Archive for the ‘cpt codes’ Category

You, Your Insurance and Privacy of Our Work, Pt III

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

OK, now for the kicker. The something more. This information that lives with your insurer and their insurers isn’t finished yet. What happens if you apply for life insurance? An auto loan? Change jobs and need to sign up for other health insurance? Apply for a credit card? Have you guessed yet?

That’s right. These worthies will often turn to an agency that they hire to collect your information, your protected health information, and that agency will then turn to me and request the records of your treatment. They will sometimes accept a summary but I have to tell them that’s what they’re going to get. What you’ve signed, after you first told them that you had this treatment (if they ask, and for life insurance they sure will,) is a consent for release of information for your medical records. That means they are going to be requesting my session notes (which are part of your official medical record.) This also means that this 4th party outside of the triangle of you, me & your insurance company (and their backers, but I included them in the triangle – so what if it’s got 4 sides? I’m a psychotherapist not a geometer) has your protected health information in its data bank. Yes, the release you signed is HIPAA compliant. They know the law & know that that’s what they have to give you. It doesn’t mean that they are as careful about disclosures as your psychotherapist (me, in this case.)

Does this chill you a bit? If it doesn’t then you’re not following the flow of your information. Wider and wider circles of dissemination.

Now, I’m not saying that if you and I keep things between us and you leave your insurance out of our relationship that you won’t at some point decide that you want life insurance and they won’t ask about treatments you’ve received. If you do they will. I won’t tell you not to tell them about treatments. That would be telling you to commit fraud and I won’t do that. I won’t tell you to lie on the application. I will tell you that, unless you are asked about treatments, in most cases (within the limits of the laws about confidentiality) it stays between you and me (maybe your accountant and Uncle Sugar if you claim it on your taxes, but I’m not going to go there.) There are limits imposed on confidentiality by law, such as if I think you are an immediate danger of committing harm to yourself or somebody else, or in case of suspected cases of child abuse but within the law what’s between you and me stays between you and me. Personally, I like it that way.

Another time I’ll tell you why I don’t like “diagnosis” as used in the DSM (or ICD,) but that’s not part of this. Let’s call it a day and I’ll go back to enjoying my cup of tea.

You, Your Insurance and Privacy of Our Work, Pt II

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

OK, where was I before I started brewing my tea – a nice Oolong with lots of flavor, good aroma & gentle bite? Oh, yeah, about codes and privacy. This section gets a little technical but hang in there, fans – it’s worth it.

I said that those codes don’t leave much of an artifact (footprint, trace, record) that’s going to make any difference, right? Wrong! There’s a procedural code for every procedure that goes on a claim form, whether it’s medical, dental, surgical, psychotherapeutic, etc. The procedure performed becomes part of your permanent medical record in your insurer’s database. “So what” I hear you say. So this: it’s not just in your insurer’s database. It’s in their insurer’s database. They’ve gotta lay their bets off somewhere. That’s with a meta-insurer (think AIG or similar.) Someone who does risk-management and determines how much they can back the bets your insurers make. Think of it as the insurance company has sold your marker to someone. You said it was Jake for them to do that when you signed the line that said that your information could be disclosed for the purpose of obtaining payment. And you thought it was just between you, me, and your insurance company. Have another thunk because there’s more.

Anytime there’s a procedure code there’s a diagnosis. Again, this is whether the work is medical, dental, surgical, psychotherapeutic, or whatever. Now we’re beginning to where it gets sticky. Diagnosis is a serious word. It means that, based on criteria established by the Taskforce that created the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV TR, you get labled with a disorder. You are no longer “the worried well,” or someone who just feels anxious. You now have a recorded disorder. This is part of that marker. The fun doesn’t stop there….

Anything that is contained in the DSM-IV is contained in a book called the ICD-9 (going on ICD-10) – “The International Classification of Diseases” published by varoius publishers all putting out the same book (it’s used world wide – International, right?) This means that where ever your record is read they all read the same diagnosis. Great, right? Maybe if the people reading that record were also psychotherapists, psychiatrists, or some kind of mental health professionals, but they may not be. Yes, some insurance companies do utilize us for review but not all the reviewers are. This means that your case is being reviewed by a clerk of some sort. This clerk gets to decide (among other things) how many sessions we can have during a given year for a particular disorder, if any at all. They can also decide that treatment has gone on long enough based on the tables they have and what instructions they’ve been given. At this point it involves more work; usually for me and for which I don’t get paid but, again, even though I mention the do-re-me it’s not about the bucks. It’s about the time it takes to appeal the decision & meanwhile the treatment and who’s going to pay for it is in Limbo (which is often somehow contiguous with Hartford, CT or someplace in Texas, maybe offshore. Who knows?)

These clerks aren’t under the same constraints about the privacy of your information (remember, that’s what this is about) as I am. They are allowed to bundle it for research as well as developing their actuarial tables and other statistical purposes. Your personal information (PHI – Protected Health Information) is not as protected anymore.

But wait, as they say on the infomercials, there’s more. See part III, coming up shortly….