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Keeping costs down with assignment

Assignment means that your doctor, provider, or supplier agrees (or is required by law) to accept the Medicare-approved amount as full payment for covered services.

Make sure your doctor, provider, or supplier accepts assignment

Most doctors, providers, and suppliers accept assignment, but you should always check to make sure. Participating providers have signed an agreement to accept assignment for all Medicare-covered services.

Here's what happens if your doctor, provider, or supplier accepts assignment:

  • Your out-of-pocket costs may be less.
  • They agree to charge you only the Medicare deductible and coinsurance amount and usually wait for Medicare to pay its share before asking you to pay your share.
  • They have to submit your claim directly to Medicare and can't charge you for submitting the claim.

Find out if your doctors and other health care providers accept assignment or participate in Medicare.

If your doctor, provider, or supplier doesn't accept assignment

Non-participating providers haven't signed an agreement to accept assignment for all Medicare-covered services, but they can still choose to accept assignment for individual services. These providers are called "non-participating."

Here's what happens if your doctor, provider, or supplier doesn't accept assignment:

  • You might have to pay the entire charge at the time of service. Your doctor, provider, or supplier is supposed to submit a claim to Medicare for any Medicare-covered services they provide to you.
  • They can't charge you for submitting a claim. If they don't submit the Medicare claim once you ask them to, call 1‑800‑MEDICARE.
  • In some cases, you might have to submit your own claim to Medicare using Form CMS-1490S to get paid back.
  • They can charge you more than the Medicare-approved amount, but there's a limit called "the limiting charge." The provider can only charge you up to 15% over the amount that non-participating providers are paid. Non-participating providers are paid 95% of the fee schedule amount.

The limiting charge applies only to certain Medicare-covered services and doesn't apply to some supplies and durable medical equipment.

Not sure if your doctor is covered by Medicare?

Find out if your doctors and other health care providers accept assignment or participate in Medicare.

What to know about private contracts

A private contract is a written agreement between you and a doctor or other health care provider who has decided not to provide services to anyone through Medicare. The private contract only applies to the services provided by the doctor or other provider who asked you to sign it.

Rules for private contracts

You don't have to sign a private contract. You can always go to another provider who gives services through Medicare. If you sign a private contract with your doctor or other provider, the following rules apply:

Note

Medicare won't pay any amount for the services you get from this doctor or provider, even if it's a Medicare-covered service.

  • You'll have to pay the full amount of whatever this provider charges you for the services you get.
  • If you have a Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) policy, it won't pay anything for the services you get. Call your insurance company before you get the service if you have questions.
  • Your provider must tell you if Medicare would pay for the service if you got it from another provider who accepts Medicare.
  • Your provider must tell you if he or she has been excluded from Medicare.
  • You can't be asked to sign a private contract for emergency or urgent care.
  • You're always free to get services not covered by Medicare if you choose to pay for a service yourself.

You may want to contact your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) to get help before signing a private contract with any doctor or other health care provider.