Substance Abuse Billing Codes vs. Standard Billing Codes

by | Mar 13, 2019 | Medical Billing

It’s no secret that billing procedure codes are pretty much the lifeblood of medical billing, and if you have any doubt of that, you should consider the fact that there’s an entire profession which has been built up around medical coding. The reason medical coding and billing is so important is that it helps insurance companies to understand exactly what has transpired between doctor and patient. It also helps to eliminate or reduce the potential for insurance fraud.

There is a different set of codes and protocols for filing claims against a patient’s insurance for virtually every kind of medical situation. Substance abuse billing is no exception, and without the proper use of substance abuse billing codes, any kind of medical billing would be rendered useless and ineffective. On the other hand, when substance abuse billing codes are used correctly, it can provide much better communication between the insurance carrier, the treatment center, and the billing company, because of the customized paperwork and code system being used.

Standard billing codes

Most countries throughout the world have already adopted the latest version of medical billing codes, known as ICD-10, with the United States being one of the last major nations of the world to embrace ICD-10. The difference between the two most recent billing code systems is that ICD-9 allows for only 17,000 different codes, while ICD-10 contains over 155,000 specific medical billing codes, obviously allowing for greater precision in identifying specific treatments being used for patients. The U.S. finally adopted the new standard in 2015, deciding that the costs of maintaining the less precise billing codes of ICD-9 simply did not justify its continued usage.

While there has been more intense scrutiny of claims for medical treatment by insurance companies, the majority of standard billing codes for treatment are still being approved by insurance companies, simply because there are no real grounds for denying them. When there are denials, it is often possible to correct any mistakes made on the billing codes and re-submit a claim to the insurance company. Even though the payment is thus delayed, the payment will at least be forthcoming, even if it makes the Aging Report on a treatment center billing process.

Substance abuse billing codes

Using the proper substance abuse billing codes has never been more important than it is at present, with claim denials becoming more and more common among insurance carriers. It has been estimated that substance abuse treatment costs the U.S. something like $600 billion annually, which is a staggering amount of money, and that makes it almost understandable why insurance companies would be extremely selective in granting approval on claims for treatment of substance abuse.

A great many drug rehabilitation centers in the U.S. are now beginning to struggle as claim denials become very commonplace, and revenues undergo serious reductions, thereby causing serious cash flow issues that have already caused many to close their doors. This being the case, it has caused many still-operational centers to take a hard look at their internal processes, closely scrutinizing such factors as clean claim rates, billing lag times, denial tracking, and of course billing code procedures. Even the slightest mistake made on billing codes can either delay payments from insurance companies, or have them declined altogether.

One of the biggest differences between standard billing codes and substance abuse billing codes in the modern medical industry stems from the fact that substance abuse as a discrete section of medical practice has burgeoned into such an enormous part of medicine. Because the number of claims has steadily risen over the past several decades, the amount of claims paid out by insurance companies has been forced to rise right along with it, and that fact has made insurance companies very gun-shy about handling substance abuse claims.

Medical billing in the future

Maintaining cash flow has become so critical to hospitals and treatment centers that many of these organizations now have established dedicated teams which handle medical billing and particularly, substance abuse billing codes. This reduces the likelihood that claims will be denied by insurance companies, and it increases the potential for being reimbursed promptly for services rendered by the institution.

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