Becoming a Network Provider:
Selling Yourself to Insurance Companies
By Barbara Griswold, LMFT
(November 15, 2009)
I enjoy telling therapists that when I joined my first insurance plan 17 years ago, it seemed the only condition for joining was a pulse. Many panels required little more than an application and resume. Those days are gone. In many areas of the country, insurance plans just have more applications than they need, so they are often closed to new providers. Since it is expensive to maintain a large provider network, it is in the plan’s best interest financially to maintain the fewest number of providers. However, they are also required to maintain a minimum number of providers with a variety of specialties to serve their members in any area.
So, let’s say you want to join a provider panel. Where do you start?
- Must you wait two years? It’s true that many plans say they won’t accept you until you have been licensed two (or more) years. However, don’t let this stop you from applying. A plan may land a new employer account and need to add providers quickly and unexpectedly, and may dig into their application file. Also, exceptions may be made if you have a needed skill, specialty, language fluency, location, etc.
- Get a list of insurance plans. Your professional organization (ex. CAMFT) or state Department of Insurance may be able to provide you with such a list. Psychotherapy Finances (www.psyfin.com), a must-have monthly newsletter for therapists, has a section alerting readers to insurance panel openings. Also, contact Fran Wickner, MFT, (www.franwickner.com) for a list of 60 plans and their contact information, available on mailing labels.
- Develop a letter of interest and resume that is specifically targeted to insurance plans, and highlights the kind of experience and specialties you have that a plan would be looking for. (For help creating a dynamic targeted resume and interest letter that will make plans take a second look at you, click here and we’ll set up your personal phone consultation).
- Use your time effectively. While you can call each plan or visit their Web site to see if they accept online applications, if you want to limit the time you spend on this project, do a blanket mailing, submitting your resume and letter of interest by mail to all plans on your list, even if they say they are full. If you are sent an application, you can ask any questions you may have at that time.
- If you are told the network is closed, or get no response, call the plan and try to sell yourself. Find out what needs they have in your area that might make them consider/reconsider your application (subletting a second office for a few hours each week in an underserved area? Leading a group? Getting CISD training?
- If turned down, reapply every six months. Eventually, through attrition or an increase in the plan’s membership, there will be openings on the panel, and your efforts will pay off.
- Keep a log with dates of actions you took, phone calls made, names of people you spoke with, and their advice.
- If you get frustrated, remember why you are doing this. Insurance referrals can account for thousands of dollars of income to your practice, and help keep your practice full.
For more advice about what plans are looking for, what to highlight in your cover letter, how to answer application questions, and all other questions about insurance, click here to purchase my insurance manual, Navigating the Insurance Maze, or schedule a consultation.
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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.