ADVOCATE FOR MASSAGE THERAPY AS A RECOGNIZED & RESPECTED HEALTHCARE PROFESSION
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Federally Regulated Health Plans and Massage Therapy
by Dagmar Growe, LMT
There is a lot of confusion surrounding federally regulated health plans. The Every-Category-of-Provider statute requires that insurers must not exclude any category of providers licensed by the state of Washington who provide health care services or care within the scope of their practice for services covered as essential health benefits (WAC 284-170-270). Since this is a state statute it does not apply to anything which is regulated by federal law. This means that massage therapy benefits can either be excluded by any of those plans, or be limited by any number of arbitrary rules the plan chooses. Because the customer service representatives are generally not very forthcoming with information, it is easy to end up with unpaid claims.
This article aims to shed some light on the different types of federally regulated plans and what to be aware of.
Federal Employee Health Plans (i.e. US Postal Workers Health Plan): These never cover massage therapy. However, I have been told otherwise by a customer representative, just to be told later “only if performed by a PT”.
Self-Insured Plans: Large employers or associations like trade unions may opt to create a trust fund for health care expenses, rather than to buy coverage from an insurance company. However, they may then hire an insurance company to administer the trust fund. The best known example of this is Uniform Medical, which is a self-insured plan for WA State employees that is administered by Regence Blue Cross. These plans are regulated by ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, a federal law that sets minimum standards for most voluntarily established retirement and health plans in private industry to provide protection for individuals in these plans). These plans may opt to provide massage therapy benefits, likely because of customer demand, but then apply additional rules which are generally not volunteered by customer service representatives. Here are some examples: “Yes, we cover massage therapy, but only if performed by a PT; but only if billed through a chiropractor, PT or MD office; but only if part of a PT treatment plan and the PT has to bill first”. Additionally, these plans may offer ridiculously low reimbursement rates, and in one case I saw only cover “up to 2 units”.
Federal Health care plans like Medicare, VA healthcare, and Tricare: These plans never cover massage therapy. However, many Medicare insured people have supplemental plans that will cover massage. It is standard practice for supplemental plans to require a medicare denial before covering remaining expenses. The large insurance companies generally know that massage therapy is never covered, and that massage therapists are unable to obtain a denial, and do not ask for this. Some insurances (or some of their staff) do not understand this, and insist on the denial. In this case filing a complaint with the Office of the Insurance Commissioner will be helpful.
Interim Guidance on Personal Protection Equipment Rev 9/18/20
This document is an interim guide for massage therapists in making selections on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to use while in the treatment room or office. WSMTA makes minimum PPE recommendations for massage therapists and their clients, highlights the options available and how to choose the best option for your practice and your clients/patients.
What’s New: Updated information on facemasks and respirators as well as new information on how to obtain PPE from the WA State PPE Stockpile.
Click Here or on the title above to open the document link.
The Sanitation document builds on the Interim Guidance on Personal Protective Equipment by providing more information on cleaning and disinfecting PPE, extending the life of it and storing it. This document also provides information on cleaning and disinfecting (the how, why and strategies for reducing the amount of time doing it) as well as many other important things related to the setup of a massage room or clinic while COVID-19 is an issue.
What’s New: Updated section on air quality in the treatment room and new information about aerosol, droplets, infectious dosage and viral load.
Interim Guidance on Practice Guidelines Rev 9/19/20
The Practice Guidelines document provides information on how to check for symptoms and signs of health in yourself and your patient/client. It takes all of the prior information the PPE and Sanitation guidance documents provided helps the massage therapist to put it into an infection prevention and control plan as well as provides strategies for before the massage session, during the massage session and after the massage session.
What’s New: The section on “Blood Clotting and Best Practice Considerations” has been significantly updated to “Effects of COVID-19 on the Body and Best Practice Considerations” as well as other smaller updates throughout the document.
Breaking: Regence Providers
It has come to our attention that some Regence providers have received a contract amendment titled, "Regence BlueShield Data Access, Use & Transfer Addendum", sometime in December or early January. We advise you to take note of this amendment and read it carefully. WSMTA is working on clarifying some of the provisions with Regence, but we encourage you to do your own research.
WSMTA is committed to continuing this vital function and representation for Washington LMT’s.
We need your continued support with your membership and/or donations to support our operations at www.mywsmta.org.
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Advocate for Massage Therapy as a Recognized & Respected Healthcare Profession