The latest salvos in the ongoing feud between the medical profession and health insurers were competing prompt payment studies published by Athena Health and the America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP). The New York Times, reporting on the Athena Health study, trumpeted that “late payment of medical claims adds to the cost of health care.” The article begins “Few things rankle a doctor more than an insurance company’s saying it cannot find a claim for medical services. Particularly when there is even a signed return receipt to document delivery of the bill.” The article then quotes a Pittsburg medical group CEO who, in 20th century fashion, has the green USPS return receipt for a large dollar claim.
Why didn’t this group send the claim electronically (and why didn’t the Times reporter ask that obvious questions)? As the AHIP study points out, health plans process electronic claims much more efficiently than paper claims, and all health plans have prepared to receive standard electronic claims as a result of the federal government’s HIPAA mandates. This CEO only has herself to blame for any delay here. As Dr. David Kibbe remarked to the American Academy of Family Physicians, “If there’s a silver lining to the HIPAA regulations, it’s here. These standards can save your practice time and money.” Now there’s a valuable message for medical practices to apply. The Hatfield-McCoy feud eventually ended; maybe this one will too.