What Does It Mean for a Doctor to Accept Medicare Assignment?
Written by: Malini Ghoshal, RPh, MS
Reviewed by: Malinda Cannon, Licensed Insurance Agent
Doctors who accept Medicare assignment are paid agreed-upon rates for services.
It’s important to verify that your doctor accepts assignment before receiving services to avoid high out-of-pocket costs.
A doctor or clinician may be “non-participating” but can still agree to accept Medicare assignment for some services.
If you visit a doctor or clinician who has opted out (doesn’t accept Medicare), you may have to pay for your entire visit cost unless it’s a medical emergency.
Medigap Supplemental insurance (Medigap) plans won’t pay for service costs from doctors who don’t accept assignment.
One of the things that Original Medicare beneficiaries often enjoy about their coverage is that they can use it anywhere in the country. Unlike plans with provider networks, they can visit doctors either at home or on the road; both are covered the same.
But do all doctors accept Medicare patients?
Truth is, this wide-ranging coverage area only applies to doctors who accept Medicare assignment. Fortunately, most do. If you’re eligible for Medicare, it’s important to visit doctors and clinicians who accept Medicare assignment. This will help keep your out-of-pocket costs within your control. Doctors who agree to accept Medicare assignment sign an agreement that they’re willing to accept payment from Medicare for their services.
If you’re a current beneficiary or nearing enrollment, you may have other questions. Do all doctors accept Medicare Advantage plans? What about Medicare Supplement insurance (Medigap)? Read on to learn how to find doctors that accept Medicare assignment and how this keeps your healthcare costs down.
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What Is Medicare Assignment of Benefits?
When you’re eligible for Medicare, you have the option to visit doctors and clinicians who accept assignment. This means they are Medicare-approved providers who agree to receive Medicare reimbursement rates for covered services. This helps save you money.
If you have Original Medicare (Part A and B), your doctor visits are covered by your Part B plan. Inpatient services such as hospital stays and some skilled nursing care are covered by Part A.
In order for a participating doctor (or facility) to bill Medicare and be reimbursed, you must authorize Medicare to reimburse your doctor directly for your covered services. This is called the Medicare assignment of benefits. You transfer your right to receive Medicare payment for a covered service to your doctor or other provider.
Note: If you have a Medicare Supplement insurance (Medigap) plan to pay for out-of-pocket costs, you may also need to sign a separate assignment of benefits form for Medigap reimbursement. More on Medigap below.
How Can I Find Doctors Near Me That Accept Medicare?
There are several ways to find doctors and other clinicians who accept Medicare assignment close to you.
First, let’s take a look at the different types of Medicare providers.
Participating providers: Medicare-participating doctors and providers sign a participation agreement stating they will accept Medicare reimbursement rates for their services.
Non-participating providers: Doctors or providers who are non-participating providers are eligible to accept Medicare assignment but haven’t signed a Medicare agreement. They may choose to accept assignment on a case-by-case basis. If you visit a non-participating provider, make sure to ask if they accept assignment for your particular service. Also get a copy of their fees. They will need to select “yes” on Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services CMS Form 1500 to accept assignment for the service.
Opt-out providers: Some doctors and other providers choose not to accept Medicare. If they choose to opt out, the period is two years (based on Medicare guidelines). The opt-out automatically renews if the provider doesn’t request a change in their status. You would be responsible for paying all costs for services received from an opt-out provider. You cannot bill Medicare for reimbursement unless the service was an urgent or emergency medical need. According to a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation, roughly 1% of non-pediatric physicians opted out of Medicare in 2020.
Visiting a doctor who doesn’t accept assignment may cost you more. These providers can charge you up to 15% more than the Medicare-approved rate for a given service. This 15% charge is called the “limiting charge.” Some states limit this extra charge to a certain percent. This may also be called the Part B excess charge.
Here are some tips for finding doctors and providers who accept Medicare assignment:
- The easiest way to find a doctor who accepts Medicare assignment is to contact their office and ask them directly.
- If you’re looking for a new doctor, you can use the Medicare search tool to find clinicians and doctors that accept Medicare assignment.
- You can also ask a state health insurance assistance program (SHIP) representative for help in locating a doctor that accepts Medicare assignment.
- Don’t assume that having a longstanding relationship with your doctor means nothing will ever change. Check in with them to make sure they still accept Medicare assignment and whether they’re planning to opt out.
Note: Your doctor can choose to become a non-participating provider or opt out of participating in Medicare. It’s important to verify they accept Medicare assignment before receiving any services.
Are you eligible for cost-saving Medicare subsidies?
Do Doctors Who Accept Medicare Have to Accept Supplement Plans?
By now, Original Medicare beneficiaries are probably asking: “What about Medigap? Do all doctors accept Medicare Supplement plans?”
If your doctor accepts Medicare assignment and you have Original Medicare (Medicare Part A and Part B) with a Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plan, they will accept the supplemental insurance. Depending on your Medigap plan coverage, it may pay all or part of your out-of-pocket costs such as deductibles, copayments and coinsurance.
However, if you have a Medicare Advantage plan (Part C), you may have a network of covered doctors under the plan. If you visit an out-of-network doctor, you may need to pay all or part of the cost for your services.
Keep in mind that you can’t have a Medigap supplemental plan if you have a Medicare Advantage plan.
If you have questions or want to learn more about different Medicare plans like Original Medicare with Medigap versus Medicare Advantage, GoHealth has licensed insurance agents ready to help. They can shop your different options and offer impartial guidance where you need it.
Do Most Doctors Accept Medicare Advantage Plans?
Many doctors accept Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans, but these plans often use provider networks. These networks are groups of doctors and providers in an area that have agreed to treat an insurance company’s customers. If you have a Part C plan, you may be required to see in-network doctors with few exceptions. However, these types of plans are popular options for all-in-one coverage for your health needs. Plans must offer Part A and B coverage, plus a majority also include Part D, or prescription drug coverage. But whether a doctor accepts a Medicare Advantage plan may depend on where you live and the type of Medicare Advantage plan you have.
There are several types of Medicare Advantage plans including:
- Health Maintenance Organization (HMO): These plans have a network of covered providers, as well as a primary care physician to manage your care. If you visit a doctor outside your plan network, you may have to pay the full cost of your visit.
- Preferred Provider Organization (PPO): You’ll probably still have a primary care physician, but these are more flexible plans that allow you to go out of network in some cases. But you may have to pay more.
- Private Fee for Service (PFFS): You may be able to visit any doctor or provider with these plans, but your costs may be higher.
- Special Needs Plan (SNP): This type of plan is only for certain qualified individuals who either have a specific health condition (C-SNP) or who qualify for both Medicaid and Medicare insurance (D-SNP).
What extra benefits and savings do you qualify for?
What Are Medicare Assignment Codes?
Medicare assignment codes help Medicare pay for covered services. If your doctor or other provider accepts assignment and is a participating provider, they will file for reimbursement for services with a CMS-1500 form and the code will be “assigned.”
But non-participating providers can select “not assigned.” This means they are not accepting Medicare-assigned rates for a given service. They can charge up to 15% over the full Medicare rate for the service.
If you go to a doctor or provider who accepts assignment, you don’t need to file your own claim. Your doctor’s office will directly file with Medicare. Always check to make sure your doctor accepts assignment to avoid excess charges from your visit.