As the new year dawns, many massage therapists are thinking about how to boost business in 2015. Some may be brainstorming new marketing tactics. Others may aim to increase bookings among current clients. However, many LMTs overlook an entire segment of massage clients. We’re talking about insurance reimbursement, in which therapists’ massage services are offset by clients’ insurance benefits.

As one of the leading massage schools in Oregon, we’ve heard all the reasons why LMTs avoid taking on insurance reimbursement. Many say it’s too much of a hassle. Others worry that they’ll lose their independence by cowing to insurance providers’ demands.

Yet the truth is that massage insurance reimbursement is just another hurdle in the professional career of an LMT. Just as you had to jump through hoops into the unknown when you went through massage school, you must have patience and gumption to set up insurance reimbursement. The benefits are multifold for those who do accommodate insurance billing. To help massage therapists decide whether they want to take on the challenge of reimbursement in 2015, let’s take a look at the advantages and challenges of accepting insurance.

Advantages of Accepting Insurance Reimbursement
–Increased independence.
Did you become a massage therapist to create your own independent healing practice? If so, reimbursement can help you create a self-sustaining business. By establishing referral relationships with other healthcare providers, LMTs can enjoy a steady stream of insurance reimbursement patients.
–Income when you’re not working. Even when you’re on vacation, or taking time off to care for a family member, your insurance reimbursement payments will continue flowing in.
–Help the massage profession as a whole. Therapists and massage schools in Arizona, California, and across the country have worked for decades to gain acceptance in the medical community. But there’s still work to be done. As reimbursement becomes more commonplace, more doctors will see massage therapy as an effective healing tool. By doing your part to accept reimbursement clients, you’re helping move the whole medical community toward embracing massage therapy.
–Heal those who couldn’t otherwise afford massage. LMTs are caring, compassionate people. By accepting insurance reimbursement clients, you’ll be healing those who might not be able to afford your services otherwise.

Clearly, there are many benefits to accepting insurance payments. There are stumbling blocks as well. Before committing yourself to accepting reimbursement, consider the following challenges.

Challenges of Massage Insurance Reimbursement
Keeping up with the paperwork. If you don’t set aside time for client preparation, intake, treatment documentation, and coverage verification, you may face a seemingly insurmountable mountain of paperwork. Savvy LMTs do a little reimbursement paperwork every day, to avoid an avalanche of documentation later.
–Delayed payment requires increased financial planning. It takes time to submit reimbursement claims, and more time to receive payment. Those LMTs who operate on a hand-to-mouth basis will need to step up their financial planning to ensure consistent cash flow with insurance reimbursements.
–Not all massage therapy services are covered by insurance. Each insurance company and plan has its own guidelines regarding coverage for massage therapy. To ensure that you’ll be paid for your services, it’s best for the client to call his/her insurance company to verify coverage prior to treatment. And it will also take time to verify that you are an eligible provider, and to figure out which CPT code to use for reimbursement.

Some insurance plans include massage as a “wellness benefit.” This means that the insurance company contracts with the therapist at a reduced rate, and the client pays a discounted out-of-pocket amount as well. One upside to this approach is that insurance companies may send you referral clients for wellness benefit massages.

As we’ve seen, there are pros and cons to accepting insurance reimbursements. If you’re looking for more guidance on insurance billing and coding, we recommend signing up for a continuing education workshop. At East West College, we regularly offer CE courses on insurance reimbursement for massage therapists.