ADVOCATE FOR MASSAGE THERAPY AS A RECOGNIZED & RESPECTED HEALTHCARE PROFESSION
by Dagmar Growe LMT
There is an ice axe on the wall above the row of cash registers at my local REI store. A sign next to it explains the significance: A bunch of decades ago, some NW mountaineers decided to band together so they could negotiate better prices for their equipment – like ice axes. I wonder if any of the folks involved imagined their little co-op becoming the retail giant it is today!
It is stories like this that I want to keep in mind when dealing with situations as frustrating and overwhelming as massage therapists’ struggles in dealing with insurance companies. We have written in the past about the problem with “negotiating” collectively: US antitrust law which was created with the goal of protecting consumers against large and powerful companies, in a perverse twist of circumstance, is now protecting large and powerful companies against consumers (who can’t find a massage therapist to work with them) and small business owners.
And yet, just like those ice axe purchasers we can still marshal the power of the collective in a legal way. A great example is the collective purchase of legal services. Some Regence contracted LMTs had concerns about the latest contract that was sent out a few months ago by Regence. A respected and highly experienced healthcare attorney, John Conniff, provided the Washington State Massage Therapy Association (WSMTA) a legal review of the new Regence agreement We all know that legal services are expensive, and this lengthy contract and regulatory filings (228 pages) required many hours of work and resulted in a 13 page legal review that details the commitments that therapists enter into, the inconsistencies, and the conflicts with Washington statutes that exist in the contract. If WSMTA was charging hundreds of dollars in membership fees per year like other professional organizations (Chiropractors, PTs) we would gladly make the review available as a membership benefit. Given our current membership price, we have to handle legal reviews like the ice axe guys: Everyone pitches in and we all win. The review will be available to members for $100 – the cost of 1 massage (well, not an insurance massage) If you are not currently a WSMTA member you can go to our website, become a member for $40 and then be eligible to purchase the review for $100.. Your payment helps us to continue to provide services like this in the future.
Now, of course, you wonder: why would you want to know everything that is wrong with this contract, as you don’t have the power to negotiate a different contract with Regence’s non-existing provider service. We will share one bit we learned from the review upfront: The contract states that it is a confidential document. Not true, according to Mr. Conniff, healthcare contracts like this have to be filed with and approved by the Office of the Insurance Commissioner, and then are placed on their website, which makes them public information. This means we can legally talk about the contract. You also might want to know which parts of the contract are legally enforceable, and which are not! And then, depending on your circumstances, you can make an educated decision on whether to sign or not, or if you already signed, if you want to cancel or not.
This is but one example of how LMTs can exercise some power in a healthcare system that favors large companies. BJ Erkan, LMT and clinic owner will share more ideas at the upcoming WSMTA Annual Meeting on June 26. And the next time you go to your local REI store, look around:This is Power of Collaboration! Let’s make it our own power.
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Advocate for Massage Therapy as a Recognized & Respected Healthcare Profession