As a medical billing specialist, it’s critically important that you minimize any coding and processing errors as you file claims. Healthcare providers receive the majority of their revenue through the processing of successful claims, so any mistake you make could cost your employer. This course is designed to help you avoid the most common errors and keep denied and rejected claims at a minimum.
Understanding the Difference Between a Denied and a Rejected Claim
First, you need to know the difference between a denied claim and a rejected claim. A denied claim is one that has been determined by an insurance company to be unpayable. Typically, insurance companies explain the reasons in the Explanation of Benefits (EOBs) attached to the claim. Claims are often denied because of common billing errors or missing information, but can also be denied based on patient coverage. Denied claims can be appealed and reprocessed in some cases.
A rejected claim has been rejected because of errors. An insurance company might reject a claim because a medical billing specialist incorrectly input patient or insurance information. Once a medical billing specialist amends the errors on a rejected claim they can resubmit it for processing with an insurance company.
Common Errors Made When Filing a Claim
It is easy to overlook parts of a claim when you’re processing many in a given day. But if you can identify some of the more common mistakes medical billing specialists make, you can try to avoid them. Here are some of the most common mistakes made when filing a claim:
- Entering incorrect information for the provider (name, address, contact information, etc.)
- Entering incorrect information for the patient (name, sex, date of birth, insurance ID information, etc.)
- Entering incorrect information for the insurance provider (policy numbers, address, contact information, etc.)
- Inputting the wrong codes or confusing codes such as CPT codes, point of service codes, or ICD-9-CM codes
- Entering too few or too many digits for ICD-9-CM codes
- Inputting mismatched treatment and diagnostic codes
- Forgetting to input codes at all for services performed by a physician or another healthcare official
Again, every piece of information on a claim has to be accurate in order for it to be processed correctly. It is particularly important to make sure the correct codes are used. Be sure to familiarize yourself with all the relevant codes as well as patient, provider, and insurance information prior to filing a claim.
Other common billing errors include the following:
- Not having access to EOBs on denied claims: Sometimes an insurance company may forget to attach the EOB to a denied claim. In these cases, you won’t know the reason the claim was denied because the insurance company didn’t provide it at all or it was mistakenly sent to another provider. You can minimize problems with the EOB by keeping track of denied claims as soon as you receive them from insurance companies.
- Not verifying a patient’s insurance coverage: A patient’s health insurance can change at any time, sometimes without the patient knowing it. As a medical billing specialist, part of your job is to verify insurance coverage.
- Duplicate billing: Duplicate billing is an issue that occurs when you bill for the same service more than once. This might happen if more than one person at a provider’s office reports that a patient received services without checking whether or not those services had been paid for. The best way to avoid duplicate billing is for you to be extra vigilant about suspicious entries on a patient’s superbill and to communicate your concerns to a physician about them.
Some billing errors are simply beyond your control including the following:
- Upcoding: Upcoding occurs when physicians or medical coders enter codes into a patient’s superbill for services not received. Typically this is done to inflate the total amount a patient owes for receiving care at a healthcare provider. Upcoding is illegal and can lead to fines and criminal prosecution.
- Undercoding: Undercoding occurs when a physician or a medical coder leaves out codes from a patient’s superbill or codes them for less treatment than they actually received. Healthcare providers might undercode for healthcare services in an attempt to avoid audits or to minimize a patient’s cost. Undercoding is also illegal and can have legal repercussions.
- Sloppy documentation: Medical billing errors can also arise when physicians or other healthcare providers turn in sloppy documentation to medical billing specialists. A physician might have illegible handwriting, for example, making it hard to assign codes and bill for a patient’s healthcare. A physician’s documentation may also cause you to inadvertently undercode a patient’s bill.
How to Catch and Correct Errors Early
To avoid common medical billing: stay vigilant about simple mistakes on your end, be thorough when reviewing a patient’s superbill, and consult with your physician whenever you have questions about what should or shouldn’t be billed for. Most medical billing errors can be avoided well before claims are sent for processing with an insurance company, and it’s up to you to keep the claims moving through the system quickly and accurately. Here are a few tips to help you stay on track:
- Coordinate with everyone at the provider’s office: You aren’t the only person responsible for the information you in a claim. The physician who administered the actual healthcare and the personnel who collected a patient’s co-pay and insurance information also contributed to the superbill. So if you have any concerns about a claim, you can check with them to work out any issues before submitting the claim.
- Double-check patient and insurance information before filing a claim: Entering patient and insurance information incorrectly is one of the easier mistakes to avoid, but they still happen. The strategy for avoiding this mistake is simple: double-check your work.
- Study billing and coding trends: You can guard against coding mistakes by staying up to date on the latest medical billing codes. Medical billing codes change over time to accommodate modifications in healthcare regulations, newfound illnesses, and new treatments for illnesses and conditions. Be sure to study new codes and billing procedures as they become available.
- Follow up on claims: You can avoid and anticipate errors by following up on claims filed with insurance companies. A representative working on the claim for the insurance company might be able to tell you of any errors they find on their end, and thereby provide you with an opportunity to resubmit a claim before it gets denied.
Wrapping Up Course 8
Medical billing and coding is an important job, and you should take care to minimize costly errors. Though timeliness is paramount, you should always take the time to double-check both manual and electronic health records and forms for accuracy before processing them. By staying up-to-date with trends in the field, you can anticipate potential errors and head them off before they occur.