Medical Billing Services

What is the prior authorization process?

The prior authorization process is seeking “approval from a health plan that may be required before you get a service or fill a prescription for the service or prescription to be covered by your plan”.

Most often prior authorization (PA) and pre-authorization are used interchange However, most insurance companies will use the term “prior authorization” instead of “pre-authorization.”

Each insurance plan is different for example- one health insurance plan may not require a PA for your treatment while another plan needs it even one from the same insurance company.

There is no need for prior authorization for all medical services performed but PA is only required for more costly, involved treatments where an alternative is available.

For example, it will likely require preauthorization, if a physician prescribes an invasive procedure such as orthopedic surgery.

An alternative therapy, like injecting the patient with Cortisone to reduce pain and inflammation, is less likely to require payer review.

Nowadays, PA for medical procedures and prescribed medications are continuously rising. This adoption is mainly driven by insurance companies searching for ways to control spiraling healthcare costs, especially those associated with innovative new specialty drugs or emerging technologies.

Now, let’s look at the flow of the prior authorization process:

  • First, the Patient needs a specific procedure, test, medication, or device is determined by a healthcare provider.
  • Now, the provider needs to check policy rules or formulary of a health plan to determine if prior authorization is required for the prescribed course of treatment. If it is required, the provider will need to formally submit a prior authorization request form and sign it to attest that the information supporting the medical necessity claim is true and accurate.
  • The staff of the provider often starts by manually reviewing prior authorization rules for the specific insurance plan associated with the patient due to a lack of integration between clinical and healthcare billing systems. However, the rules may often be found in paper documentation, PDFs, or payer web portals.
  • There is always the possibility to change payer rules frequently for example- payer rules even differ from plan to plan within a specific payer. Moreover, these rules are not standardized and differ from plan to plan.
  • If the provider confirms that there is no need for PA then it can submit the claim to the payer. However, it does not indicate that the claim will necessarily be approved.
  • However, if there is a need for PA then tracking of more specifics about each CPT code that applies to the prescribed course of treatment is required. It will also need to obtain a number assigned by the payer that corresponds to the prior authorization request and includes it when the final claim is submitted.
  • In the end, the provider is responsible to take continue to follow up with the insurance company until there is the resolution of the prior authorization request like approval, redirection, or denial. This part of the process is unstructured and often improvised hence this part of the process leads to significant wasted time and effort.

Generally, the healthcare provider is responsible for initiating prior authorization by submitting a request form to a patient’s insurance provider. Then as the steps mentioned above in the flow of prior authorization process section take place which often prompts a time-consuming back and forth between the provider and payer.

In many cases, before the payer will accept the authorization request, the licensed provider is required to sign the order, referral, or requisition.

However, there can be an option to prior authorization where the physician can recommend an alternative drug or service that is covered by the patient’s health insurance plan.

In some cases, insurance companies need patients to start on a less costly medication or service to check to see if the patient sees results or needs more costly therapy.

Need Assistance in Medical Billing?

Medical Billers and Coders (MBC) provides medical billing and coding services that ensure on-time and accurate billing. We understand the importance of entering the right information so there are no delays or denials on behalf of the insurance provider. To know more about our billing services, you can contact us at 888-357-3226/


Medical Billers and Coders

Catering to more than 40 specialties, Medical Billers and Coders (MBC) is proficient in handling services that range from revenue cycle management to ICD-10 testing solutions. The main goal of our organization is to assist physicians looking for billers and coders, at the same time help billing specialists looking for jobs, reach the right place.

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