What is Assignment of Benefits in Medical Billing?

doctor sitting at his desk on his laptop

An assignment of benefits is the act of signing documentation authorizing a health insurance company to pay a physician directly. In other words, the insurance company can pay claims without the direct involvement of the patient in the process. There are other situations where AOBs can be helpful, but we’ll focus on their use in relation to medical benefits.

If there isn’t an assignment of benefits agreement in place, the patient would be responsible for paying the other party directly from their own pocket, then filing a claim with their insurance provider to receive reimbursement. This could be time-consuming and costly, especially if the patient has no idea how to file a claim.

The document is typically signed by patients when they undergo medical procedures. The purpose of this form is to assign the responsibility of payment for any future medical bills that may arise after the procedure. It’s important to note that not all procedures require an AOB.

An assignment of benefits agreement might be utilized to pay a medical practitioner the patient didn’t choose, like an anesthesiologist. The patient may have picked a surgeon, but an anesthesiologist assigned on the day of the procedure might issue a separate bill. They’re, in essence, signing that anyone involved in their treatment can receive direct payment from the insurance carrier. It doesn’t have to go through the patient.

This document can also eliminate service fees surrounding processing. As a result, the patient can focus on medical treatment and recovery without being bogged down with the complexities of paying medical bills. The overall intent of an assignment of benefits agreement is to make the process more manageable for the patient, as they don’t need to haggle directly with their insurer.

List of Providers and Services

When the patient signs an AOB agreement, they give a third party right to obtain payment for services the provider performed, and medical billing services are a prime example of where they may sign an AOB agreement.

  • Ambulance services
  • Medical insurance claims
  • Drugs and pharmaceuticals
  • Diagnostic and clinical lab services
  • Emergency surgical center services
  • Dialysis supplies and equipment used in the home
  • Physician services for Medicare and Medicaid patients

Services of professionals other than a primary care physician, which includes:

  • Physician assistants
  • Clinical nurse specialists
  • Clinical social workers
  • Midwives
  • Clinical psychologists
  • Nurses
  • Certified registered nurse anesthetists
doctor at desk filling out forms on clipboard

Information Commonly Requested on Assignment of Benefits Form:

  1. Signature of patient or person legally responsible
  2. Signature of parent or legal guardian
  3. Witness
  4. Date

How AOBs Affect the Medical Practitioner

A medical provider or their administrative staff may feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of forms patients must fill out prior to treatment. Demanding more paperwork from patients may be seen as an added burden on the managerial staff, as well as the patient. However, getting a signed AOB is vital in preserving the interests of everyone involved.

In addition to receiving direct payment from the insurance company without needing to go through the patient, a signed assignment of benefits form will help medical providers appeal denied and underpaid claims. They can ask that payments be made directly to them rather than through the patient. This makes the process more manageable for both the doctors and the patient.

Things to Bear in Mind

The patient gives their rights and benefits to third parties under their current health plan. Depending on the wording in the AOB, their insurer may not be allowed to contact them directly about their claims. In addition, the patient may be unable to negotiate settlements or approve payments on their behalf and enable third parties to endorse checks on behalf of the patient. Finally, when the patient signs an AOB, the insurer may sue the third parties involved in the dispute.

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