Chiropractic is one of the specialties that are required to have a contract in order to treat Medicare patients. If a chiropractor does not have a Medicare contract, they are required to refer Medicare patients to another chiropractor who does have a Medicare Contract. This is true even for chiropractic services that are non-covered by Medicare, such as maintenance care.
This rule can be found in Chapter 15 of the Medicare Benefit Policy Manual in Section 40.4. It states; "the opt out law does not define "physician" to include chiropractors; therefore, they may not opt out of Medicare and provide services under private contract."
There has been a confusing notion in the chiropractic profession that chiropractors can have the patient sign an Advance Beneficiary Notice and bill the patient without being a Medicare provider. This isn't true.
The No Opt Out Rule for chiropractors in the Medicare program means a chiropractor can treat a Medicare patient either as a participating provider or a non-participating provider, but either way, the chiropractor has one of the two contracts with Medicare; a participating contract or a non-participating contract.
A Medicare participating contract means the chiropractor has physically signed a contract with Medicare, agrees to abide by all the rules of the program, bills Medicare and accepts assignment from Medicare. A Medicare non-participating contract means the chiropractor has physically signed a contract with Medicare, agrees to abide by all the rules of the program, but has a choice whether or not to accept assignment.
There is one more catch, a non-participating Medicare provider is still limited by how much the patient may be charged. There is a limiting fee schedule whereby the chiropractor may only bill the Medicare patient up to 115% of the allowed Medicare fee even if the chiropractor does not accept assignment and the patient receives payment directly from Medicare.
There is a good handout published by CMS called "Misinformation on Chiropractic Services" that covers this rule and many others. For a copy of this handout, search for it at www.cms.gov and it will be readily available. If you are unable to find it, please email email@example.com with the subject line stating; "Misinformation on Chiropractic Services" and you will receive a return copy.
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