In recent years, health plans have shifted from paper checks to electronic methods of physician payment. As part of this movement, many health plans have started paying physicians through payer-issued virtual credit cards (VCCs). When paying via VCCs, health plans send credit card payment information and instructions to physicians, who process the payments using standard credit card technology.
Cost to Physicians – Although a valid electronic alternative to paper checks, the use of VCCs for payment comes at a significant cost to physicians. As with traditional credit card payments, VCC payments are subject to interchange and transaction fees. The interchange fees can run as high as 5% for these corporate “card not present” transactions. Physicians are often unaware of these high fees when accepting VCC payments. For the past three years, the AMA has been alerting physicians to their rights to refuse payments via VCCs and advocating against the coercive tactics used by payers and their vendors to force physicians’ acceptance of VCC payments.
The American Medical Association recommends that physicians:
• Enroll in Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)-standard Automated Clearinghouse (ACH) Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT)
• Be aware of payment terms when contracting with health plans
• Educate practice staff on credit card processing
EFT – Similar to direct deposit offered by many employers, ACH EFT is a funds transfer tool in which payer-to rovider payment is processed over the ACH Network. Unlke percentage-based interchange fees associated with VCCs, ACH EFT payments are subject only to a single transaction fee (approximately $0.34) regardless of payment amount. As shown, the difference in processing fees can have a substantial impact on total physician payment. As of January 1, 2014, all health plans are required to use ACH EFT to pay physicians that request and register for this payment method.
Unify Medical Billing offers EFT conversion services. If you are still receiving checks or the VCC payments; let us help you obtain your money fast without losing money to extra fees.