The labyrinthine world of health insurance can be confusing for many, with questions about in-network and out-of-network providers, co-pays, deductibles, and so on. One particular conundrum that patients often encounter when seeking psychological services is discovering that many psychologists choose to remain out-of-network providers. This may seem counterintuitive. Why wouldn’t a healthcare professional want to be part of an insurance network? As it turns out, there are compelling reasons for this decision, many of which directly benefit client care.
Firstly, it’s crucial to clarify what “out-of-network” means. When a psychologist is “out-of-network,” it means they haven’t entered into a contract with an insurance company. While clients can still see this psychologist, they might have to pay for services upfront and later seek reimbursement from their insurance. The degree of reimbursement varies by plan.
Reasons for Staying Out-of-Network:
- Greater Freedom in Treatment:
- Duration and Frequency: In-network providers often face prerequisites regarding the number and length of sessions. This can disrupt the natural therapeutic process. Being out-of-network allows psychologists to recommend the number and length of sessions they believe will best serve the client.
- Type of Treatment: Insurance companies sometimes only cover specific types of therapies. An out-of-network psychologist has the liberty to choose the most suitable therapeutic modality for a client without insurance constraints.
- Privacy and Confidentiality: When billing insurance, psychologists need to provide a diagnosis from the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) for the client. Some clients might not meet criteria for any particular diagnosis but still benefit from therapy. Others might not want a mental health diagnosis on their medical record due to potential stigma or other concerns from their work or insurance. When bypassing insurance, these issues are sidestepped.
- Avoiding Administration: Insurance paperwork is notorious for being time-consuming. By staying out-of-network, psychologists can spend more time with clients and less time navigating red tape. This ensures that the focus remains on therapeutic care rather than administrative chores.
- Financial Predictability: Rates for services are clear and consistent for out-of-network psychologists. In contrast, the fees insurance companies are willing to reimburse can fluctuate, which can affect the stability of care for everyone.
Benefits to Client Care:
- Tailored Treatment Plans: Without the constraints of insurance-mandated session limits or prescribed treatments, psychologists can craft a therapy plan that’s uniquely suited to an individual’s needs.
- Continuity of Care: There’s no risk of therapy being cut short because a client has exhausted their allowable number of sessions for the year. This ensures that therapeutic interventions can progress at a natural pace, without premature termination.
- Enhanced Relationship with the Psychologist: The therapeutic alliance – the relationship between therapist and client – is a significant factor in successful outcomes. Clients might feel a deeper trust knowing that their psychologist is making recommendations based on clinical judgment rather than insurance dictates.
- Potential for More Experienced Providers: One benefit of being an in network therapist is that the insurance company’s direct clients to your practice. They fill it up fast! Some seasoned psychologists opt to stay out of insurance because they can afford to not have those insurance referrals. As a result, clients might find that out-of-network options include highly experienced and specialized therapists, who already have established credibility in the community.
- Better Availability: Remember what I said about insurance filling up a practice? If you’re feeling frustrated that no one who takes insurance has availability, this might be a big reason why. When the therapist is out of network, they often experience some more natural flow of openings that can accommodate new patients more regularly.
Addressing the Concerns:
While the advantages are notable, there are understandable concerns about out-of-network services, particularly regarding cost. It can be more expensive upfront. However, it’s worth considering the value of the service being provided and the potential long-term benefits of effective psychological treatment. For some, the possibility of more personalized, high-quality care outweighs the immediate financial implications.
Additionally, some clients may not be aware that their insurance plans could reimburse a significant portion of out-of-network expenses. It’s always a good idea to contact the insurance company directly to understand these benefits.
We recommend a company called Reimbursify as well! Insurance doesn’t like to give her money away, so they make the process of submitting out of network claims difficult to navigate. Reimbursify is an awesome service that takes the documentation you’ll get from me and helps submit it to insurance really simply. This service is a game-changer for creating access to OON reimbursement.
The decision for psychologists to remain out-of-network is often a thoughtful one, grounded in a desire to offer the best care without the constraints and complications of insurance. While there might be an added upfront cost for clients, the potential benefits in terms of customized treatment, privacy, and continuity of care are compelling. As with all healthcare decisions, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons and decide what’s best for one’s individual situation.