The federal government is requiring health plans to make it easier for physicians to get paid electronically.
On Aug. 7, the Department of Health and Human Services released new rules for health care electronic funds transfers (EFT) and electronic remittance advice (ERA). Starting Jan. 1, 2014, health plans must offer a standardized, online form for physicians and hospitals to enroll to electronically receive payments, as well as notices about claims adjustments and denials. The new rules are required under the Affordable Care Act.
"These new rules will cut red tape, save money, and ensure doctors spend more time seeing patients and less time filling out forms," HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.
The requirements could help shift more physician practices away from paper billing. About 70% of health care claim payments are still made in paper check form, according to HHS.
The interim final rule from HHS does not require physicians and hospitals to accept electronic payments. However, if they do, the agency estimates that they will save time and money. For example, practices will save time in handling payment denials since health plans are required to simplify the codes used to explain whether a claim is paid and why.
The net savings to the health care industry from the new electronic standards will be between $300 million and $3.3 billion over 10 years, according to the final rule. HHS officials predicted that most of the implementation cost would be borne by health plans, but most of the benefits would go to providers.
The interim final rule with comment period will be published in the Federal Register on Aug. 10. The public comment period closes on Oct. 9.