This is a sponsored post by Optometric Billing Consultants, a supporter of NewGradOptometry & new graduate optometrists! 😎
Understanding what optometry credentialing means is the first thing you need to do as you transition from student to practicing optometrist.
After you graduate from optometry school, the next logical step would be to begin working. If you plan on examining patients who wish to use their vision and medical insurance, you must be a “provider” with that insurance company. In order to become a “provider,” you must be credentialed with that particular insurance. Unfortunately, most insurances, both medical and vision, have their own credentialing processes and procedures. In short, optometry credentialing can be a long and arduous process, ripe with confusion and of course frustration.
This article will summarize the nuts and bolts of optometry credentialing, and provide the foundations for getting started. The credentialing process typically takes place after you have applied for and received your state license.
So what do you do after you receive your license? Here we will cover the process step-by-step.
1. Getting Your NPI Number
A National Provider Identifier (NPI) is a unique 10-digit identification number issued to healthcare providers in the US by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). You have to have an individual NPI for any insurance. You can apply for it before you have a job and use your home address. After you obtain a job, you can change the address associated with your NPI but are not required to.
2. Establish Your Tax ID
A Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) is an identifying number used for tax purposes in the United States. It’s also know as a Tax Identification Number or a Federal Taxpayer Identification Number. It is not your Social Security number. If you are an individual that is not a corporation or a group NPI, you can use your Social Security number for insurances. As a rule of thumb, a Tax ID goes with a group and your Social Security number goes with an individual.
3. Apply for a Group NPI # (if necessary, ie: you incorporate, set up a LLC etc.)
If you are a group, a group NPI is a very good thing. If you use a Tax ID, it is usually a necessity. If you are an individual, you can use your individual NPI. You can always add a group NPI. It is a very simple task.
Some ODs will begin their career working as an employee for a practice or corporation who might handle the credentialing process for them, while others might begin working as an independent contractor at various practice locations. In that case, you might be responsible for handling the credentialing process on your own, as well as the billing and coding (more on that topic later).
If you are responsible for handling the credentialing process on your own, you’ll need to continue with the following steps!
4. Register for CAQH.
CAQH was formerly known as the Universal Provider Datasource. Almost all insurances except Medicare and Medicaid require that you have CAQH and that it is up to date. It is a resource of all of a provider’s information in one place and it eliminates duplicate paperwork. To complete CAQH, a provider would need all of their education information, their work history, a few references (varies by state). The documents that are sometimes needed to be submitted (also varies by state) their professional license, DEA certificate, Certificate of Insurance, and resumes.
5. Decide on what vision insurances and medical panels to participate in.
Communicate with your peers for this. Go to local society meetings and find out what others in your area are credentialed for. Call the large employers in your area to see what they have available for their employee health insurances. Check out the websites of other doctors in your area to gather some insight and information on what insurances they are taking.
6. Apply to be a provider for Medicare.
Typically the best place to start is here. You cannot proceed with optometry credentialing with several of the medical insurances until your Medicare is approved or at least processing (including Medicaid in some states). The average time it takes to process varies. I have been able to get some providers credentialed in about 2 weeks, and others it has taken a few months. The average waiting period is 60 to 90 days.
8. Begin the application process.
Most insurances have credentialing information on their websites or at least a contact phone number. If a new doctor is going to work for a group, usually someone there can tell them what they need to be credentialed for. I generally recommend you begin applying with medical insurances; however, it varies depending on what kind of environment and patients you will be working with.