Health Insurance Claim Denials- Understanding the Reasons Behind
When your doctor recommends a test, medication, or procedure and your health insurance won’t pay for it, it can be frightening. If there’s an alternate test, medication, or procedure that will work and that your health plan will cover, then this situation is just an irritating nuisance. But, if the test, medication, or procedure is the only thing that will work, the situation can be life-threatening.
While investigating the cause for the claim denial or refusal of your pre-authorization request, you’ll gain valuable insight into the standards of treatment for your particular medical problem, as well as how your health insurance company “thinks.” You’ll be a more competent warrior if a fight with your health insurance company becomes necessary.
Reasons Why Your Health Insurance Won’t Pay for the Medical Care as Required by Your Doctor
1. What you need isn’t a covered benefit of your health plan.
When your health plan denies your claim or refuses your pre-authorization request for this reason, it’s basically saying that your policy doesn’t cover that test, treatment, or drug no matter what the circumstances are.
2. You did not get the right referral or prior authorization
Depending on your health plan’s rules, you may be required to have a referral from your primary care provider and/or an approved prior authorization before receiving various types of medical care most especially for secondary services or out of station services. If you didn’t do that, you may be facing a claim denial. For example, maybe you’re used to having a health services that allowed you to self-refer to a specialist, and you forgot that your new HMO requires a referral from your primary care doctor.
Depending on the circumstances, you might be out of luck. But you might be able to get your insurer to work with you on this if your primary care doctor can provide a statement (medical report) to your insurer about the necessity of the services you received.
3. You got the care from an out-of-network provider when your health plan coverage is limited to in-network providers.
If you have an HMO, with very few exceptions, your coverage is limited to in-network providers that your health plan has a contract with. Your health insurance won’t pay if you use an out-of-network provider.
If you’re asking for pre-authorization and your pre-authorization request was denied due to your chosen provider, you can need to understand that HMOs only works within the in-network provider.
However, if you’ve already gotten the care and your health plan won’t pay your claim because you went out-of-network, you’re going to have a more difficult fight on your hands. You may be successful if you can show that no in-network providers were capable of providing that particular service so you had to go out-of-network. You might also be successful if you can show that it was an emergency and you went to the closest provider capable of rendering the care you needed. Note that claims will be vetted accordingly to HMO’s tariff and not according to the out-of-network provider claimed.
4. Your health plan doesn’t think the test, treatment or drug is medically necessary.
If your claim or pre-authorization request has received a medical necessity denial, it sounds as though your health insurance won’t pay because it thinks you don’t really need the care your doctor has recommended. This might be what your health plan is actually saying, but it might not be.
There are some reasons for a medical necessity denial that don’t really mean your health plan thinks the care is unnecessary. In order to figure out just what, exactly, your medical necessity denial means, you’ll have to do some digging. The good news is this digging may well show you the path to getting your pre-authorization request approved, or your claim paid, if you just tweak your approach a bit.
If you’ve received a claim or pre-authorization based on medical necessity, this is a scenario in which you can and should enlist the help of your doctor. Your doctor has recommended the service for a reason, and they’ll be able to communicate that reason to your insurer by means of a medical report for validation of request. In some cases, the insurer might then approve the procedure, or they might work with your doctor to approve another approach that both the insurer and the doctor consider medically necessary.
5. Your hospital stay was incorrectly classified as inpatient vs observation.
If your health plan is refusing to pay for a hospital stay, the reason may have to do with a disagreement about the correct status of your hospitalization rather than a disagreement about whether or not you actually needed the care. When patients are placed in the hospital, they’re assigned either observation status or inpatient status according to a complex set of rules and guidelines.
Sometimes, the hospital and your admitting physician may believe you should be admitted to inpatient status, while your health plan thinks you should have been hospitalized in observation status. Here’s the catch: if you’re admitted to the wrong status, your health plan or Medicare might refuse to pay for the entire admission even though your insurer agrees that you needed the care the hospital provided. It’s kind of like a technical foul.
6. Your health plan doesn’t recognize you as a benefited member, and other mix-ups.
This scenario is very common than most people would imagine. In today’s complex healthcare system, information about your coverage must flow correctly from your employer, insurance broker, or health insurance exchange to your health plan. If there’s a glitch or delay anywhere along the way, it can appear as though you don’t have health insurance even though you actually do.
Along these same lines, it’s common for health insurers to outsource to a medical management company the decision-making about whether or not your test, treatment, or drug will be covered. In this case, information about your coverage must flow correctly from your health plan to the medical management contractor. Likewise, information about your medical situation must flow correctly from your physician’s office to the health plan or its medical management contractor. Any glitch in the flow of this information can result in a claim denial or a refusal of your request for pre-authorization.
The good news is that these claim denials or pre-authorization refusals can be relatively easy to overturn once you understand exactly what the problem is.