How to Take Insurance as a Private Practice RD: Dietitian Contracting

You may remember from last time, there are two main steps for dietitians to get set up with insurance: credentialing and contracting

Step 0: Before you begin

Make sure your business is set up and ready to go

Step 1. Credentialing

We covered Step 1: Credentialing, a few weeks ago. If you haven't already read the post, it's a good place to start before reading this one. 

Once you've you've entered all of your credentials, work history and demographic info into the CAQH and attested that everything is good to go, you're ready for contracting. Keep in mind that the CAQH is a living document - it's okay and important to update it and re-attest as needed. 

Step 2: Contracting

Contracting is the process of becoming an in-network provider with insurance companies.

Much like the name suggests, this is the part of the process where you get a contract that sets your reimbursement rates for that insurance company (you control your overall rate!),  and establishes the policies and guidelines for seeing and filing claims for plan members.

This process varies a lot depending on the insurance company, some will be fast (a month or so) some will drag their feet for what feels like an eternity... sometimes as long as 180 days. Start early!  

So what's the process? 

The best way to figure out the process is to call the insurance company and ask! This is also a good time to find out more info on if their network is open, if they require any special paperwork that's not included in the CAQH, and any other questions you may have about working with them. 

Where do I find the right number? 

It can take some digging to find the right contact number- typically you are looking for the provider services contracting/credentialing contact for your area (these may be different numbers at larger insurance companies). 

Here are a few examples of what you may find:

Aetna
Cigna 
Anthem Provider Page 

Awesome, it looks like Aetna is online- do I still have to call? 

Yes! It's still a good idea to call and confirm that the insurance company is currently accepting new dietitians in your area- even if they have an online system.

What's the hardest part of contracting?

Having extreme, zen master-level patience.

Insurance companies sometimes change their policies and will ask for more info. 

Or they will fail to update your information across all of their old-computer systems that don't necessarily talk to each other or work the way you'd expect.

Sometimes areas that were closed to new dietitians suddenly open up, other times they close unexpectedly.

And most frustratingly, the agent you talk to may simply give you the wrong info.

Ugh- this sounds so terrible and like a hassle.

But remember, it's a game of waiting, waiting, waiting... and jumping through any of the bureaucratic hoops they throw at you. Once it's over, you'll be able to see many new clients and grow your practice!

It's really not that bad.

Yes, contracting can be a pain, and we listed a lot of the worst cases that we've dealt with. But there are some things you can do to make it better.

We recommend a few things to help: 

  1.  Don't put all your "eggs" in one insurance "basket"
    • By applying to 3-4 companies at once, you'll be more likely to get through the process with at least one and can get going with some patients while you wait on the other insurance companies. 
  2. Stay organized.
  3. Plan ahead and get started early- if you're not up against a firm deadline, it'll make the process less stressful.

Don't feel like you have to do contracting and credentialing alone. Healthy Bytes was created to help!

Our concierge service will help you get an NPI, complete the CAQH, and contract with an unlimited number of insurance companies. We also fill out nearly all of the paperwork.The average dietitian saves 20 hours or more using our contracting service. 

Whether you choose to use our concierge service or DIY contracting, insurance is well worth the effort. Lots of our customers have seen their practices grow significantly with insurance.

Good luck!