If You Are A Psychologist, What Are You Waiting For?

In the current context, an active discussion I have encountered is the supposed meagerness of the emergency refunds being paid to health care professionals by Medicare.

I did a quick analysis.

In 2017 (the most recent year for which data appear to be publicly available*), Medicare paid psychologists $490,497,820 for the diagnostic and treatment services psychologists provide most frequently (90791, 90832, 90834, 90837). This does not include payments for other services largely provided by psychologists (“health and behavior” interventions and psychological and neuropsychological testing).

Based on the formula provided by HHS (https://www.hhs.gov/provider-relief/index.html) and these 2017 numbers, HHS will pay psychologists at least $30.4 million in immediate relief funds [490,497,820 ÷ 484,000,000,000 X 30,000,000,000 = $30,402,757].

(I tend to not be that great with numbers with a lot of zeroes as most my accounts don’t have them, so please check my math).

There are 9,732 individuals identified as clinical psychologists in that database. Undoubtedly these represent multiple instances of the same person providing several types of services. But even if these were to represent individual psychologists, the average estimated emergency refund payment could be $3124.

Of course if a psychologist provided no services to Medicare beneficiaries in 2019, the relief fund amount reimbursed will be $0.

Some comments.

(1) Of course no one anticipated in 2019 needing these types of emergency relief funds in 2020. But I’m thinking that’s not a basis on which to identify those who need services.

(2) Please identify the for-profit insurance companies which are providing similar emergency relief refunds to health care professionals. What’s that? There aren’t any, you say? Of course there are none. They are in the business of making profits for their CEOs and shareholders, not in the business of actually taking care of people.

(3) Given the many flexibilities CMS has now built in to providing services to Medicare beneficiaries during our public health emergency (e.g., telehealth from and to any location, rapid enrollment, expansion of reimbursable services by telehealth), and the obvious needs among this vastly underserved group, if you are a psychologist, what are you waiting for?

* If you would like to check and replicate my analysis, the data I used are at https://data.cms.gov/Medicare-Physician-Supplier/Physician-Supplier-Procedure-Summary-2018/efgi-jnkv/data. While you’re at it, please show me similarly available data for the for-profit health insurers. I’ll bet you won’t find them.

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