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Balance Billing in Health Insurance

  • How It Works
  • When It Happens
  • What to Do If You Get a Bill
  • If You Know in Advance

Balance billing happens after you’ve paid your deductible , coinsurance or copayment and your insurance company has also paid everything it’s obligated to pay toward your medical bill. If there is still a balance owed on that bill and the healthcare provider or hospital expects you to pay that balance, you’re being balance billed.

This article will explain how balance billing works, and the rules designed to protect consumers from some instances of balance billing.

Is Balance Billing Legal or Not?

Sometimes it’s legal, and sometimes it isn’t; it depends on the circumstances.

Balance billing is generally illegal :

  • When you have Medicare and you’re using a healthcare provider that accepts Medicare assignment .
  • When you have Medicaid and your healthcare provider has an agreement with Medicaid.
  • When your healthcare provider or hospital has a contract with your health plan and is billing you more than that contract allows.
  • In emergencies (with the exception of ground ambulance charges), or situations in which you go to an in-network hospital but unknowingly receive services from an out-of-network provider.

In the first three cases, the agreement between the healthcare provider and Medicare, Medicaid, or your insurance company includes a clause that prohibits balance billing.

For example, when a hospital signs up with Medicare to see Medicare patients, it must agree to accept the Medicare negotiated rate, including your deductible and/or coinsurance payment, as payment in full. This is called accepting Medicare assignment .

And for the fourth case, the No Surprises Act , which took effect in 2022, protects you from "surprise" balance billing.

Balance billing is usually legal :

  • When you choose to use a healthcare provider that doesn’t have a relationship or contract with your insurer (including ground ambulance charges, even after implementation of the No Surprises Act).
  • When you’re getting services that aren’t covered by your health insurance policy, even if you’re getting those services from a provider that has a contract with your health plan.

The first case (a provider not having an insurer relationship) is common if you choose to seek care outside of your health insurance plan's network.

Depending on how your plan is structured, it may cover some out-of-network costs on your behalf. But the out-of-network provider is not obligated to accept your insurer's payment as payment in full. They can send you a bill for the remainder of the charges, even if it's more than your plan's out-of-network copay or deductible.

(Some health plans, particularly HMOs and EPOs , simply don't cover non-emergency out-of-network services at all, which means they would not cover even a portion of the bill if you choose to go outside the plan's network.)

Getting services that are not covered is a situation that may arise, for example, if you obtain cosmetic procedures that aren’t considered medically necessary, or fill a prescription for a drug that isn't on your health plan's formulary . You’ll be responsible for the entire bill, and your insurer will not require the medical provider to write off any portion of the bill—the claim would simply be rejected.

Prior to 2022, it was common for people to be balance billed in emergencies or by out-of-network providers that worked at in-network hospitals. In some states, state laws protected people from these types of surprise balance billing if they had state-regulated health plans.

But not all states had these protections. And the majority of people with employer-sponsored health insurance are covered under self-insured plans, which are not subject to state regulations. This is why the No Surprises Act was so necessary.

How Balance Billing Works

When you get care from a doctor, hospital, or other healthcare provider that isn’t part of your insurer’s provider network  (or, if you have Medicare, from a provider that has opted out of Medicare altogether , which is rare but does apply in some cases ), that healthcare provider can charge you whatever they want to charge you (with the exception of emergencies or situations where you receive services from an out-of-network provider while you're at an in-network hospital).

Since your insurance company hasn’t negotiated any rates with that provider, they aren't bound by a contract with your health plan.

Medicare Limiting Charge

If you have Medicare and your healthcare provider is a nonparticipating provider but hasn't entirely opted out of Medicare, you can be charged up to 15% more than the allowable Medicare amount for the service you receive (some states impose a lower limit).

This 15% cap is known as the limiting charge, and it serves as a restriction on balance billing in some cases. If your healthcare provider has opted out of Medicare entirely, they cannot bill Medicare at all and you'll be responsible for the full cost of your visit.

If your health insurance company agrees to pay a percentage of your out-of-network care, the health plan doesn’t pay a percentage of what’s actually billed . Instead, it pays a percentage of what it says should have been billed, otherwise known as a reasonable and customary amount.

As you might guess, the reasonable and customary amount is usually lower than the amount you’re actually billed. The balance bill comes from the gap between what your insurer says is reasonable and customary, and what the healthcare provider or hospital actually charges.

Let's take a look at an example in which a person's health plan has 20% coinsurance for in-network hospitalization and 40% coinsurance for out-of-network hospitalization. And we're going to assume that the No Surprises Act does not apply (ie, that the person chooses to go to an out-of-network hospital, and it's not an emergency situation).

In this scenario, we'll assume that the person already met their $1,000 in-network deductible and $2,000 out-of-network deductible earlier in the year (so the example is only looking at coinsurance).

And we'll also assume that the health plan has a $6,000 maximum out-of-pocket for in-network care, but no cap on out-of-pocket costs for out-of-network care:

When Does Balance Billing Happen?

In the United States, balance billing usually happens when you get care from a healthcare provider or hospital that isn’t part of your health insurance company’s provider network or doesn’t accept Medicare or Medicaid rates as payment in full.

If you have Medicare and your healthcare provider has opted out of Medicare entirely, you're responsible for paying the entire bill yourself. But if your healthcare provider hasn't opted out but just doesn't accept assignment with Medicare (ie, doesn't accept the amount Medicare pays as payment in full), you could be balance billed up to 15% more than Medicare's allowable charge, in addition to your regular deductible and/or coinsurance payment.

Surprise Balance Billing

Receiving care from an out-of-network provider can happen unexpectedly, even when you try to stay in-network. This can happen in emergency situations—when you may simply have no say in where you're treated or no time to get to an in-network facility—or when you're treated by out-of-network providers who work at in-network facilities.

For example, you go to an in-network hospital, but the radiologist who reads your X-rays isn’t in-network. The bill from the hospital reflects the in-network rate and isn't subject to balance billing, but the radiologist doesn’t have a contract with your insurer, so they can charge you whatever they want. And prior to 2022, they were allowed to send you a balance bill unless state law prohibited it.

Similar situations could arise with:

  • Anesthesiologists
  • Pathologists (laboratory doctors)
  • Neonatologists (doctors for newborns)
  • Intensivists (doctors who specialize in ICU patients)
  • Hospitalists (doctors who specialize in hospitalized patients)
  • Radiologists (doctors who interpret X-rays and scans)
  • Ambulance services to get you to the hospital, especially air ambulance services, where balance billing was frighteningly common
  • Durable medical equipment suppliers (companies that provide the crutches, braces, wheelchairs, etc. that people need after a medical procedure)

These "surprise" balance billing situations were particularly infuriating for patients, who tended to believe that as long as they had selected an in-network medical facility, all of their care would be covered under the in-network terms of their health plan.

To address this situation, many states enacted consumer protection rules that limited surprise balance billing prior to 2022. But as noted above, these state rules don't protect people with self-insured employer-sponsored health plans, which cover the majority of people who have employer-sponsored coverage.

There had long been broad bipartisan support for the idea that patients shouldn't have to pay additional, unexpected charges just because they needed emergency care or inadvertently received care from a provider outside their network, despite the fact that they had purposely chosen an in-network medical facility. There was disagreement, however, in terms of how these situations should be handled—should the insurer have to pay more, or should the out-of-network provider have to accept lower payments? This disagreement derailed numerous attempts at federal legislation to address surprise balance billing.

But the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, which was enacted in December 2020, included broad provisions (known as the No Surprises Act) to protect consumers from surprise balance billing as of 2022. The law applies to both self-insured and fully-insured plans, including grandfathered plans, employer-sponsored plans, and individual market plans.

It protects consumers from surprise balance billing charges in nearly all emergency situations and situations when out-of-network providers offer services at in-network facilities, but there's a notable exception for ground ambulance charges.

This is still a concern, as ground ambulances are among the medical providers most likely to balance bill patients and least likely to be in-network, and patients typically have no say in what ambulance provider comes to their rescue in an emergency situation. But other than ground ambulances, patients are no longer subject to surprise balance bills as of 2022.

The No Surprises Act did call for the creation of a committee to study ground ambulance charges and make recommendations for future legislation to protect consumers. The Biden Administration announced the members of that committee in late 2022, and the committee began holding meetings in May 2023.

Balance billing continues to be allowed in other situations (for example, the patient simply chooses to use an out-of-network provider). Balance billing can also still occur when you’re using an in-network provider, but you’re getting a service that isn’t covered by your health insurance. Since an insurer doesn’t negotiate rates for services it doesn’t cover, you’re not protected by that insurer-negotiated discount. The provider can charge whatever they want, and you’re responsible for the entire bill.

It is important to note that while the No Surprises Act prohibits balance bills from out-of-network working at in-network facilities, the final rule for implementation of the law defines facilities as "hospitals, hospital outpatient departments, critical access hospitals, and ambulatory surgical centers." Other medical facilities are not covered by the consumer protections in the No Surprises Act.

Balance billing doesn’t usually happen with in-network providers or providers that accept Medicare assignment . That's because if they balance bill you, they’re violating the terms of their contract with your insurer or Medicare. They could lose the contract, face fines, suffer severe penalties, and even face criminal charges in some cases.

If You Get an Unexpected Balance Bill

Receiving a balance bill is a stressful experience, especially if you weren't expecting it. You've already paid your deductible and coinsurance and then you receive a substantial additional bill—what do you do next?

First, you'll want to try to figure out whether the balance bill is legal or not. If the medical provider is in-network with your insurance company, or you have Medicare or Medicaid and your provider accepts that coverage, it's possible that the balance bill was a mistake (or, in rare cases, outright fraud).

And if your situation is covered under the No Surprises Act (ie, an emergency, or an out-of-network provider who treated you at an in-network facility), you should not be subject to a balance bill. So be sure you understand what charges you're actually responsible for before paying any medical bills.

If you think that the balance bill was an error, contact the medical provider's billing office and ask questions. Keep a record of what they tell you so that you can appeal to your state's insurance department if necessary.

If the medical provider's office clarifies that the balance bill was not an error and that you do indeed owe the money, consider the situation—did you make a mistake and select an out-of-network healthcare provider? Or was the service not covered by your health plan?

If you went to an in-network facility for a non-emergency, did you waive your rights under the No Surprises Act (NSA) and then receive a balance bill from an out-of-network provider? This is still possible in limited circumstances, but you would have had to sign a document indicating that you had waived your NSA protections.

Negotiate With the Medical Office

If you've received a legitimate balance bill, you can ask the medical office to cut you some slack. They may be willing to agree to a payment plan and not send your bill to collections as long as you continue to make payments.

Or they may be willing to reduce your total bill if you agree to pay a certain amount upfront. Be respectful and polite, but explain that the bill caught you off guard. And if it's causing you significant financial hardship, explain that too.

The healthcare provider's office would rather receive at least a portion of the billed amount rather than having to wait while the bill is sent to collections. So the sooner you reach out to them, the better.

Negotiate With Your Insurance Company

You can also negotiate with your insurer. If your insurer has already paid the out-of-network rate on the reasonable and customary charge, you’ll have difficulty filing a formal appeal since the insurer  didn’t actually deny your claim . It paid your claim, but at the out-of-network rate.

Instead, request a reconsideration. You want your insurance company to  reconsider the decision to cover this as out-of-network care , and instead cover it as in-network care. You’ll have more luck with this approach if you had a compelling medical or logistical reason for choosing an out-of-network provider .

If you feel like you’ve been treated unfairly by your insurance company, follow your health plan’s internal complaint resolution process.

You can get information about your insurer’s complaint resolution process in your benefits handbook or from your human resources department. If this doesn’t resolve the problem, you can complain to your state’s insurance department.

  • Learn more about your internal and external appeal rights.
  • Find contact information for your Department of Insurance using this resource .

If your health plan is self-funded , meaning your employer is the entity actually paying the medical bills even though an insurance company may administer the plan, then your health plan won't fall under the jurisdiction of your state’s department of insurance.

Self-funded plans are instead regulated by the Department of Labor’s Employee Benefit Services Administration. Get more information from the  EBSA’s consumer assistance web page  or by calling an EBSA benefits advisor at 1-866-444-3272.

If You Know You’ll Be Legally Balance Billed

If you know in advance that you’ll be using an out-of-network provider or a provider that doesn’t accept Medicare assignment, you have some options. However, none of them are easy and all require some negotiating.

Ask for an estimate of the provider’s charges. Next, ask your insurer what they consider the reasonable and customary charge for this service to be. Getting an answer to this might be tough, but be persistent.

Once you have estimates of what your provider will charge and what your insurance company will pay, you’ll know how far apart the numbers are and what your financial risk is. With this information, you can narrow the gap. There are only two ways to do this: Get your provider to charge less or get your insurer to pay more.

Ask the provider if he or she will accept your insurance company’s reasonable and customary rate as payment in full. If so, get the agreement in writing, including a no-balance-billing clause.

If your provider won’t accept the reasonable and customary rate as payment in full, start working on your insurer. Ask your insurer to increase the amount they’re calling reasonable and customary for this particular case.

Present a convincing argument by pointing out why your case is more complicated, difficult, or time-consuming to treat than the average case the insurer bases its reasonable and customary charge on.

Single-Case Contract

Another option is to ask your insurer to negotiate a  single-case contract   with your out-of-network provider for this specific service.

A single-case contract is more likely to be approved if the provider is offering specialized services that aren't available from locally-available in-network providers, or if the provider can make a case to the insurer that the services they're providing will end up being less expensive in the long-run for the insurance company.

Sometimes they can agree upon a single-case contract for the amount your insurer usually pays its in-network providers. Sometimes they’ll agree on a single-case contract at the discount rate your healthcare provider accepts from the insurance companies she’s already in-network with.

Or, sometimes they can agree on a single-case contract for a percentage of the provider’s billed charges. Whatever the agreement, make sure it includes a no-balance-billing clause.

Ask for the In-Network Coinsurance Rate

If all of these options fail, you can ask your insurer to cover this out-of-network care using your in-network coinsurance rate. While this won’t prevent balance billing, at least your insurer will be paying a higher percentage of the bill since your coinsurance for in-network care is lower than for out-of-network care.

If you pursue this option, have a convincing argument as to why the insurer should treat this as in-network. For example, there are no local in-network surgeons experienced in your particular surgical procedure, or the complication rates of the in-network surgeons are significantly higher than those of your out-of-network surgeon.

Balance billing refers to the additional bill that an out-of-network medical provider can send to a patient, in addition to the person's normal cost-sharing and the payments (if any) made by their health plan. The No Surprises Act provides broad consumer protections against "surprise" balance billing as of 2022.

A Word From Verywell

Try to prevent balance billing by staying in-network, making sure your insurance company covers  the services you’re getting, and complying with any pre-authorization requirements. But rest assured that the No Surprises Act provides broad protections against surprise balance billing.

This means you won't be subject to balance bills in emergencies (except for ground ambulance charges, which can still generate surprise balance bills) or in situations where you go to an in-network hospital but unknowingly receive care from an out-of-network provider.

Congress.gov. H.R.133—Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 . Enacted December 27, 2021.

Kona M. The Commonwealth Fund. State balance billing protections . April 20, 2020.

Data.CMS.gov. Opt Out Affidavits .

Chhabra, Karan; Schulman, Kevin A.; Richman, Barak D. Health Affairs. Are Air Ambulances Truly Flying Out Of Reach? Surprise-Billing Policy And The Airline Deregulation Act . October 17, 2019.

Kaiser Family Foundation. 2022 Employer Health Benefits Survey .

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Members of New Federal Advisory Committee Named to Help Improve Ground Ambulance Disclosure and Billing Practices for Consumers . December 13, 2022.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Advisory Committee on Ground Ambulance and Patient Billing (GAPB) .

Internal Revenue Service; Employee Benefits Security Administration; Health and Human Services Department. Requirements Related to Surprise Billing . August 26, 2022.

National Conference of State Legislatures. States Tackling "Balance Billing" Issue . July 2017.

By Elizabeth Davis, RN Elizabeth Davis, RN, is a health insurance expert and patient liaison. She's held board certifications in emergency nursing and infusion nursing.

if the assignment of benefits is not signed by the patient

INSIGHT: An Ounce of Prevention—The Importance of Early Review of Assignment of Benefits and Powers of Attorney

By Anthony P. La Rocco, George P. Barbatsuly, Stacey A. Hyman, and Alyssa F. Conn

Anthony P.  La Rocco

Introduction

One of the most frequently litigated issues in reimbursement cases brought by in- and out-of-network healthcare providers against insurers is provider standing, or a provider’s right to file a lawsuit to recover for services it provided to its patients. This is because the health insurance industry bases the rights and responsibilities that one party owes to another on contract law. While network contracts often dictate that insurers pay in-network providers directly for services, providers who do not participate in the networks have no independent legal right to payment from the insurer as such providers do not share a contractual relationship with the plan.

Accordingly, these providers must ensure that patients assign their rights to benefits under the health insurance plan to the non-participating provider via an assignment of benefits (“AOB”). Under a valid AOB, the provider “steps into the shoes” of the patient with respect to the contract between the patient and the insurer and may pursue the same benefits that the patient would have been able to pursue him or herself. Without a valid AOB, courts have been clear that the provider has no legal standing to sue the health insurer for payment.

Additionally, participating providers should also obtain and maintain irrevocable AOBs from their patients, despite network contractual language directing payment. Possessing a valid AOB is often a legal prerequisite to submitting a claim, even under the participation agreement, and participation status may change. Moreover, providers may not be participating with all insurers and assignments provide an alternative basis for recovery.

However, the road to recovery on claims is not as simple as merely executing an AOB: insurers frequently challenge the scope of AOBs, requiring courts to analyze them and determine whether the language sufficiently confers standing on the provider to assert a claim. The case law on assignments is, therefore, constantly evolving. The following article explores some of the common issues surrounding crafting and obtaining valid AOBs from patients as well as alternative avenues to survive a standing challenge where plans contain anti-assignment clauses.

What Kind of Language Should the Assignment of Benefits Contain?

An AOB should be “broadly specific”: It should be broad enough to cover all conceivable rights and claims the provider could bring under the plan, but specific enough in that it enumerates the rights in order to survive challenges of overbreadth. These enumerated rights should include, but are not limited to: the right to appeal, the right to request plan documents, the right to pursue claims for benefits, and the right to pursue claims for equitable relief/breaches of fiduciary duties.

The below examples provide AOB language ranked in order from least likely to confer standing to most likely.

  • Least Likely to Confer Standing : “I authorize insurance payments to be made to [PROVIDER] for services provided at [PROVIDER’S FACILITY].”

This AOB simply authorizes payments to be made, but does not give the provider any right to pursue payment or other remedies. Therefore, this language would likely be insufficient to confer legal standing.

  • Improved language : “I authorize [PROVIDER] to appeal to my insurance company on my behalf . . . . I hereby assign to [PROVIDER] all payments for medical services rendered to myself or my dependents.”

This language would, at least, give the provider the right to sue for payment under ERISA Section 502(a). However, the language is still lacking as it does not give the provider the right to pursue claims for equitable relief or for breaches of fiduciary duties.

  • An example of even better, (albeit not perfect) language : “I voluntarily consent to the collection and testing of my specimen, and all future testing, performed by [the Laboratories] or [their] affiliated laboratories unless I give written notice that I have revoked my consent. I authorize my insurance company to pay and mail directly to [the Laboratories] or [their] affiliated laboratories all medical benefits for payment of services rendered. I also authorize [the Laboratories] or [their] affiliated laboratories to endorse any checks received on my behalf for payment of services provided. I hereby irrevocably assign to [the Laboratories] or [their] affiliated laboratories all benefits under any policy of insurance, indemnity agreement, or any collateral source as defined by statute for services provided. This assignment includes all rights to collect benefits directly from my insurance company and all rights to proceed against my insurance company in any action, including legal suit, if for any reason my insurance company fails to make payment of benefits due. This assignment also includes all rights to recover attorney’s fees and costs for such action brought by the provider as my assignee.

The language here is “broadly specific” in that it enumerates with specificity a myriad of rights the provider seeks to have the patient assign. One federal appeals court found that similar assignment language clearly applied to claims against fully-insured health insurance plans, and at least arguably applied to self-funded plans. The court sent the case back to the trial court for further discovery on whether this language applied to self-funded plans. Health care providers can remove this uncertainty up front by having their assignment of benefit forms specifically refer to self-funded plans.

When Should the Provider Require the Assignment to Be Executed?

The best time to have a patient execute an assignment of benefits is at or before the time that services are provided. This is because it is often difficult to track down patients later when a provider must submit a large volume of claims that have gone unpaid. Ideally, these forms are executed together with other intake forms, such as consent for treatment and privacy policies/releases.

If the AOB is not obtained prior to the services, courts will still generally permit assignments that are executed after treatment, at least absent a showing of prejudice to the insurer. Furthermore, although logistical challenges may sometimes ensue where a patient is incapacitated or deceased, courts have upheld the validity of AOBs executed by spouses of such patients.

Navigating Anti-Assignment Provisions in Plans

Some patient plans contain anti-assignment language that prohibits the patient from assigning his or her benefits. This language is a challenge to a provider’s ability to establish standing. Courts are however, split on the issue. Some courts hold that an unambiguous anti-assignment clause is enforceable and can invalidate a patient’s assignment. In these cases, the courts have focused on the freedom of contracting parties.

Other courts hold that an anti-assignment clause is not, in and of itself, dispositive of whether a provider has standing. Anti-assignment clauses are subject to traditional contract defenses, such as fraud, misrepresentation, and unconscionability. For example, if a clause is buried in illegible “fine print” or if it was plainly neither intended nor likely to be read by the other party, those circumstances might support an inference of fraud. Other considerations include: ambiguity in the clause, the scope of the clause, course of dealing, and waiver or estoppel arguments.

An example of anti-assignment language that is completely prohibitory would be: “The benefits of the Contract or Certificate are personal to the Subscriber and are not assignable by the Subscriber in whole or in part to a Non-Member hospital or provider, or to any other person or entity.”

Another example of language that permits assignment only with consent would be: “You may not assign your Benefits under the Plan to a non-Network provider without our consent.”

Providers may, however, still recover in circumstances where the plans contain valid anti-assignment provisions. Recently, for example, the Third Circuit, in American Orthopedic & Sports Med. v. Indep. Blue Cross Blue Shield , 2018 BL 173478 (3d Cir., No. 17-1663, 5/16/18), recognized an alternative basis under which health care providers may obtain standing to sue in federal court. Where a patient grants a valid power of attorney to a health care provider, the Third Circuit has now recognized that a health care provider may pursue a claim for reimbursement on the patient’s behalf, even if the ERISA plan contains a valid and enforceable anti-assignment clause. The court explained that, whereas a plan can limit a beneficiary’s ability to assign claims as a matter of contract law, an anti-assignment clause does not prevent the beneficiary from assigning the health care provider to act as the beneficiary’s agent, any more than it would strip the beneficiary of his or her own interest in the claim.

In sum, while there is no “one size fits all” approach, a simple direction of payment often does not survive scrutiny and will likely be challenged by insurers. Thus, prudent providers will want to work with experienced healthcare counsel to craft assignment language to encompass all of the patient’s rights under the plan and, if applicable, take advantage of the Third Circuit alternative basis for standing by including language that creates a valid power of attorney.

Anthony P. La Rocco is the Managing Partner of K&L Gates’ Newark office. He leads a national health care team involved in significant reimbursement litigation matters on behalf of health care providers against various insurance companies’ health benefits plans and their third party administrators related to under-payment and non-payment of claims for a variety of covered medical testing procedures conducted across the United States. Tony can be reached at [email protected] .

George P. Barbatsuly is a Partner in K&L Gates’ Newark office. His health care and ERISA disputes experience includes representing health care providers in disputes with payer insurance companies, health benefits plans, and third party administrators. George can be reached at [email protected] .

Stacey A. Hyman is an Associate in K&L Gates’ Newark office. She focuses her practice on commercial disputes and insurance coverage, specifically insurance reimbursement recovery. Stacey can be reached at [email protected] .

Alyssa F. Conn is an Associate in K&L Gates’ Newark office. She focuses her practice on a range of complex commercial litigation and insurance coverage disputes in federal and state courts, including healthcare and ERISA disputes. Alyssa can be reached at [email protected] .

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If you have Original Medicare , your Part B costs once you have met your deductible can vary depending on the type of provider you see. For cost purposes, there are three types of provider, meaning three different relationships a provider can have with Medicare . A provider’s type determines how much you will pay for Part B -covered services.

  • These providers are required to submit a bill (file a claim ) to Medicare for care you receive. Medicare will process the bill and pay your provider directly for your care. If your provider does not file a claim for your care, there are troubleshooting steps to help resolve the problem .
  • If you see a participating provider , you are responsible for paying a 20% coinsurance for Medicare-covered services.
  • Certain providers, such as clinical social workers and physician assistants, must always take assignment if they accept Medicare.
  • Non-participating providers can charge up to 15% more than Medicare’s approved amount for the cost of services you receive (known as the limiting charge ). This means you are responsible for up to 35% (20% coinsurance + 15% limiting charge) of Medicare’s approved amount for covered services.
  • Some states may restrict the limiting charge when you see non-participating providers. For example, New York State’s limiting charge is set at 5%, instead of 15%, for most services. For more information, contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) .
  • If you pay the full cost of your care up front, your provider should still submit a bill to Medicare. Afterward, you should receive from Medicare a Medicare Summary Notice (MSN) and reimbursement for 80% of the Medicare-approved amount .
  • The limiting charge rules do not apply to durable medical equipment (DME) suppliers . Be sure to learn about the different rules that apply when receiving services from a DME supplier .
  • Medicare will not pay for care you receive from an opt-out provider (except in emergencies). You are responsible for the entire cost of your care.
  • The provider must give you a private contract describing their charges and confirming that you understand you are responsible for the full cost of your care and that Medicare will not reimburse you.
  • Opt-out providers do not bill Medicare for services you receive.
  • Many psychiatrists opt out of Medicare.

Providers who take assignment should submit a bill to a Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC) within one calendar year of the date you received care. If your provider misses the filing deadline, they cannot bill Medicare for the care they provided to you. However, they can still charge you a 20% coinsurance and any applicable deductible amount.

Be sure to ask your provider if they are participating, non-participating, or opt-out. You can also check by using Medicare’s Physician Compare tool .

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What Is Medicare Assignment?

Written by: Rachael Zimlich, RN, BSN

Reviewed by: Eboni Onayo, Licensed Insurance Agent

Key Takeaways

Medicare assignment describes the fee structure that your doctor and Medicare have agreed to use.

If your doctor agrees to accept Medicare assignment, they agree to be paid whatever amount Medicare has approved for a service.

You may still see doctors who don’t accept Medicare assignment, but you may have to pay for your visit up front and submit a claim to Medicare for reimbursement.

You may have to pay more to see doctors who don’t accept Medicare assignment.

How Does Medicare Assignment Work?

What is Medicare assignment ?

Medicare assignment simply means that your provider has agreed to stick to a Medicare fee schedule when it comes to what they charge for tests and services. Medicare regularly updates fee schedules, setting specific limits for what it will cover for things like office visits and lab testing.

When a provider agrees to accept Medicare assignment, they cannot charge more than the Medicare-approved amount. For you, this means your out-of-pocket costs may be lower than if you saw a provider who did not accept Medicare assignment. The provider acknowledges that the amount Medicare set for a particular service is the maximum amount that will be paid.

You may still have to pay a Medicare deductible and coinsurance, but your provider will have to submit a claim to Medicare directly and wait for payment before passing any share of the costs onto you. Doctors who accept Medicare assignment cannot charge you to submit these claims.

Find a local Medicare plan that fits your needs.

How Do I Know if a Provider Accepts Medicare Assignment?

There are a few levels of commitment when it comes to Medicare assignment.

  • Providers who have agreed to accept Medicare assignment sign a contract with Medicare.
  • Those who have not signed a contract with Medicare can still accept assignment amounts for services of their choice. They do not have to accept assignment for every service provided. These are called non-participating providers.
  • Some providers opt out of Medicare altogether. Doctors who have opted out of Medicare completely or who use private contracts will not be paid anything by Medicare, even if it’s for a covered service within the fee limits. You will have to pay the full cost of any services provided by these doctors yourself.

You can check to see if your provider accepts Medicare assignment on Medicare’s website .

Billing Arrangement Options for Providers Who Accept Medicare

Doctors that take Medicare can sign a contract to accept assignment for all Medicare services, or be a non-participating provider that accepts assignment for some services but not all.

A medical provider that accepts Medicare assignment must submit claims directly to Medicare on your behalf. They will be paid the agreed upon amount by Medicare, and you will pay any copayments or deductibles dictated by your plan.

If your doctor is non-participating, they may accept Medicare assignment for some services but not others. Even if they do agree to accept Medicare’s fee for some services, Medicare will only pay then 95% of the set assignment cost for a particular service.

If your provider does plan to work with Medicare, either the provider or you can submit a claim to Medicare, but you may have to pay the entire cost of the visit up front and wait for reimbursement. They can’t charge you for more than the amount approved by Medicare, but they can charge you above the Medicare-approved amount. This is called the limiting charge, and can be up to 15% more than Medicare-approved amount for non-participating providers.

What Does It Mean When a Provider Does Not Accept Medicare Assignment?

Providers who refuse Medicare assignment can still choose to accept Medicare’s set fees for certain services. These are called non-participating providers.

There are a number of providers who opt out of participating in Medicare altogether; they are referred to as “opt-out doctors”. This means they have signed an opt-out agreement with Medicare and can’t be paid by Medicare at all — even for services normally covered by Medicare. Opt-out contracts last for at least two years. Some of these providers may only offer services to patients who sign contracts.

You do not need to sign a contract with a private provider or use an opt-out provider. There are many options for alternative providers who accept Medicare. If you do choose an opt-out or private contract provider, you will have to pay the full cost of services on your own.

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Do providers have to accept Medicare assignment?

No. Providers can choose to accept a full Medicare assignment, or accept assignment rates for some services as a non-participating provider. Doctors can also opt out of participating in Medicare altogether.

How much will I have to pay if my provider doesn't accept Medicare assignment?

Some providers that don’t accept assignment as a whole will accept assignment for some services. These are called non-participating providers. For these providers and providers who have completely opted out of Medicare, you will pay the majority of or the full amount for your care.

How do I submit a claim?

If you need to submit your own claim to Medicare, you can call 1-800-MEDICARE or use Form CMS-1490S .

Can my provider charge to submit a claim?

No. Providers are not allowed to charge to submit a claim to Medicare on your behalf.

Lower Costs with Assignment. Medicare.gov.

Fee Schedules . CMS.gov.

This website is operated by GoHealth, LLC., a licensed health insurance company. The website and its contents are for informational and educational purposes; helping people understand Medicare in a simple way. The purpose of this website is the solicitation of insurance. Contact will be made by a licensed insurance agent/producer or insurance company. Medicare Supplement insurance plans are not connected with or endorsed by the U.S. government or the federal Medicare program. Our mission is to help every American get better health insurance and save money. Any information we provide is limited to those plans we do offer in your area. Please contact Medicare.gov or 1-800-MEDICARE to get information on all of your options.

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What is an assignment of benefits?

Three people in an office talking over a pile of papers.

The last time you sought medical care, you likely made an appointment with your provider, got the treatment you needed, paid your copay or deductible, and that was it. No paperwork, no waiting to be reimbursed; your doctor received payment from your insurance company and you both went on with your lives.

This is how most people receive health care in the U.S. This system, known as assignment of benefits or AOB, is now being used with other types of insurance, including auto and homeowners coverage . 

What is an assignment of benefits?  

An AOB is a legal agreement that allows your insurance company to directly pay a third party for services performed on your behalf. In the case of health care, it could be your doctor or another medical professional providing care. With a homeowners, renters, or auto insurance claim, the third party could be a contractor, auto repair shop, or other facility.

Assignment of benefits is legal, thanks to a concept known as freedom of contract, which says two parties may make a private agreement, including the forfeiture of certain rights, and the government may not interfere. There are exceptions, making freedom of contract something less than an absolute right. For example, the contract may not violate the law or contain unfair terms.

Not all doctors or contractors utilize AOBs. Therefore, it’s a good idea to make sure the doctor or service provider and you are on the same page when it comes to AOBs before treatment or work begins.

How an AOB works

The function of an AOB agreement varies depending on the type of insurance policy involved, the healthcare provider, contractor, or service provider, and increasingly, state law. Although an AOB is normal in health insurance, other applications of assignment of benefits have now included the auto and homeowners insurance industry.

Because AOBs are common in health care, you probably don’t think twice about signing a piece of paper that says “assignment of benefits” across the top. But once you sign it, you’re likely turning over your right to deal with your insurance company regarding service from that provider. Why would you do this? 

According to Dr. David Berg of Redirect Health , the reason is simple: “Without an AOB in place, the patient themselves would be responsible for paying the cost of their service and would then file a claim with their insurance company for reimbursement.”

With homeowners or auto insurance, the same rules apply. Once you sign the AOB, you are effectively out of the picture. The contractor who reroofs your house or the mechanic who rebuilds your engine works with your insurance company by filing a claim on your behalf and receiving their money without your help or involvement.

“Each state has its own rules, regulations, and permissions regarding AOBs,” says Gregg Barrett, founder and CEO of WaterStreet , a cloud-based P&C insurance administration platform. “Some states require a strict written breakdown of work to be done, while others allow assignment of only parts of claims.” 

Within the guidelines of the specific insurance rules for AOBs in your state, the general steps include:

  • You and your contractor draw up an AOB clause as part of the contract.
  • The contract stipulates the exact work that will be completed and all necessary details.
  • The contractor sends the completed AOB to the insurance company where an adjuster reviews, asks questions, and resolves any discrepancies.
  • The contractor’s name (or that of an agreed-upon party) is listed to go on the settlement check.

After work is complete and signed off, the insurer will issue the check and the claim will be considered settled.

Example of an assignment of benefits  

If you’re dealing with insurance, how would an AOB factor in? Let’s take an example. “Say you have a water leak in the house,” says Angel Conlin, chief insurance officer at Kin Insurance . “You call a home restoration company to stop the water flow, clean up the mess, and restore your home to its former glory. The restoration company may ask for an assignment of benefits so it can deal directly with the insurance company without your input.”

In this case, by eliminating the homeowner, whose interests are already represented by an experienced insurance adjustor, the AOB reduces redundancy, saves time and money, and allows the restoration process to proceed with much greater efficiency.

When would you need to use an assignment of benefits?  

An AOB can simplify complicated and costly insurance transactions and allow you to turn these transactions over to trusted experts, thereby avoiding time-consuming negotiations. 

An AOB also frees you from paying the entire bill upfront and seeking reimbursement from your insurance company after work has been completed or services rendered. Since you are not required to sign an assignment of benefits, failure to sign will result in you paying the entire medical bill and filing for reimbursement. The three most common uses of AOBs are with health insurance, car insurance, and homeowners insurance.

Assignment of benefits for health insurance

As discussed, AOBs in health insurance are commonplace. If you have health insurance, you’ve probably signed AOBs for years. Each provider (doctor) or practice requires a separate AOB. From your point of view, the big advantages of an AOB are that you receive medical care, your doctor and insurance company work out the details and, in the event of a disagreement, those two entities deal with each other. 

Assignment of benefits for car owners

If your car is damaged in an accident and needs extensive repair, the benefits of an AOB can quickly add up. Not only will you have your automobile repaired with minimal upfront costs to you, inconvenience will be almost nonexistent. You drop your car off (or have it towed), wait to be called, told the repair is finished, and pick it up. Similar to a health care AOB, disagreements are worked out between the provider and insurer. You are usually not involved.

Assignment of benefits for homeowners  

When your home or belongings are damaged or destroyed, your primary concern is to “return to normal.” You want to do this with the least amount of hassle. An AOB allows you to transfer your rights to a third party, usually a contractor, freeing you to deal with the crisis at hand.

When you sign an AOB, your contractor can begin immediately working on damage repair, shoring up against additional deterioration, and coordinating with various subcontractors without waiting for clearance or communication with you.

The fraud factor

No legal agreement, including an AOB, is free from the possibility of abuse or fraud. Built-in safeguards are essential to ensure the benefits you assign to a third party are as protected as possible.

In terms of what can and does go wrong, the answer is: plenty. According to the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMICs), examples of AOB fraud include inflated invoices or charges for work that hasn’t been done. Another common tactic is to sue the insurance company, without the policyholder’s knowledge or consent, something that can ultimately result in the policyholder being stuck with the bill and higher insurance premiums due to losses experienced by the insurer.

State legislatures have tried to protect consumers from AOB fraud and some progress has been made. Florida, for example, passed legislation in 2019 that gives consumers the right to rescind a fraudulent contract and requires that AOB contracts include an itemized description of the work to be done. Other states, including North Dakota, Kansas, and Iowa have all signed NAMIC-backed legislation into law to protect consumers from AOB fraud.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), offers advice for consumers to help avoid AOB fraud and abuse:

  • File a claim with your insurer before you hire a contractor. This ensures you know what repairs need to be made.
  • Don’t pay in full upfront. Legitimate contractors do not require it.
  • Get three estimates before selecting a contractor.
  • Get a full written contract and read it carefully before signing.
  • Don’t be pressured into signing an AOB. You are not required to sign an AOB.

Pros and cons of an assignment of benefits  

The advantages and disadvantages of an AOB agreement depend largely on the amount and type of protection your state’s insurance laws provide.  

Pros of assignment of benefits

With proper safeguards in place to reduce opportunities for fraud, AOBs have the ability to streamline and simplify the insurance claims process.

  • An AOB frees you from paying for services and waiting for reimbursement from your insurer.
  • Some people appreciate not needing to negotiate with their insurer.
  • You are not required to sign an AOB.

Cons of assignment of benefits

As with most contracts, AOBs are a double-edged sword. Be aware of potential traps and ask questions if you are unsure.

  • Signing an AOB could make you the victim of a scam without knowing it until your insurer refuses to pay.
  • An AOB doesn’t free you from the ultimate responsibility to pay for services rendered, which could drag you into expensive litigation if things go south.
  • Any AOB you do sign is legally binding.

The takeaway  

An AOB, as the health insurance example shows, can simplify complicated and costly insurance transactions and help consumers avoid time-consuming negotiations. And it can save upfront costs while letting experts work out the details.

It can also introduce a nightmare scenario laced with fraud requiring years of costly litigation. Universal state-level legislation with safeguards is required to avoid the latter. Until that is in place, your best bet is to work closely with your insurer when signing an AOB. Look for suspicious or inflated charges when negotiating with contractors, providers, and other servicers.

EDITORIAL DISCLOSURE : The advice, opinions, or rankings contained in this article are solely those of the Fortune Recommends ™ editorial team. This content has not been reviewed or endorsed by any of our affiliate partners or other third parties.

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Assignment of benefits

Assignment of benefits is a legal agreement where a patient authorizes their healthcare provider to receive direct payment from the insurance company for services rendered.

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What is Assignment of Benefits?

Assignment of benefits (AOB) is a crucial concept in the healthcare revenue cycle management (RCM) process. It refers to the legal transfer of the patient's rights to receive insurance benefits directly to the healthcare provider. In simpler terms, it allows healthcare providers to receive payment directly from the insurance company, rather than the patient being responsible for paying the provider and then seeking reimbursement from their insurance company.

Understanding Assignment of Benefits

When a patient seeks medical services, they typically have health insurance coverage that helps them pay for the cost of their healthcare. In most cases, the patient is responsible for paying a portion of the bill, known as the copayment or deductible, while the insurance company covers the remaining amount. However, in situations where the patient has assigned their benefits to the healthcare provider, the provider can directly bill the insurance company for the services rendered.

The assignment of benefits is a legal agreement between the patient and the healthcare provider. By signing this agreement, the patient authorizes the healthcare provider to receive payment directly from the insurance company on their behalf. This ensures that the provider receives timely payment for the services provided, reducing the financial burden on the patient.

Difference between Assignment of Benefits and Power of Attorney

While the assignment of benefits may seem similar to a power of attorney (POA) in some respects, they are distinct legal concepts. A power of attorney grants someone the authority to make decisions and act on behalf of another person, including financial matters. On the other hand, an assignment of benefits only transfers the right to receive insurance benefits directly to the healthcare provider.

In healthcare, a power of attorney is typically used in situations where a patient is unable to make decisions about their medical care. It allows a designated individual, known as the healthcare proxy, to make decisions on behalf of the patient. In contrast, an assignment of benefits is used to streamline the payment process between the healthcare provider and the insurance company.

Examples of Assignment of Benefits

To better understand how assignment of benefits works, let's consider a few examples:

Sarah visits her primary care physician for a routine check-up. She has health insurance coverage through her employer. Before the appointment, Sarah signs an assignment of benefits form, authorizing her physician to receive payment directly from her insurance company. After the visit, the physician submits the claim to the insurance company, and they reimburse the physician directly for the covered services.

John undergoes a surgical procedure at a hospital. He has health insurance coverage through a private insurer. Prior to the surgery, John signs an assignment of benefits form, allowing the hospital to receive payment directly from his insurance company. The hospital submits the claim to the insurance company, and they reimburse the hospital for the covered services. John is responsible for paying any copayments or deductibles directly to the hospital.

Mary visits a specialist for a specific medical condition. She has health insurance coverage through a government program. Mary signs an assignment of benefits form, granting the specialist the right to receive payment directly from the government program. The specialist submits the claim to the program, and they reimburse the specialist for the covered services. Mary is responsible for any applicable copayments or deductibles.

In each of these examples, the assignment of benefits allows the healthcare provider to receive payment directly from the insurance company, simplifying the billing and reimbursement process for both the provider and the patient.

Assignment of benefits is a fundamental concept in healthcare revenue cycle management. It enables healthcare providers to receive payment directly from the insurance company, reducing the financial burden on patients and streamlining the billing process. By understanding the assignment of benefits, patients can make informed decisions about their healthcare and ensure that their providers receive timely payment for the services rendered.

Improve your financial performance while providing a more transparent patient experience

Related terms, total performance score (tps).

Total performance score (TPS) is a metric that quantifies the overall performance of a healthcare revenue cycle management system, providing a comprehensive assessment of its efficiency and effectiveness.

Other party liability (OPL)

Other party liability (OPL) is the legal responsibility of a third party, such as an insurance company or another entity, to pay for healthcare services rendered to a patient.

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Insurance claims, why do nj medical providers need the patient to sign an assignment of benefits, callagy law: medical provider attorneys.

Our firm represents medical providers in a variety of contexts – Workers’ Compensation, Personal Injury Protection (PIP), and Commercial Insurance (Major Medical) – and obtaining an Assignment of Benefits is crucial in litigating these matters. An Assignment of Benefits is essential for a medical provider – whether the physician, facility, or ancillary service provider – to have a right to payment from the Insurance Carrier or Third-Party Administrator (TPA).

A medical provider or the administrative staff for the medical provider may feel overwhelmed by the number of forms that patients have to fill out prior to treatment. For instance, there are HIPPA release forms, as required by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which authorizes the use or disclosure of protected health information, and intake forms requesting medical history, insurance coverage information, and general patient information. Requiring more paperwork from the patients may be viewed as an additional burden placed on the administrative staff, as well as a burden on the patient receiving the treatment. However, these documents, in addition to obtaining a signed Assignment of Benefits, are a vital in protecting the interests of the treating medical provider and the patient.

How Does An Assignment of Benefits Affect a Medical Provider ?

By signing an Assignment of Benefits (AOB), a patient is authorizing the Insurance Carrier or Third-Party Administrator to make health insurance payments directly to the treating medical provider. Essentially, the patient is “assigning” his or her right to receive the payment for the medical benefits. While medical providers benefit tremendously from having payments made directly to them, instead of the patient, from the Insurance Carrier or Third-Party Administrator, a signed Assignment of Benefits will also medical providers appeal denials and underpayments from the Insurance Carrier or Third-Party Administrator.

For example, a patient may seek treatment from a medical provider who is not in network with their health insurance plan. These medical providers may also be referred to as a non-participating provider, a non-network provider, or an out of network provider. Essentially, this designation means that there is no contract in place between the medical provider and the Insurance Carrier or Third-Party Administrator for agreed upon, negotiated rates for services rendered. Therefore, the out of network medical provider has an expectation that payments for the treatment rendered will be made at their actual, billed charges. By having a signed Assignment of Benefits form, a medical provider may submit the Assignment of Benefits with the claim and request that payment be made directly to the medical provider, instead of having checks go to the patient. This provides a convenience for both the medical provider and the patient.

Additionally, if the out of network medical provider is paid less than the actual, billed charges, the medical provider will likely want to challenge the payment directly with the Insurance Carrier or Third-Party Administrator. By having an Assignment of Benefits signed by the Patient, the out of network medical provider may rely on the Assignment of Benefits to appeal the denial or underpayment. While having a signed Assignment of Benefits does not guarantee an out of network medical provider will have standing to file a litigation matter to recover the underpaid reimbursement from the Insurance Carrier, the Assignment of Benefits could be sufficient under the terms of certain health plans. An attorney who is experienced in healthcare law and medical revenue recovery can review the terms of the health insurance plan and provide guidance to the medical provider as to what, if any, additional documentation may be required to pursue recovery in a litigation matter.

Because the use of an Assignment of Benefits, containing the most effective language, is such an important element to a medical provider’s financial interest in collecting payment from an Insurance Carrier or Third-Party Administrator and, possibly, challenging improper payments, a medical provider may want to have an attorney experienced with medical revenue recovery review the Assignment of Benefits. For more information or to consult with an attorney, contact Callagy Law today .

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Assignment of benefits: what you need to know.

  • August 17, 2022
  • Steven Schwartzapfel

Insurance can be useful, but dealing with the back-and-forth between insurance companies and contractors, medical specialists, and others can be a time-consuming and ultimately unpleasant experience. You want your medical bills to be paid without having to act as a middleman between your healthcare provider and your insurer.

However, there’s a way you can streamline this process. With an assignment of benefits, you can designate your healthcare provider or any other insurance payout recipient as the go-to party for insurance claims. While this can be convenient, there are certain risks to keep in mind as well.

Below, we’ll explore what an assignment of insurance benefits is (as well as other forms of remediation), how it works, and when you should employ it. For more information, or to learn whether you may have a claim against an insurer, contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers now at 1-516-342-2200 .

What Is an Assignment of Benefits?

An assignment of benefits (AOB) is a legal process through which an insured individual or party signs paperwork that designates another party like a contractor, company, or healthcare provider as their insurance claimant .

Suppose you’re injured in a car accident and need to file a claim with your health insurance company for medical bills and related costs. However, you also need plenty of time to recover. The thought of constantly negotiating between your insurance company, your healthcare provider, and anyone else seems draining and unwelcome.

With an assignment of benefits, you can designate your healthcare provider as your insurance claimant. Then, your healthcare provider can request insurance payouts from your healthcare insurance provider directly.

Through this system, the health insurance provider directly pays your physician or hospital rather than paying you. This means you don’t have to pay your healthcare provider. It’s a streamlined, straightforward way to make sure insurance money gets where it needs to go. It also saves you time and prevents you from having to think about insurance payments unless absolutely necessary.

What Does an Assignment of Benefits Mean?

An AOB means that you designate another party as your insurance claimant. In the above example, that’s your healthcare provider, which could be a physician, hospital, or other organization.

With the assignment of insurance coverage, that healthcare provider can then make a claim for insurance payments directly to your insurance company. The insurance company then pays your healthcare provider directly, and you’re removed as the middleman.

As a bonus, this system sometimes cuts down on your overall costs by eliminating certain service fees. Since there’s only one transaction — the transaction between your healthcare provider and your health insurer — there’s only one set of service fees to contend with. You don’t have to deal with two sets of service fees from first receiving money from your insurance provider, then sending that money to your healthcare provider.

Ultimately, the point of an assignment of benefits is to make things easier for you, your insurer, and anyone else involved in the process.

What Types of Insurance Qualify for an Assignment of Benefits?

Most types of commonly held insurance can work with an assignment of benefits. These insurance types include car insurance, healthcare insurance, homeowners insurance, property insurance, and more.

Note that not all insurance companies allow you to use an assignment of benefits. For an assignment of benefits to work, the potential insurance claimant and the insurance company in question must each sign the paperwork and agree to the arrangement. This prevents fraud (to some extent) and ensures that every party goes into the arrangement with clear expectations.

If your insurance company does not accept assignments of benefits, you’ll have to take care of insurance payments the traditional way. There are many reasons why an insurance company may not accept an assignment of benefits.

To speak with a Schwartzapfel Lawyers expert about this directly, call 1-516-342-2200 for a free consultation today. It will be our privilege to assist you with all your legal questions, needs, and recovery efforts.

Who Uses Assignments of Benefits?

Many providers, services, and contractors use assignments of benefits. It’s often in their interests to accept an assignment of benefits since they can get paid for their work more quickly and make critical decisions without having to consult the insurance policyholder first.

Imagine a circumstance in which a homeowner wants a contractor to add a new room to their property. The contractor knows that the scale of the project could increase or shrink depending on the specifics of the job, the weather, and other factors.

If the homeowner uses an assignment of benefits to give the contractor rights to make insurance claims for the project, that contractor can then:

  • Bill the insurer directly for their work. This is beneficial since it ensures that the contractor’s employees get paid promptly and they can purchase the supplies they need.
  • Make important decisions to ensure that the project completes on time. For example, a contract can authorize another insurance claim for extra supplies without consulting with the homeowner beforehand, saving time and potentially money in the process.

Practically any company or organization that receives payments from insurance companies may choose to take advantage of an assignment of benefits with you. Example companies and providers include:

  • Ambulance services
  • Drug and biological companies
  • Lab diagnostic services
  • Hospitals and medical centers like clinics
  • Certified medical professionals such as nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, clinical psychologists, and others
  • Ambulatory surgical center services
  • Permanent repair and improvement contractors like carpenters, plumbers, roofers, restoration companies, and others
  • Auto repair shops and mechanic organizations

Advantages of Using an Assignment of Benefits

An assignment of benefits can be an advantageous contract to employ, especially if you believe that you’ll need to pay a contractor, healthcare provider, and/or other organization via insurance payouts regularly for the near future.

These benefits include but are not limited to:

  • Save time for yourself. Again, imagine a circumstance in which you are hospitalized and have to pay your healthcare provider through your health insurance payouts. If you use an assignment of benefits, you don’t have to make the payments personally or oversee the insurance payouts. Instead, you can focus on resting and recovering.
  • Possibly save yourself money in the long run. As noted above, an assignment of benefits can help you circumvent some service fees by limiting the number of transactions or money transfers required to ensure everyone is paid on time.
  • Increased peace of mind. Many people don’t like having to constantly think about insurance payouts, contacting their insurance company, or negotiating between insurers and contractors/providers. With an assignment of benefits, you can let your insurance company and a contractor or provider work things out between them, though this can lead to applications later down the road.

Because of these benefits, many recovering individuals, car accident victims, homeowners, and others utilize AOB agreements from time to time.

Risks of Using an Assignment of Benefits

Worth mentioning, too, is that an assignment of benefits does carry certain risks you should be aware of before presenting this contract to your insurance company or a contractor or provider. Remember, an assignment of benefits is a legally binding contract unless it is otherwise dissolved (which is technically possible).

The risks of using an assignment of benefits include:

  • You give billing control to your healthcare provider, contractor, or another party. This allows them to bill your insurance company for charges that you might not find necessary. For example, a home improvement contractor might bill a homeowner’s insurance company for an unnecessary material or improvement. The homeowner only finds out after the fact and after all the money has been paid, resulting in a higher premium for their insurance policy or more fees than they expected.
  • You allow a contractor or service provider to sue your insurance company if the insurer does not want to pay for a certain service or bill. This can happen if the insurance company and contractor or service provider disagree on one or another billable item. Then, you may be dragged into litigation or arbitration you did not agree to in the first place.
  • You may lose track of what your insurance company pays for various services . As such, you could be surprised if your health insurance or other insurance premiums and deductibles increase suddenly.

Given these disadvantages, it’s still wise to keep track of insurance payments even if you choose to use an assignment of benefits. For example, you might request that your insurance company keep you up to date on all billable items a contractor or service provider charges for the duration of your treatment or project.

For more on this and related topic, call Schwartzapfel Lawyers now at 1-516-342-2200 .

How To Make Sure an Assignment of Benefits Is Safe

Even though AOBs do carry potential disadvantages, there are ways to make sure that your chosen contract is safe and legally airtight. First, it’s generally a wise idea to contact knowledgeable legal representatives so they can look over your paperwork and ensure that any given assignment of benefits doesn’t contain any loopholes that could be exploited by a service provider or contractor.

The right lawyer can also make sure that an assignment of benefits is legally binding for your insurance provider. To make sure an assignment of benefits is safe, you should perform the following steps:

  • Always check for reviews and references before hiring a contractor or service provider, especially if you plan to use an AOB ahead of time. For example, you should stay away if a contractor has a reputation for abusing insurance claims.
  • Always get several estimates for work, repairs, or bills. Then, you can compare the estimated bills and see whether one contractor or service provider is likely to be honest about their charges.
  • Get all estimates, payment schedules, and project schedules in writing so you can refer back to them later on.
  • Don’t let a service provider or contractor pressure you into hiring them for any reason . If they seem overly excited about getting started, they could be trying to rush things along or get you to sign an AOB so that they can start issuing charges to your insurance company.
  • Read your assignment of benefits contract fully. Make sure that there aren’t any legal loopholes that a contractor or service provider can take advantage of. An experienced lawyer can help you draft and sign a beneficial AOB contract.

Can You Sue a Party for Abusing an Assignment of Benefits?

Sometimes. If you believe your assignment of benefits is being abused by a contractor or service provider, you may be able to sue them for breaching your contract or even AOB fraud. However, successfully suing for insurance fraud of any kind is often difficult.

Also, you should remember that a contractor or service provider can sue your insurance company if the insurance carrier decides not to pay them. For example, if your insurer decides that a service provider is engaging in billing scams and no longer wishes to make payouts, this could put you in legal hot water.

If you’re not sure whether you have grounds for a lawsuit, contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers today at 1-516-342-2200 . At no charge, we’ll examine the details of your case and provide you with a consultation. Don’t wait. Call now!

Assignment of Benefits FAQs

Which states allow assignments of benefits.

Every state allows you to offer an assignment of benefits to a contractor and/or insurance company. That means, whether you live in New York, Florida, Arizona, California, or some other state, you can rest assured that AOBs are viable tools to streamline the insurance payout process.

Can You Revoke an Assignment of Benefits?

Yes. There may come a time when you need to revoke an assignment of benefits. This may be because you no longer want the provider or contractor to have control over your insurance claims, or because you want to switch providers/contractors.

To revoke an assignment of benefits agreement, you must notify the assignee (i.e., the new insurance claimant). A legally solid assignment of benefits contract should also include terms and rules for this decision. Once more, it’s usually a wise idea to have an experienced lawyer look over an assignment of benefits contract to make sure you don’t miss these by accident.

Contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers Today

An assignment of benefits is an invaluable tool when you need to streamline the insurance claims process. For example, you can designate your healthcare provider as your primary claimant with an assignment of benefits, allowing them to charge your insurance company directly for healthcare costs.

However, there are also risks associated with an assignment of benefits. If you believe a contractor or healthcare provider is charging your insurance company unfairly, you may need legal representatives. Schwartzapfel Lawyers can help.

As knowledgeable New York attorneys who are well-versed in New York insurance law, we’re ready to assist with any and all litigation needs. For a free case evaluation and consultation, contact Schwartzapfel Lawyers today at 1-516-342-2200 !

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What Is an Insurance Claim? | Experian

What is assignment of benefits, and how does it impact insurers? | Insurance Business Mag

Florida Insurance Ruling Sets Precedent for Assignment of Benefits | Law.com

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This term refers to insurance payments made directly to a healthcare provider for medical services received by the patient. Assignment of benefits occurs after a claim has been successfully processed with an insurance company.

As Assignment of Benefits (often abbreviated to AOB) simply means that the patient is asking for their payment of their health benefits to be transferred to the doctor to used as payment.

In some medical offices, there is a form known as an ‘Assignment of Benefits’ that allows the patient to transfer these benefits automatically. This reduces the need to bill a fee for service on each transaction, which can be appealing to some patients.

Typically, providers or types of services listed below must accept assignment of benefits:

  • Clinical diagnostic laboratory services;
  • Physician services to individuals dually entitled to Medicare and Medicaid;
  • Services of physician assistants, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, nurse midwives, certified registered nurse anesthetists, clinical psychologists, and clinical social workers;
  • Ambulatory surgical center services for covered ASC procedures;
  • Home dialysis supplies and equipment paid under Method II;
  • Ambulance services;
  • Drugs and biologicals; and
  • Simplified Billing Roster for influenza virus vaccine and pneumococcal vaccine.  

It is important to note that not every patient has the contracted right to do so. Even if the patient signs as AOB form, the insurance company may not have to honor it if the patient cannot contractually assign their rights to anyone.

As a medical office it is important to understand most of the core insurance plans your office works with and how the patients benefits are typically paid.

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if the assignment of benefits is not signed by the patient

When a patient sees a provider, the patient signs an “assignment of benefits” contract with the provider, assigning the patient’s legal rights to recover benefits from the insurance company to the provider so that the provider can be directly reimbursed for the services rendered to the patient. When the provider is in-network, this process is executed with little fanfare. However, for an out-of network provider, the road to reimbursement is not always as smooth. Not all states expressly permit assignment-of-benefits clauses, and as a result, insurers send the reimbursement to the beneficiary rather than the provider. The beneficiary is then supposed to forward the reimbursement onto the provider, which many of them do. However, if they do not, providers are put in the uncomfortable and difficult position of suing the patient, which has an uncertain likelihood of success. Given this arduous task, some providers contend that insurance companies have begun to utilize direct payment to patients in retaliation against providers for refusing to join the insurer’s networks.

In fact, in 2015, providers of inpatient and outpatient substance abuse and/or mental health treatment to chemically-dependent individuals filed suit against a group of insurers that includes several Blue Cross entities for this exact practice. In Dual Diagnosis Treatment Center, Inc., et al. v. Blue Cross of California, et. al., the providers alleged that defendants purposefully ignored valid assignments of benefits and instead directly reimbursed providers’ patients in order to punish the providers for being a few of a small number of providers who had not joined the insurers’ networks.

In their defense, the insurers stated that some of the plans contained anti-assignment provisions, prohibiting beneficiaries from entering into assignment-of-benefits contracts with providers. The original complaint sought to recover benefits, remove breaching fiduciaries and, against the Blue Cross insurers, injunctive and declaratory relief that Blue Cross’ pattern of denying providers’ assigned claims without reviewing the operative plan document or informing providers of the denial violates the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), the federal law that regulates employee sponsored retirement and welfare benefit plans. The court granted insurers’ motion to dismiss without prejudice, specifically to allow the providers to amend their complaint to demonstrate that waiver or estoppel would apply to the anti-assignment provisions.

The providers filed a second amended complaint, which was dismissed by the court with leave to amend, and the providers filed a third amended complaint in October 2017. The third amended complaint brought two claims: a claim for plan benefits under ERISA and a state law claim under California law alleging that the Blue Cross insurers misled providers about the assignability of benefits (specifically, misrepresenting that benefits were assignable when they were not and also representing that benefits were not assignable when they were). The insurers filed a motion to dismiss on the state law claim, which the court granted on the grounds of insufficient standing because the providers did not properly allege an economic injury. Specifically, the court held that collection costs, bad debt, preventing the providers from assisting their patients in the administrative appeals process and denying providers the opportunity to make alternate payment arrangements or collect additional money from their patients up front were insufficient to allege that the insurers’ conduct resulted in economic injury to the providers. The providers’ claim for benefits under ERISA still stands. However, there is no date set for hearing at this time.

The outcome of this case will set the stage for future litigation and out-of-network payment strategies. In addition to this and other pending cases, out-of-network providers or those considering an out-of-network strategy should closely monitor proposed legislation in their states of operation regarding direct-pay-to-patient methods. Some states, such as Indiana, have proposed legislation requiring insurers to directly reimburse out-of-network providers for certain services. These types of laws, in combination with litigation, will significantly influence the risk associated with pursuing an out-of-network payment strategy.

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What is Assignment of Benefits in Medical Billing?

doctor sitting at his desk on his laptop

An assignment of benefits is the act of signing documentation authorizing a health insurance company to pay a physician directly. In other words, the insurance company can pay claims without the direct involvement of the patient in the process. There are other situations where AOBs can be helpful, but we’ll focus on their use in relation to medical benefits.

If there isn’t an assignment of benefits agreement in place, the patient would be responsible for paying the other party directly from their own pocket, then filing a claim with their insurance provider to receive reimbursement. This could be time-consuming and costly, especially if the patient has no idea how to file a claim.

The document is typically signed by patients when they undergo medical procedures. The purpose of this form is to assign the responsibility of payment for any future medical bills that may arise after the procedure. It’s important to note that not all procedures require an AOB.

An assignment of benefits agreement might be utilized to pay a medical practitioner the patient didn’t choose, like an anesthesiologist. The patient may have picked a surgeon, but an anesthesiologist assigned on the day of the procedure might issue a separate bill. They’re, in essence, signing that anyone involved in their treatment can receive direct payment from the insurance carrier. It doesn’t have to go through the patient.

This document can also eliminate service fees surrounding processing. As a result, the patient can focus on medical treatment and recovery without being bogged down with the complexities of paying medical bills. The overall intent of an assignment of benefits agreement is to make the process more manageable for the patient, as they don’t need to haggle directly with their insurer.

List of Providers and Services

When the patient signs an AOB agreement, they give a third party right to obtain payment for services the provider performed, and medical billing services are a prime example of where they may sign an AOB agreement.

  • Ambulance services
  • Medical insurance claims
  • Drugs and pharmaceuticals
  • Diagnostic and clinical lab services
  • Emergency surgical center services
  • Dialysis supplies and equipment used in the home
  • Physician services for Medicare and Medicaid patients

Services of professionals other than a primary care physician, which includes:

  • Physician assistants
  • Clinical nurse specialists
  • Clinical social workers
  • Clinical psychologists
  • Certified registered nurse anesthetists

doctor at desk filling out forms on clipboard

Information Commonly Requested on Assignment of Benefits Form:

  • Signature of patient or person legally responsible
  • Signature of parent or legal guardian

How AOBs Affect the Medical Practitioner

A medical provider or their administrative staff may feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of forms patients must fill out prior to treatment. Demanding more paperwork from patients may be seen as an added burden on the managerial staff, as well as the patient. However, getting a signed AOB is vital in preserving the interests of everyone involved.

In addition to receiving direct payment from the insurance company without needing to go through the patient, a signed assignment of benefits form will help medical providers appeal denied and underpaid claims. They can ask that payments be made directly to them rather than through the patient. This makes the process more manageable for both the doctors and the patient.

Things to Bear in Mind

The patient gives their rights and benefits to third parties under their current health plan. Depending on the wording in the AOB, their insurer may not be allowed to contact them directly about their claims. In addition, the patient may be unable to negotiate settlements or approve payments on their behalf and enable third parties to endorse checks on behalf of the patient. Finally, when the patient signs an AOB, the insurer may sue the third parties involved in the dispute.

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IMAGES

  1. Fillable Online ASSIGNMENT OF BENEFITS AUTHORIZATION INSURED PATIENT

    if the assignment of benefits is not signed by the patient

  2. Medical Assignment Of Benefits Form

    if the assignment of benefits is not signed by the patient

  3. What is an Assignment of Benefits Agreement?

    if the assignment of benefits is not signed by the patient

  4. What is Assignment of Benefits in Medical Billing

    if the assignment of benefits is not signed by the patient

  5. Fillable Online Assignment of Benefits (AOB) Form for Medicare Patients

    if the assignment of benefits is not signed by the patient

  6. Fillable Online medicaid ms Assignment of Benefits Fax Email Print

    if the assignment of benefits is not signed by the patient

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COMMENTS

  1. Medicare Assignment: What It Is and How It Works

    Here's how it works: Medicare will pay the provider 95% of the amount they would pay if the provider accepted assignment. The provider can charge the person receiving care more than the Medicare-approved amount, but only up to 15% more (some states limit this further). This extra amount, which the patient has to pay out-of-pocket, is known as ...

  2. Assignment and Non-assignment of Benefits

    Non-assignment of Benefits. Non-assigned is the method of reimbursement a physician/supplier has when choosing to not accept assignment of benefits. Under this method, a non-participating provider is the only provider that can file a claim as non-assigned. When the provider does not accept assignment, the Medicare payment will be made directly ...

  3. Assignment and Nonassignment of Benefits

    The second reimbursement method a physician/supplier has is choosing to not accept assignment of benefits. Under this method, a non-participating provider is the only provider that can file a claim as non-assigned. When the provider does not accept assignment, the Medicare payment will be made directly to the beneficiary.

  4. PDF Statement on Assignment of Benefits Signatures Under 42 CFR Sec. 424.36

    The Medicare regulations have not been suspended or relaxed for obtaining a patient's signature for claim submission purposes. A patient must sign the assignment of benefits statement UNLESS the patient is "physically or mentally incapable of signing" or the patient is deceased prior to submission of a claim for the service.

  5. All You Need to Know About Assignment of Benefits

    When you sign this form, you agree to appoint anyone from the hospital to seek payment from the insurance payer on your behalf. After you sign the AOB form, you won't have to deal with the insurance company directly unless you are explicitly asked. Make a note of the fact that the insurance company is not required to accept or honor the AOB ...

  6. Medicare Assignment

    Medicare assignment is a fee schedule agreement between the federal government's Medicare program and a doctor or facility. When Medicare assignment is accepted, it means your doctor agrees to the payment terms of Medicare. Doctors that accept Medicare assignment fall under one of three designations: a participating doctor, a non ...

  7. What is Medicare Assignment

    Summary: Medicare Assignment is an agreement between healthcare providers and Medicare, where providers accept the Medicare-approved amount as full payment, preventing them from charging beneficiaries extra. This benefits Medicare beneficiaries by controlling their costs and ensuring they only pay deductibles and copayments.

  8. INSIGHT: An Ounce of Prevention—The Importance of Early Review of

    Some patient plans contain anti-assignment language that prohibits the patient from assigning his or her benefits. This language is a challenge to a provider's ability to establish standing. Courts are however, split on the issue. Some courts hold that an unambiguous anti-assignment clause is enforceable and can invalidate a patient's ...

  9. Participating, non-participating, and opt-out Medicare providers

    Certain providers, such as clinical social workers and physician assistants, must always take assignment if they accept Medicare. Non-participating providers accept Medicare but do not agree to take assignment in all cases (they may on a case-by-case basis). This means that while non-participating providers have signed up to accept Medicare ...

  10. Signature Requirements on Claims: Medicare Patients

    4. A patient's signature is not required for: A claim submitted for diagnostic tests or test interpretations performed in a facility that has no contact with the patient. Document the signature space "Patient not physically present for services." Medicaid patients. Deceased patients when the physician accepts assignment.

  11. Physician Acceptance of Medicare Assignment

    Medicare assignment, or Medicare assignment of benefits, is the process in which a Medicare beneficiary authorizes Medicare to directly reimburse health care providers for services. ... That extra amount is billed to the patient. In addition to participating and non-participating providers, some providers choose not to accept Medicare in any ...

  12. Medicare Assignment and How Doctors Accept It Explained

    A medical provider that accepts Medicare assignment must submit claims directly to Medicare on your behalf. They will be paid the agreed upon amount by Medicare, and you will pay any copayments or deductibles dictated by your plan. If your doctor is non-participating, they may accept Medicare assignment for some services but not others.

  13. An assignment of benefits (AOB) can streamline the insurance process

    An AOB is a legal agreement that allows your insurance company to directly pay a third party for services performed on your behalf. In the case of health care, it could be your doctor or another ...

  14. Assignment of benefits

    Assignment of benefits. Assignment of benefits is a legal agreement where a patient authorizes their healthcare provider to receive direct payment from the insurance company for services rendered. Boost patient experience and your bottom line by automating patient cost estimates, payer underpayment detection, and contract optimization in one place.

  15. The Importance of the Assignment of Benefits

    Essentially, the patient is "assigning" his or her right to receive the payment for the medical benefits. While medical providers benefit tremendously from having payments made directly to them, instead of the patient, from the Insurance Carrier or Third-Party Administrator, a signed Assignment of Benefits will also medical providers appeal ...

  16. Assignment of Benefits: What You Need to Know

    There are many reasons why an insurance company may not accept an assignment of benefits. To speak with a Schwartzapfel Lawyers expert about this directly, call 1-516-342-2200 for a free consultation today. It will be our privilege to assist you with all your legal questions, needs, and recovery efforts.

  17. What is an Assignment of Benefits (AOB) in Medical Billing?

    Assignment of benefits occurs after a claim has been successfully processed with an insurance company. As Assignment of Benefits (often abbreviated to AOB) simply means that the patient is asking for their payment of their health benefits to be transferred to the doctor to used as payment. In some medical offices, there is a form known as an ...

  18. Out-of-Network Healthcare Reimbursement

    When a patient sees a provider, the patient signs an "assignment of benefits" contract with the provider, assigning the patient's legal rights to recover benefits from the insurance company ...

  19. Assignment of Benefits

    Assignment of benefits is not authorization to submit claims. It is important to note that the beneficiary signature requirements for submission of claims are separate and distinct from assignment of benefits requirements except where the beneficiary died before signing the request for payment for a service furnished by a supplier and the supplier accepts assignment for that service.

  20. PDF Assignment of Benefits Guide

    complete box #37 for use with assignment of benefits. Things to keep in mind - payers don't always follow the rules Some dental plans will not honor the patient's request for assignment of benefits to non-participating dentists even though the patient has signed the appropriate section of the dental claim form. Instead the patient is paid

  21. What is assignment of benefits, and how does it impact insurers?

    Mar 06, 2020 Share. Assignment of benefits, widely referred to as AOB, is a contractual agreement signed by a policyholder, which enables a third party to file an insurance claim, make repair ...

  22. How Does an 'Assignment of Benefits' Work?

    Answer: An "assignment of benefits" is a form signed by a patient stating that the patient has agreed to assign his or her dental plan benefits to you in consideration for your services. This form is submitted to the dental plan along with the claim form and any other required documentation when seeking payment. If the assignment of ...

  23. What is Assignment of Benefits in Medical Billing?

    An assignment of benefits is the act of signing documentation authorizing a health insurance company to pay a physician directly. In other words, the insurance company can pay claims without the direct involvement of the patient in the process. There are other situations where AOBs can be helpful, but we'll focus on their use in relation to ...