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New, Anxiety-Inducing Billing Codes For Mental Health

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Don't miss this important heads-up on Healthcare Savvy: An anxious month for social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists. WBUR's Martha Bebinger writes:

If you visit your therapist this month or next and he or she seems stressed out, it could be about money. Here’s why.

Therapists who accept health insurance submit a bill that includes a code for your visit. 90862 was, for example, a very common code for a medication adjustment visit to a psychiatrist. As of this month, almost all the mental health codes are changing and this is causing a lot of anxiety.

Therapists aren’t sure which code to use, and they aren’t sure how much they’ll be paid. Insurers say the new codes, which are reviewed and set by the American Medical Association, will likely mean lower reimbursement rates for therapists who don’t prescribe drugs. Insurers say they won’t cover some of the codes at all. Many therapists are angry and discouraged.

“The Governor and the President are asking for more emphasis on mental health, but then the coding requirements increase and the reimbursements go down,” says Jonas Goldenberg with the Massachusetts chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

Sigh. Read the full post here.

This program aired on January 28, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

Carey Goldberg Twitter Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth section.