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17/Aug/2021

Medicare Set-Aside (MSA) arrangement beneficiaries have some very specific limitations when it comes to how their money is spent. When it comes to choosing a provider, the options are wide open. A beneficiary will often deal with who they know or a provider that is close to their home. As a cash payer with limited funds to cover all future Medicare allowable and injury related expenses, the wrong choice can put a beneficiary in a world of hurt. Here are some best practices when choosing a provider to treat an injury post settlement and using Medicare Set-Aside funds:

 

Choose a Medicare Certified Provider

While MSA funds can be used to pay any provider that supplies covered care related to the injury, not every provider is able to bill Medicare for these medical goods or services. If a beneficiary properly exhausts their MSA funds in a given year (when the MSA is funded with a structured annuity and receives deposits periodically) or the MSA funds have permanently exhausted, Medicare will assume responsibility to pay Medicare covered expenses related to the injury and coordinate with any other applicable insurance plan. If the provider is not Medicare certified, that provider will not be paid by Medicare even if the beneficiary has maintained Medicare coverage. This can leave the beneficiary as the responsible party if no other insurance benefit is available. We recommend choosing Medicare certified providers to avoid such situations.

 

Choose Providers Who Offer Discounted Cash Rates

A beneficiary with MSA funds is considered a cash payer by medical providers. There is no “in network” policy with set payment rates for cash payers. If the provider is not accustomed to dealing with patients without a primary medical insurance plan, the provider may charge its full retail rate. A beneficiary may have a difficult time negotiating a medical bill on their own or in advance of services being completed and this can add up to a significant expenditure of MSA funds. It is best to ask about cash rates and if any discounts are available when contacting a new provider.

 

Avoid Providers That Don’t Normally Bill Insurance

Billing insurance for medical services means increased access to patients because it agrees to a negotiated contract that reduces the average cost of services. Some providers opt to avoid insurance altogether. This allows these providers to charge higher rates for services because there is no set rate or maximum charge. Moreover, these providers will only take the beneficiary’s cash even if they have a group health plan or public benefit. This lack of flexibility is often costly for the beneficiary.

 

Choose Providers Experienced with Traumatic Injuries

This may seem obvious, but as a professional administrator, Medivest sees beneficiaries choosing providers that are not familiar with treating traumatic injuries post-settlement. This can be problematic from a communication standpoint (while the beneficiary and the administrator know the injury backwards and forwards, the doctor may see very few of these cases) and it can make billing and payment more difficult or present difficulties when seeking a referral to a specialists. The most efficient approach is to choose a provider that KNOWS the beneficiary’s type of injury from direct experience.

 

Choose a Flexible Provider

Here are a few common red flag phrases from providers that limit the beneficiary’s options:

We only bill Medicare.”

We don’t deal with liability injuries.”

“We never treat workers’ compensation injuries.”

“We only treat workers’ compensation injuries.”

“We don’t bill third parties.”

“We don’t take cash.”

Providers experienced with multiple scenarios provide the beneficiary with options when it comes to treatment and payment.

 

Beware of Signing Rate Agreements for Specific Services

A beneficiary that is not acquainted with the typical market rate or medical fee schedules is advised to run away from any agreement or contract that would lock them into a guaranteed payment rate. A rate agreement of this nature can put the beneficiary on the hook for significantly inflated cost. If they’re using a professional administrator (and they should be), it can negotiate with the provider directly on the beneficiary’s behalf. Don’t confuse this document with an authorization form to bill insurance or a notification that the beneficiary is responsible for any non-covered services. They’re not the same thing.

 

Avoid buying OTC Supplements or Supplies Directly from a Provider

Over-the-counter supplements or supplies that are sold directly by a provider typically come with a markup and can usually be found cheaper elsewhere. Your providers may recommend a device or a supplement that they conveniently stocks for sale. You should be aware that the providers may be looking to increase their margin per patient. Take your doctor’s advice and do your research.  If the recommended supply of supplement makes sense, shop around for a better price.

 

Do Not Be Discouraged if a Provider Rejects Payment from the MSA

Most providers within the US Healthcare system do not understand what a Medicare Set-Aside is or what it is for. They are frequently hesitant to accept it as a form of payment. They may mistake it for a Medicare Part C plan or out of network benefit. Sometimes, they are highly suspicious and cannot believe that Medicare is not the primary payer. It can be daunting for a beneficiary to be in the position of educating a provider’s billing office. A professional administrator is a great resource for coordinating benefits and having the MSA be the primary payment source, when applicable.

 

Conclusion

A MSA beneficiary with a persistent injury deserves the best care possible, but also needs to be positioned to ensure the MSA funds last. And if they don’t last, that the beneficiary has a proper safety net in place. Part of this strategy includes finding the right providers to not only address the injury with competence but also provide affordable and flexible options to ensure continuity of care and protect the beneficiary from having to dip into other settlement or personal funds.  Even when Medicare is responsible for covering injury care, the beneficiary can be billed for any deductible, copay, or coinsurance balances.

Last, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that a professional administrator addresses these challenges every day and not only talks to a beneficiary’s provider on their behalf, but will also coordinate benefits with other insurance, communicate with CMS about the MSA, and negotiate rates in ways a patient will struggle to match. If you or your client is a current or future beneficiary of a Medicare Set-Aside, don’t hesitate to contact Medivest. We help thousands of beneficiaries avoid these and many other MSA pitfalls.

 


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26/Feb/2019

It is perhaps cliché to say that life is made up of the decisions you make. But, overused maxims tend to communicate common truths, hence their ubiquity. Decision-making is mainly about choosing one of two or more options to achieve the most desirable outcome. Some decisions are straightforward and obvious. Many are not. Still more are tied up in the tension between what we want to do and what we should do. Values, discernment, and even willpower all factor into the process.

Decisions about money are among the most consequential. It therefore reasons that decisions involving large sums of money are highly consequential. Injury settlements are a prime example of how poor decision-making can produce unfortunate, even disastrous outcomes for both the injured and their families. Really no different than the lottery winner whose sudden wealth turns into debt and insolvency within a brief period, so the injured person who receives a cash settlement of any size is often just as unprepared and soon makes decisions that cannot be undone. Money, once spent, cannot be unspent.


“Where There Is No Vision, the People Perish”

Many people have very good intentions from the outset, but good intentions are not enough. General goals without specific plans to reach those goals will usually fall short. So, what are the missing plans that can cause settlement funds mismanagement?

  • a plan to get the most value out of every dollar spent
  • a plan to use the money for what it was intended
  • a plan to ensure the funds are insulated from poor decision-making

This type of planning helps set priorities and leads to the details needed to help the plan succeed. It is really no different than the priorities considered in good personal finance planning. Some settlement beneficiaries get this, but many do not. That’s because this is a problem common to almost all of us. Most of us do not fund our retirements as we should, do not save as we should, and often do not limit our spending as we should. Any bonuses we receive evaporate quickly. We live up to our means and, some how, when we receive a raise, we then live up to that new limit again. And for individuals with injuries who may not be able to work or whose treatment costs exceed expected costs over their lifetime, mismanagement of a fixed settlement amount will likely result in considerable hardship for the injured and their family.


The Advantages of a Professional Custodian

Once one considers how important it is to have a detailed plan for competent management of  settlement funds, the use of a professional custodian begins to make a lot of sense. Vesting a professional custodian with the responsibility for settlement funds decisions addresses the major problems created by the introduction of a large sum of money into an injured person’s finances.

We’ll look at the advantages of a professional custodian, but first, let’s consider the major factors that often negatively affect the decision-making process for a beneficiary handling their own funds:

  • Lack of Expertise – Inability to seek or negotiate for the best price on products and services due to a lack of knowledge about fee schedules, rates, coordination of benefits, medical billing department practices and policies, and negotiation.
  • Dependence on Willpower – Decisions are at the mercy of the beneficiary’s self-control.
  • Outside Influences – Life circumstances, or the needs or even manipulation of family members or friends creates pressure to spend imprudently.

 

Again, these are pitfalls relatively common to all of us. It is easy for emotion and even rationalization to play into spending decisions. This is why there is certainly wisdom in building a wall around all or at least portions of a settlement to protect the funds and beneficiary alike.

Consider how a professional custodian’s decision-making process addresses the issues we’ve discussed:

  • Professional Expertise – Knowledge and experience in reviewing and repricing claims down to applicable fee schedules, and negotiating reductions in claims where possible.
  • Limited by Agreement – Discretion in spending decisions is limited by agreement. The custodian is not permitted to use the funds in any fashion not explicitly contemplated by the contract. Emotionality is factored out of the decision-making process.
  • Contingency Planning – In the event of specific circumstances, special exceptions can be planned for and facilitated.


Custodial Arrangements: Not just for Medicare Set-Asides

Medicare set-aside accounts, which are created as mechanisms to comply with federal law by protecting Medicare from paying when it should not, and which contain funds specifically limited to the Medicare allowable and injury-related expenses, are commonly administered by a professional custodian (or “professional administrator”). But, other settlement funds should be placed with a professional custodian as well. It’s also worth mentioning that the best way to ensure that settlement funds are used according to the dictates of a settlement is to place those funds with a third party that is bound to comply with the terms that establish their custodianship.

At Medivest, we frequently receive calls from beneficiaries who are interested in seeking some flexibility in how their professionally administered funds are spent. The most common reason for this request is that they have already spent their remaining settlement funds and the monies under our company’s charge are all that remain. It is not difficult in those circumstances to surmise what would have happened with those custodial funds had we not been “in the picture.”

As example has shown time and again, managing large sums of money is not a simple task, and requires proper planning ahead of time to prevent problems down the road. In each settlement, it makes sense to consider using a professional custodian if concerns about fund mismanagement are warranted. Medivest has been providing custodial services to injured beneficiaries for over twenty years. We’ve helped thousands of  individuals spend their settlement funds in a strategic and prudent manner in order to help stretch those funds to their benefit and the benefit of their families. If you have questions about how to integrate a custodial arrangement into a settlement, please do not hesitate to contact us.

 


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