Choosing whether to accept insurance is one of the most significant decisions a therapist can make when growing their private practice. No matter what a therapist ultimately decides is, this decision will have a meaningful impact on everything from the clients they end up working with to the way they get paid.
There is no universal answer to the question, “Should I accept insurance as a therapist in private practice?” Both options offer their own advantages and disadvantages. This overview will give you a general sense of each.
Reasons some therapists do NOT take insurance
Not all services are covered
Just because a client has insurance does not mean all therapy services are covered. For example, insurance may not cover therapy for relationship challenges because the challenges may not be associated with treating a diagnosable mental health condition.
A therapist and their new client will usually have an early discussion about what is and is not covered by insurance. However, because insurance may not cover the type of treatment a client needs, a therapist who accepts insurance may be unable to work with certain clients or provide their clients with any treatments that aren’t covered.
Billing can be complicated
A therapist who accepts insurance must adhere to an insurance provider’s billing requirements when seeking payment. Sometimes, the billing process is complex. Billing is often so complicated that many therapists hire employees or contractors to assist them with this process. Doing so adds to the cost of running a private practice.
Additionally, an insurer may have up to 30 days to pay a claim. This can result in a therapist waiting to receive payment (which they may never receive if an insurer denies a claim).
It’s also worth noting that accepting insurance may involve accepting reimbursement rates that may be significantly lower than the standard rate a therapist would charge. When growing a practice, a therapist often has to consider such factors.
Clients understandably want to know that their privacy is protected when they need counseling. If the therapist accepts insurance, though, an outside party may have access to information regarding a client’s treatment.
Reasons some therapists DO take insurance
If a therapist accepts insurance, they can add their name to an insurer’s provided panel. Doing so may help them attract clients who might begin looking for therapists by checking to see which ones accept their insurance.
Accepting insurance may also allow a therapist to provide those of limited financial means with access to therapy. Those who can’t afford to pay out-of-pocket for a therapist’s services might rely on insurance to help them pay for counseling.
Gaining new client trust
A therapist certainly doesn’t need to accept insurance to be a qualified professional. Regardless, someone choosing a therapist for the first time may assume that therapists who accept insurance are more trustworthy than those who do not.
This type of potential client is likely accustomed to seeing doctors and other medical professionals who accept insurance. This past experience could influence how they look for a counselor. Thus, choosing to accept insurance may help a therapist establish their credibility with such a client.
Allowing clients to see you for longer periods of time
When a therapist accepts insurance, a client may be able to continue working with them for longer than they otherwise might, as there is less of a chance that a client will have to stop seeing a therapist due to running out of money.
This yields two significant benefits. One, it gives a therapist more opportunities to help a client manage the struggles that prompted them to seek therapy in the first place. Two, it can allow a therapist to earn more money.
It’s wise for a therapist to not ignore the potential financial advantages of accepting insurance. Along with allowing a therapist to keep their clients for longer periods of time than they otherwise might, accepting insurance can provide a therapist with access to a wider pool of clients. This may help a practice grow at a relatively fast pace.
Again, none of this is meant to sway a therapist in one particular direction. It’s meant to simplify the process of making a very important decision as a therapist.
If you’re a therapist growing your own private practice, don’t rush when choosing whether to accept insurance. Although you can’t wait too long to make this decision, as doing so can prevent your practice from expanding, it’s still wise to carefully consider the pros and cons of both options so that when you do arrive at a decision, you will be confident it is the right one for you and your clients.