All plans require that a prescription be written by a doctor. Regence Blue Shield of WA requires that massage therapists obtain a prior authorization for the massage sessions in order for the massage therapist to get paid by the insurance. A prior authorization (PA) is different than a prescription. The prior authorization is done through a 3rd party hired by Regence called eviCore. The PA has to be done within 7 days after your 1st visit. I take care of this process. What it means is that I take the prescription and your plan details and plug them into eviCore's website and they will tell me how many sessions you can get for your massage therapy. This ignores your plan benefits and the doctor's prescription. What usually happens is that they approve an initial 4 sessions no matter what your condition is. After the 4 sessions have been completed, I can sometimes request more sessions and they usually will approve 2-3 sessions depending on their computer system.
What this means is that even though your insurance may allow 16 sessions and your doctor prescribes say 10 sessions or even the full 16 sessions, you get 4-6 sessions.
All massage therapy must meet their definition of medical necessity which currently reads:
What this means for patients is that massage therapy can not be provided just for pain only. There has to be a loss of function which means you can't walk, sit or move or participate in some activity of daily living that you usually can complete normally.
If you do not meet the definition of medical necessity, I am unable bill your insurance. You can see me and pay cash for your sessions.
All plans require a prescription but some plans do not require the prior authorization.
Regence Uniform plans are exempt from prior authorizations along with a few other companies who are self insured which means they can set their own rules. They are just using Regence to manage their own plans and are exempt from the usual rules insurance companies must follow.
This other companies that are currently excluded are:
(This list is subject to change and plans may vary. You and I will still need to confirm this with your insurance plan to be sure.)
What this means is that when the physician prescribes massage for a condition, it must now clearly be a condition where there is a loss of function (can't sit for X amount of time or Walk for X amount of time) AND a pain syndrome.
It also means that the pre-authorization process limits the number of sessions that you can get to 4-6 sessions no matter what your benefits are and no matter what the injury/condition is. It does not matter if the doctor prescribes more sessions and it does not matter how many sessions your plan allows.
Currently the physical therapists have initiated legislation that would stop this behavior which would also make it apply to massage therapists.
I suggest that you contact your insurance plan, your company's benefits co-coordinator and tell them what is happening. Contact the Office of the Insurance Commissioner (they already know but the more complaints the more they will pay attention!)