Posted by: notdeaddinosaur | February 22, 2008


Words are power. The words we choose and the words that are thrust upon us by others do far more to shape perceptions than most of us realize.

No, I’m not talking about the word “Provider,” although I may at a later date. The word is reimbursement as used in the context of payment for medical services. Here’s the dictionary definition of reimbursement:

1. to make repayment for expense or loss incurred
2. to pay back; refund; repay

Reimbursement occurs when one party is responsible for an expense that has been paid by another party. If my office manager goes out and buys stamps for the office out of her own pocket, I reimburse her.

The correct word here is PAYMENT for medical services.

We don’t reimburse mechanics for fixing our cars; we PAY them.
We don’t reimburse barbers for a shave and a haircut; we PAY them.
We don’t reimburse accountants for doing our taxes; we PAY them.

Insurance companies do not reimburse me for services I render to patients who have contracted with them. They PAY me for them (sometimes.)

On the rare occasion when a patient pays me first, the patient may then seek reimbursement from the insurance company. The continued use of the term reimbursement reduces the perception payment for medical services to that of a simple inter-office transaction.

Effective immediately, I call upon Kevin, Panda, the Happy Hospitalist and all the other bloggers so diligently addressing the financial issues confronting and confounding us to stop using the wrong word — reimbursement — and replace it with the right one: PAYMENT.

Do this exercise: swap out those words in every post you read about physician PAYMENT and see how much more compelling your arguments become. Words are power.


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