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19-08-2012 | Article

HHS rule to make electronic reimbursements smoother, faster

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medwireNews: The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued an electronic remittance operating rule that it claims will save up to $ 9 billion over the next decade.

The rule will make electronic transactions between clinicians and insurers smoother and less cumbersome, according to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

"These new rules will cut red tape, save money and ensure doctors spend more time seeing patients and less time filling out forms," Sebelius said in a statement.

According to the HHS, physicians spend an average of 3 weeks each year on billing and other tasks related to insurance, and such tasks require the equivalent of two-thirds of an employee for every physician in the practice.

Additionally, many practices and hospitals still do business the old-fashioned way, with paper checks and manual bank deposits.

"The operating rules build upon industry-wide healthcare electronic fund transfer (EFT) standards that HHS adopted in January of this year. Together, the previously issued EFT standards and the EFT and electronic remittance advice (ERA) operating rules announced today are projected to save between $ 2.7 billion and more than $ 9 billion in administrative costs over 10 years by reducing inefficient manual administrative processes for physician practices, hospitals, and health plans," the HHS statement says.

Among other things, the rule will require insurers to implement standardized online enrollment for electronic payments, making it easier for clinicians and hospitals to enroll with multiple payers. In addition, the rule requires insurers to pay within a specified number of days from the time that an ERA is submitted, the HHS says.

By Neil Osterweil, medwireNews Reporter