Making insurance easy and profitable.Apr 13, 2022
This article originally appeared in the March, 2023 newsletter of the Nutrition Entrepreneur's DPG.
Ingrid Knight, RDN, LD is a Registered and Licensed Dietitian and the Owner and President of Ingrid Knight, RD and Associates, Inc. a private practice in Georgia covering multiple states. Ingrid offers 1-1 consulting, insurance setups, and training for Registered Dietitian Nutritionists and Businesses and is a founding member of Nutrition Practice Network (NPN), an online membership site dedicated to all things Nutrition Private Practice. NPN offers an extensive document library, mastermind groups and 1-1 expert mentoring at www.nutritionpracticenetwork.com.
Where to start? You have people interested in your services. You’ve dreamed of owning your own business. Your counseling skills are honed and ready. Now what? You decide to accept insurance.
What are the benefits to accepting insurance? We are able to offer increased access to care: more people are able to afford your services. You will see increased referrals: people will find you because you are in their network. Finally, by submitting claims to insurance, there is documented use of our services, which can improve RDN reputation with the public and with health insurance payers.
I’ve heard insurance only cover diabetes and kidney disease, is this true? No! That is true for Medicare insurance, but most commercial policies cover our services at 100%! That means there is no cost to the patient, as most insurance companies view our services as preventive. And, many, many diagnoses are
covered, including weight management, celiac disease, pediatric concerns, and eating disorders.
By accepting insurance, does that change my business set up? Not really. All you need: paperwork, a way to take payment, a place to see patients (even tele-health)...and that’s about it. Once you accept insurance, you agree to HIPAA regulations, but we recommend you follow those guidelines either way.
What about start-up time and money, is that different than offering only private
pay services? It is about the same. With private pay services, you work to develop your offerings, services, value and continued marketing. With insurance-based services, you are still able to offer excellent nutrition services, but you may not need to spend as much time developing programs and packages. Your time
(or money) may be spent completing applications to become in-network, learning about RDN insurance and billing, and setting up systems to process your insurance clients (or paying someone to do this). But just like all good businesses, you need standard forms, intake paperwork and processes.
As a new Private Practice RDN, I started with little money and lots of time! I was able to enroll myself (and other RDNs) and learn everything on my own.
It wasn’t until years later that we were streamlined; in the lean years we had free claims processing, and an inexpensive e-fax to receive referrals and send progress notes.
I’ve heard people spend a lot of time on insurance billing, what do you think?
Many RDNs I work with provide services, bill insurance, and never receive or follow up on payment. (we all sometimes do this). But, the key is setting up your systems and billing correctly from the start. If you take the easy steps to confirming nutrition services coverage, and how to code and bill, most claims are paid the first time they are submitted. Just like all of your business tasks, set aside some time during you week and month to follow up on outstanding items.
HOW do I Market my insurance-based services? Just being in-network will bring you lots of clients. When you are making a marketing plan, think about where your clients are, and what other insurance-based services do they use? That leads us to other healthcare providers: physicians, and other ancillary providers such as Speech Therapists, Physical Therapists, Psychologists, etc. You and your staff can plan ways to let the physicians and others know you are ready to accept referrals: in-person visits, fax marketing, calls and emails are just a few of these ideas.
What if I want to offer services that insurances doesn’t cover? Most successful private practices have multiple streams of income. Why? We know clinical and counseling can be a burn out, we want to diversify our work and our income. That means we can offer other services that insurance doesn’t cover, including meal plans, email and text support, testing and other services and the client can pay out of pocket. Learn what insurance cover and remember what you want to offer your clients as an added benefit.
Remember: you are a healthcare provider, and a nutrition expert. Take advantage of all the benefits of being an in-network insurance provider and continue to expand our reach and our impact!
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