It’s a lament often heard. There are, however, two sides to every story and the problem doesn’t always lie with the medical scheme. There are a variety of reasons for non-payment ranging from members not following the correct claiming procedures or rules, benefits not being depleted or even providers not billing correctly. Gerhard Van Emmenis, Principal Officer of Bonitas Medical Fund gives some tips on what may have gone wrong and how to fix it.
The important thing to remember is that medical aid scheme options differ, which means some options cover procedures that others might not, but there are certain rules everyone needs to adhere to. Your medical scheme will usually tell you the reason for non-payment. If you are unhappy you can take it up with them, however, the best advice is to first check that the fault doesn’t lie with you or the medical practitioner.
Your membership number
This may sound simple but it is surprising how often an incorrect membership number or dependant code is submitted with a claim. In some instances, this information is omitted or incomplete. A medical scheme cannot pay without proof that you had the treatment. Remember to update your details if you have changed your medical aid option or medical scheme.
ICD-10 codes are used by medical schemes and healthcare providers, including doctors and specialists to identify specific conditions. These must be correct as they are a diagnosis for specific conditions. If there is no ICD-10 code or, for some reasons that condition is not covered by your medical aid, the account won’t be paid.
Schemes also have sub-limits, for example they agree to pay for rehabilitation and the amount they will cover is finite, so check prior to the treatment. Certain dental procedures have definite sub-limits so it is important to read the fine print and check your policy for what is covered and what isn’t.
Your contributions are not up to date
It sounds simple but check that your debit order has gone through or that your employer has paid your contribution, non-payment of premiums could result in your bill not being paid – especially if your membership is suspended.
The claim has expired
Be aware that there is a cut-off date for submitting a claim. It is usually four months from the date of treatment. Ensure that the correct date is on the top of the account.
Your benefits are depleted
If you do not manage your medical aid benefits carefully you can run out of benefits before the end of the year. This means that you may have to pay the bill yourself. Different options have different limits for various procedures so, once again, make sure you understand what your option covers. Medical schemes are required to pay for Prescribed Minimum Benefits in full but you may have to use a specific provider.
Waiting periods may apply
When you join a new scheme there is a waiting period of three months and sometimes, based on your medical history, a twelve month exclusion could be enforced for certain conditions. If you claim before the waiting period is up, the bill will not be paid.
Your hospital/doctor is not on the network
Most schemes have hospital and doctors networks who agree on certain rates for their members. If you choose to go to another hospital or a private doctor you could end up paying a large portion of the bill.
You didn’t use a Designated Service Providers
A Designated Service Provider is a specific provider that has been appointed by a medical scheme for a specific service. If you choose not to use a Designated Service Provider, you may have to pay a co-payment or not be covered – depending on the Scheme Rules or your specific plan limits.
Pre-authorisation was not obtained
If you are going to undergo a procedure you need to get authorisation from your medical aid ahead of going to hospital and, once again, make sure you have the right information and ICD-10 Codes for this.
You’re using medicine that’s not on the formulary
Every scheme has a formulary, which lists chronic medication approved by your medical aid. These are often generics which are copies of the original medication but more affordable. Ask your pharmacist for a generic as a matter of course as it will ensure your benefits last longer.
The procedure or treatment may be an exclusion
All medical schemes have a list of exclusions which are not covered. This often includes cosmetic surgeries and non-medical expenses.
Van Emmenis says, ‘If you read the small print and know exactly what the rules are for your medical aid and the plan you are on, you will be able to ensure that your benefits last as long as possible and that the bills are paid.’