What Makes Mental Health Billing So Difficult?

What Makes Mental Health Billing So Difficult?

Let’s face it, the healthcare industry is vast and complex, even more so for mental health providers. This is especially true when it comes to the billing process.

The variety in the types of services, the time, scope and restraints put on mental health treatments make the billing process quite demanding. If a patient visits his or her medical doctor, the doctor will likely perform standard tests and services, such as measuring a patient’s height and weight, checking blood pressure and perhaps drawing blood. Such tests tend to be standardized across patients, differing only slightly among patients and all taking nearly the equivalent amount of time. As a result, billing is also repetitive and standardized.

With mental health providers, however, services vary way more extensively. The length of the session, the approach to therapy and the willingness of the patient to partake make it far more difficult to standardize treatment and billing. Moreover, the manner in which insurance companies look at mental health is noticeably unlike the way they look at more traditional medical practices. For example, insurance companies can determine how long treatments are allowed to take and how many sessions can take place each day, making it challenging for mental health clinicians to balance effective billing with adequate patient treatment. Additionally, the requirement of pre-authorization has resulted in more difficulty and complexity for mental health billing.

The differences between medical billing and mental health billing are also magnified by office budgets. A large group practice might hire dedicated employees to focus wholly on medical health billing, but with mental health, it’s more commonplace to have small group or solo practices with limited administrative support for billing and other office duties. Some providers will even try to do the billing themselves but sooner or later, this will become overwhelming and produce time management problems, not to mention lost income.

All this makes the billing process quite demanding for mental health professionals. They need to make sure that they can keep income levels high while also assuring that each and every patient gets the utmost quality care.

Truth is, no one gets into the mental health field because they enjoy wading through insurance industry bureaucracy. People become mental health professionals because they want to help others. However, providers cannot help others unless they collect sufficient funds to run their practices and pay themselves.

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