Thursday, March 25, 2004

I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore

I feel like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.

Dorothy: Oh, will you help me? Can you help me?
Glinda: You don't need to be helped any longer. You've always had the power to go back to Kansas.

OK, I don't want to go to Kansas, but all this time I've been under the belief that I could not accept patients with insurance unless they paid me upfront. At least not until I was approved as a provider for their respective medical insurance plan, which can take 3-4 months. I've turned away a few people who expressed interest in scheduling an appointment only to have me explain that I didn't accept insurance yet, so why don't they wait until 3 months from now when I hope to be a participating provider?

This past week I figured out that I had the "power" to see patients with insurance as an out of network provider. Many health insurance plans allow visits to an out of network provider, but will reimburse less of the total charges, or require a higher deductible. I realized this when I read some of the plan descriptions in detail.

So 3 nights ago, I saw a little boy who was visiting his grandmother from out of town. His parents had Blue Shield PPO which had a $45 copayment for an office visit, and which his parents readily paid. This surprised me, because up until then, my typical fee for a 15 minute visit was $40 ($50 minus a 20 percent "prompt pay" discount).

Another family who has been waiting to see me has Blue Cross and they are used to paying a $10 copayment for office visits. But their plan won't pay for any out of network visits until after they meet a $1000 deductible. Yikes! I told them that I would be willing to see them and just take the copayment. To me, that's $10 more than I'm getting now, plus it's a way of building goodwill and loyalty. Plus, I might be able to hold on to the claim and submit it a few months from now AFTER I've been approved as a network provider.

Tomorrow I'm doing blood pressure checks at our local Senior Center Health Fair. Hopefully it'll generate some visits for me, but since I'm not yet a Medicare provider, I'm not counting on a lot of hits.

Our daughters' piano teacher has been doing some advertising for me, giving out my business cards and brochures to some of the other families who are part of her piano studio, and she told me she was surprised at how much interest there was in my practice. So much so that she has asked for 20 more brochures to hand out next week.

The "Relay for Life" organizer also recommended that I consider joining the Kiwanis Club as a way to network with other business and local community leaders.

My latest marketing idea is to arrange for Mark Crilley, author of the popular Akiko series books, to come and give a presentation to either my childrens' elementary school or local public library. How does it help my practice? OK, it's not exactly health-related, but it does promote uh...literacy. And reading, which is healthier than say, watching TV.

OK, OK, the truth? My kids really LOVE the Akiko books. As much as I do. Plus it allows me to bring this blog entry round full circle back to where I started since the Akiko series has been described as "a light, illustrated adventure novel in the topsy-turvy tradition of The Wizard of Oz".

There's no place like home.