MGMA 2008: MGMA backs standardized patient insurance ID

Right now, virtually every medical practice goes through the time-honored procedure of copying a patient's plastic insurance ID card, collecting their co-payment and submitting a claim for reimbursement to collect the bulk of the bill. The thing is, not only is it labor-intensive, it's also prone to errors, as patient ID numbers and other key information then have to be keyed into billing systems by hand. In fact, the bulk of rejected claims are due to errors occurring at this point in the claims submission process, notes Dr. William Jessee, president and CEO of the Medical Group Management Association. 

But if every patient in every health plan used a single, standardized patient ID card, such errors would go away, possibly saving insurers and providers millions, said Jessee, who spoke to a group of editors at a luncheon held at the group's annual conference. Given this potential, the MGMA has decided to throw its weight behind the concept. The group is mounting an effort to study and promote this approach, building a coalition of insurers, providers and other partners.

MGMA's proposed model for the card would include a standardized method of identifying the payer and a standardized method of encoding data, which would make it possible for health plans to jump in without making big changes to their systems, Jessee said. Meanwhile, it would be easy for providers to get involved, as card readers of the kind needed would cost roughly $50 each, he noted. Ideally, the banks would eventually come on board, and establish a way for patients to use the same card to debit health savings accounts for their portions of the bill, he suggested.

While Jessee didn't say when the group plans to begin its formal study of this approach, he noted that the group has already begun soliciting partners who can provide suggested guidelines for use in such a scheme. Eventually, however, MGMA will conduct a study looking at work flow in practices and how an electronic insurance ID could streamline operations.

To more information on this issue:
- read this press release on the subject

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