ambulatory surgery centers (ASC’s) have been confronted with the challenge of effectively negotiating for the highest reimbursement rates on services rendered out-of-network (OON). This was not the case decades ago, specifically in the early 1990s, when providers didn’t have to negotiate on out-of-network services as they were fully reimbursed by payers.
Today, reimbursements for out-of-network services have become very complex. Payers have now developed many tactics to make it difficult for providers to receive their full compensation.
Amongst other tactics adopted, payers now hire vendors to negotiate the lowest reimbursement rates from providers. This has made it possible for providers to be paid very low rates, as low as 20 percent of the compensation due to them, if they fail to actively negotiate for the best rates.
Providers will therefore have to develop strategies to ensure they receive 100 percent of their reimbursements. Here are 2 tips to consider for a successful negotiation:
Be Deliberate and Persistent in Negotiations
When it comes to negotiating for out-of-network reimbursements with payers, providers must be both deliberate and persistent. Vendors hired by payers will do their best to discourage providers from receiving their reimbursements in full.
Vendors receive higher commissions when they successfully negotiate lower reimbursement rates for payers; as such, they would normally develop tactics to out-smart unsuspecting providers when negotiating on behalf of payers.
Providers must therefore be proactive in the negotiation process. An experienced staff is well-versed in contract negotiation and should see to out-of-network negotiations with vendors. Your center can also recruit experienced out-of-network negotiators to join the company or be contracted to serve as agents for your ASC to negotiate with payers or vendors.
No matter how long it takes, responding to each counteroffer and following up with appealed underpayments will make a big difference. Be persistent in the negotiation process by making multiple calls, sending emails, and even scheduling meetings to ensure that the highest possible reimbursement rates are received. This strong negotiation process should be employed even if your center has low volume of out-of-network patients.
Appropriate Use of Data
The effective use of data is another strategy that ASC’s need to consider adopting in order to effectively negotiate for higher reimbursement rates. One tactic that payers employ to give the lowest reimbursement rates to providers is offering a different rate for the same procedure previously handled by the provider.
For example, an insurance company that paid 70 percent on a similar case a year ago might want to now offer 40 percent. An ASC can negotiate for the same rate, or maybe even a higher one, if it has data on the previous transaction.
Payers are often more proactive in collecting and keeping data than providers. Third-party vendors manage their data effectively and use it to negotiate the lowest reimbursements from providers.
Most providers however do not keep track of the data from their previous negotiations; hence the lower reimbursement rates.
Therefore, if you want to increase your bottom line, learn to be a persistent negotiator and back your strategy with data. When this is done, out-of-network reimbursements can be higher than in-network reimbursements. Your center has the flexibility and opportunity to set higher reimbursement rates that can make up for low rates set by government payers.