As ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) become more sophisticated about financial management, they’re beginning to adopt a practice that has been used by many hospital administrators. This practice is grading the major insurance payers on key metrics. This is done in order to inform future contract negotiations and for the overall profitability of the ASC.
Regent RCM’s Senior Director Erin Petrie says Regent RCM is developing a protocol for its ASC clients. The process helps track and evaluate major insurance payers and gather insights from side-by-side comparisons.
“The practice of collecting payer data, even in something as simple as a spreadsheet, is helpful for negotiations,” says Petrie, “I think it’s good for the administrator of a surgery center to have that knowledge. Therefore, the administrator can gain a better idea of what’s going to happen to your financials each month. For example, how long should you wait for an expected payment from any particular payer? If you see that work comp is now taking 65 days to pay instead of the 50 days they were previously trending – you want to be able to investigate those types of things.”
Petrie suggests three key metrics as a good start on grading the payers:
- What they pay for a procedure
- How fast they pay
- Each payer’s percentage of claims denied
“Those are the three metrics that stand out for me,” Petrie says. “But there are a lot of additional things that could be measured for the sake of having a better negotiation tool. For example, the reimbursement methodology each payer follows might be another good one. Do they use groupers, are they reimbursing as a percent of Medicare, are they including implants or paying for implants separately? That sort of data is helpful to have.”
While Petrie admits developing and maintaining a process for grading the major payers is resource intensive, she believes the benefits can be compelling. As a result, Petrie and her team are incorporating the practice as a part of Regent RCM’s scope of services for ASC clients.
What might ASC administrators learn from such a process?
“Definitely around denials the information can be pretty eye opening,” Petrie notes. “If you take the time to really look at your Explanation Of Benefits documents (EOBs) and your denials, you’ll learn that payers have many more denials than you thought. But you’ll eventually get paid.”
Implementing a system for grading payers helps answer key questions: Is a payer denying things that they should be paying for? How much time does your staff have to spend to collect from each payer? And, how long is it taking for that money to come in from each? Most importantly, collecting this data gives ASCs better information to use in negotiations.
“ASC admins already do a good job of collecting data to use when we negotiate with the payers around quality metrics, clinical outcomes and cost effectiveness,” she says. “However, the opportunity is to couple that with what we see happening on the financial side. The data may allow us to point out that we’re experiencing too many denials.”
She adds, ” it may also allow us to show that our total short payments are, for example, $200 off on average per case. And we could talk tangibly about days to pay. Maybe they have 30 days to pay in the contract, but your data is showing that they’re averaging 50 days. When we can share hard data, we have additional points to negotiate.”
Petrie believes “grading” insurance payers has value at an enterprise level as well as for individual centers. “Either way, it’s a real value add for surgery centers to understand their payers, both to inform negotiations, and to manage financials more effectively.”