Like many therapists, I hated working with insurance.
I know there are upsides. Paneling with insurance is a relatively easy way to fill a practice while also providing access to care for clients that might not otherwise be able to afford it. This is important and valuable, and if you are one of the clinicians that loves working with insurance companies, I raise my glass to you. You are a great asset to the therapy community, and you help people get the care they need and deserve.
And – I just could NOT hang.
After experiencing expensive and ridiculous clawbacks (twice), watching colleagues wait for MONTHS to get reimbursed for services, and having perfectly legitimate services denied coverage for unfounded reasons that I could not dispute (because remember- the insurance companies are in charge), I’d about had it. Irritants like having to sign off on not discussing my rate with other clinicians (because insurance companies pay so disparately, to their own benefit) built up my ire. By the time I decided to leave all panels, I’d developed what is basically a personal vendetta against insurance companies. And now I’m here, panel-free, happy to inspire, instruct, and support anybody that wants to come with me.
So here we are!
Let’s talk about the fear associated with leaving panels. When I talk with colleagues about this, I recognize many of my own initial concerns re: leaving panels: What if I lose all my clients? What if no one will pay my full-fee rate? What if I can’t fill a practice without panels providing referrals?
These are legitimate fears, all of them. I see and hear you. And, I encourage you to work with that fear and take the leap anyway.
Because, here’s what I’ve learned as a clinician in private practice: Therapists are NOT interchangeable. You can’t just slide from one practitioner to the other and get the same experience. Our clients choose us, and ultimately continue to work with us, not because we take their insurance, but because of WHO WE ARE and WHAT WE BRING TO THE TABLE. We are each unique in our individual assets and offerings. This is the element, above all else, that will keep clients seeking us out even when we leave insurance panels, and even when we raise our rates. Our clients recognize that we cannot be replicated, and so they then make the choice that’s best for them based on their own individual wants and needs. And often, that choice is to continue to working with us, or to choose to work with us even if we aren’t paneled.
Here’s the truth: Our biggest obstacle isn’t that we aren’t paneled, or that we leave panels. It’s that we lack the confidence to forge ahead in our work, as highly skilled, highly educated, highly experienced practitioners, on our own terms. We fear charging rates that will pay us fairly. We question our own worth. And so, we accept the poor treatment from insurance panels, because our fear keeps us paralyzed. We worry there is not other way…but there is!
In working towards getting off of insurance panels, I encourage you to focus in on what makes you unique as a practitioner. Why will your clients choose you over other clinicians (and they WILL!)? Emphasize those strengths to yourself as you move ahead in getting off of panels. Stay confident and secure in your own worth and individual gifts.
If working with insurance companies is bumming you out, begin getting off those panels TODAY. There is no better time to start moving towards your vision of an ideal-to-YOU private practice.