- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 5, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Don’t take a health insurer’s rejection as the final word on your medical claim.

Appeals can have a surprising success rate if patients shape a good argument with help from their doctor, some research and a healthy dose of persistence. Insurers always offer at least one chance to appeal when they deny a claim. Here’s how to make your case.

_ For starters, what are the odds of success?

A recent report from the Government Accountability Office found a 50 percent success rate of appeals to insurers in some states.

Insurance companies often make the initial decision to deny a claim based limited information like a diagnosis or procedure code from a claim form the doctor submits. They rarely see a patient’s file for that first decision, said Jennifer Jaff, executive director of Advocacy for Patients with Chronic Illness Inc., a non-profit that helps patients with claim denials.

“When you provide them with additional clinical information … it may turn out to be a very easy decision for them,” she said.

_ What are the first steps to take after receiving a rejection?

Learn as much as you can about the reason. Get the policy language and any information the insurer used to make its decision. Patients are entitled to this, so persist if the insurer moves slowly.

It’s also important to know the insurer’s appeal process. This should be laid out in the letter you receive telling you about the rejection. Understand the deadlines for appealing.

“These deadlines are serious,” Jaff said. “I’ve never seen an insurance company grant an extension.”

_ How do you build your case?

Write a detailed argument with records backing up your claims. Enlist your doctor’s help.

If the insurer says it doesn’t have to pay because your condition existed before your coverage began, a doctor may be able to argue otherwise.

The insurer may say the treatment isn’t medically necessary. Your doctor can illustrate how all alternatives were exhausted before you started receiving the treatment in question.

Rely on more than just a doctor’s statement.

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