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Be it resolved, these docs don't like 'reimbursement'

Whereas terms such as "reimbursement" instead of "payment" and "provider" instead of "physician" really get on some doctors' nerves, the 22,000-member Maryland State Medical Society has resolved to do something about it.

It has introduced a resolution to be debated at the upcoming American Medical Association House of Delegates meeting taking place June 16-20 in Chicago. The resolution would make it AMA policy that the word “payment” be used instead of “reimbursement” in “all communications that relate to financial transactions between physicians and third-party payers.”

The resolution defines reimbursement as “a repayment for expense or loss incurred,” and payment as “the provision of a certain amount of money in exchange for services rendered.” And it notes that payment is a more accurate description because “the physician has not incurred an expense or loss to the third-party payer that would qualify for a 'reimbursement.'”

“For our members, words matter,” explains Gene Ransom, CEO of the medical society. “And there are certain words that just grate on my members' minds like fingernails on a chalkboard.”

Ransom describes “reimbursement” as “an insurance industry term,” and its use is just one small way the practice of medicine is becoming a commodity.

“The practice of medicine is an art, and it's about having a relationship with patients, talking to them and trying to solve their problems,” Ransom asserts. “Words matter and, when you change the words you use in a relationship, it changes the nature of the relationship.”

And just maybe, Ransom says, these words are used because “it's easier to retroactively deny reimbursement than it is to retroactively deny payment.”

As final proof that words matter to his organization, Ransom points to “MedChi,” now commonly used as shorthand for the association. The “Chi” comes from the word “chirurgical,” the common term for “surgical” when the society was founded in 1799 as the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty of the State of Maryland.

Follow Andis Robeznieks on Twitter: @MHARobeznieks.

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