Do You “Accept” Insurance?
Avoiding Frustration When Working With Insurance
By Barbara Griswold, LMFT
(September 24, 2010)
I recently spoke with a lovely colleague who told me she did not accept insurance because she didn’t like the limitations, and worried plans would tell her how to do her job. I hear this valid concern often – a fear of losing control of treatment once insurance gets involved.
I admired her desire to maintain her independence and integrity, yet told her, “insurance plans don’t tell me how to do my job. I provide the same care to my insurance clients as my private-pay clients. However, plans may say what they will and won’t cover.”
I told her I think of insurance in the same way that I think of my parents offering to pay for my wedding. They may say, “If we’re paying, this is what we will pay for, and this is what we won’t.” But I retain the choice to say “never mind, I’ll just pay for it myself,” or “OK, I accept what you’ll pay for, and I’ll pay out of pocket for whatever else I want that you won’t cover.” The same is true when speaking about therapy.
A similar example would be that of a limited scholarship to college: Should we choose not to accept scholarship money because it doesn’t cover the entire tuition?
I’ve found to avoid the frustration inherent when working with insurance, it has been helpful to make a few mental shifts:
- I help clients look at insurance as a means to help them partially finance treatment, not as an entitlement that will pay for every dollar of every session they may desire.
- I try to be mindfully grateful for whatever coverage the client has, instead of focusing on it’s limitations.
- I remind myself that clients may continue privately after their coverage ends, and refer full-fee clients.
- I regard accepting insurance as one way to make my work accessible to clients of all socio-economic backgrounds.
- I think of the discounted insurance rate as including an imaginary referral fee, that pays for the marketing the plans do on my behalf.
- And I work daily to unhook myself (and my clients) from making decisions about treatment based on coverage.
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Barbara Griswold, LMFT, is the author of Navigating the Insurance Maze: The Therapist’s Complete Guide to Working with Insurance – And Whether You Should. To purchase the book or other resources for therapists, click here. Contact Barbara at firstname.lastname@example.org to get answers to your insurance questions.
Copyright 2008-, Barbara Griswold, LMFT. No part may be reproduced without written permission of the author.