A very important aspect of a pharmacy’s financial viability, and one of continuous debate and negotiation, is the reimbursement structure. One of the most common structures offered to pharmacies contracted will reimburse the lowest of three prices.
An important point to note in this pricing structure is that if the cash price is the lowest of the three rates then that is what the pharmacy will be reimbursed. Unfortunately, mistakes can easily be made when submitting claims due to package size errors; for example, if the pharmacy is submitting Advair (fluticasone/salmeterol) and submits “1” for the package size when the pharmacy software system lists one inhaler as “60” (for 60 puffs), the cash price will be submitted to the insurance company as 1/60th of the actual cash price. As noted previously, switch companies offer services in their pre and post edits to reduce the chance of this error occurring; however, at times the mistake can make it through the switch and the pharmacy could dispense at a significant loss.
Once payment is issued from the payer to the pharmacy for medications dispensed, the payer also issues an Electronic Remittance Advice (ERA). In it, the payer lists necessary claim payment information, such as every prescription submitted for the period (including rejected claims), the U & C and ingredient cost submitted, the transaction processing fee taken by the payer, and the reimbursed amount. Pharmacies can then use that to post the payment to the account to verify payment for the prescription. Payers will still issue remittance advice by mailing a paper invoice, although this is less efficient and pharmacies can reduce administrative burden by ensuring they are enrolled in ERA for their major payers. If provided on paper, this statement is called a Standard Paper Remit (SPR).
For most pharmacies, posting payments from the ERA to the account for every claim would be incredibly time-consuming and cost-prohibitive. Because of this, services known as claims reconciliation services have been created to identify unpaid claims. To do so, the service will access your switch data to gather all of the claims, electronically match them with the ERA, and then report non-payment or underpayment back to the pharmacy. Many services offer web portals for the pharmacy to have ready access to unpaid claims. After identifying non- or underpayment pharmacies can then go after the claims and increase revenue.
Another way pharmacies can improve efficiency and improve security is to ensure that they are enrolled in Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) for every payer that participates in the service. Receiving paper checks for reimbursement will take longer and thus lengthen the revenue cycle, they can get lost in the mail, and they can more easily be diverted. There are companies that even offer Central Pay services, where they will collect all payments for a pharmacy or chain of pharmacies, divide the revenue by location, and then pay each location. For independents, for example, that own several stores, setting up separate bank accounts for each store and the enrolling all of those stores in EFT could be incredibly time-consuming, and Central Pay services offer the ability to significantly reduce time collecting payment.