State Laws Related to Billing Third Parties for Health Care Services at Public Sexually Transmitted Disease Clinics in the United States

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Abstract

Background

Health departments (HDs) cite state laws as barriers to billing third parties for sexually transmitted disease (STD) services, but the association between legal/policy barriers and third-party HD billing has not been examined. This study investigates the relationship between laws that may limit HDs’ ability to bill, clinic perceptions of billing barriers, and billing practices.

Methods

Two surveys, (1) clinic managers (n = 246), (2) STD program managers (n = 63), conducted via a multiregional needs assessment of federally funded HD clinics’ capacity to bill for STD services, billing/reimbursement practices, and perceived barriers were combined with an analysis of state laws regarding third-party billing for STD services. Statistical analyses examined relationships between laws that may limit HDs’ ability to bill, clinic perceptions, and billing practices.

Results

Clinic managers reported clinics were less likely to bill Medicaid and other third parties in jurisdictions with a state law limiting their ability to bill compared with respondents who billed neither or 1 payer (odds ratio [OR], 0.31; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.10–0.97) and cited practical concerns as a primary barrier to billing (OR, 2.83; 95% CI, 1.50–5.37). The STD program managers report that the staff believed that STD services should be free (OR, 0.34; 95% CI, 0.13–0.90) was associated with not billing (not sure versus no resistance to billing); confidentiality concerns was not a reported barrier to billing among either sample.

Conclusions

Practical concerns and clinic staff beliefs that STD services should be free emerged as possible barriers to billing, as were laws to a lesser extent. Attempts to initiate HD billing for STD services may benefit from staff education as well as addressing perceived legal barriers and staff concerns.

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