It’s been 1 year this week, that I shut my massage business down due to COVID-19. I finally am starting to think about reopening possibilities especially with the increasing availability of the vaccines. (I have had first shot and am getting second in a few weeks.) The vaccine changes everything. It is 100% effective at keeping people from getting hospitalized or dying due to COVID. If you come in contact with someone who has COVID, you no longer have to quarantine unless you have symptoms and test positive for the virus. Mask wearing and cleaning protocols will stay in place and probably will for a long time.
Thinking about restarting brings new insights after a year of not working doing massage. I have been busy updating my site www.massageschoolnotes.com and having so much fun doing so. I started a newsletter that I write every week here on practice building and updates from the profession. I also am working on a few books. I love this new life and it has brought me so much peace.
In a few months I will start going back to see how business will be. My office is in the center of downtown Seattle where the local business economy is down the drain. A year ago, my clients all came in and said they were being sent home to work for a month or two and now a year and more and some will never go back to the office. That was the bulk of my business—stressed out computer working people with pain and injuries due to overworking or sitting too long in one place.
My plan is to go back slowly and start with one day a week and work up to two days a week. I will be dropping my contracts with insurance companies because with this long hiatus, I have realized I just don’t want to be involved in that scene. I have been billing insurance for over 33 years and have been billing health insurance for over 23 years. The health insurance companies have us by the $%#$^$%* and have been lowering allowable fees and adding things like prior authorizations that are required. The prior authorization system is a joke and I have tried to get them to fix it with even having a meeting with them and a doctor to get the system to be more user friendly and less time consuming but they don’t get it.
I have kept hanging on to insurance, hoping that the number of therapists leaving networks because of these things would also lead to a network inadequacy which would open up the doors to negotiating higher allowable fees. (Network adequacy laws state that the carriers need to have adequate numbers of providers in each zip code area. They were already starting to decline before COVID.) Even if this does come about, I have to leave that battle up to someone else.
Bold New Start
Taking a year off has really shown me how life can be with less stress and taking time to smell the flowers as they say. My plan to go back will help me keep that. I will be charging more per session and taking only cash clients. I have been taking insurance for over 30 years and now am stopping. After a year off, I have realized just how frustrating billing insurance has made my life and I really don’t want that for the next 3 years which is how much is left on my lease. I plan on retiring from my massage business after that. Who knows what will happen after that.
My plan is to make more and work less, which in a way has always been my motto but not fully lived.
Cindy Wilson says
Dear Ms. Onofrio, Wow! This website and your writings have encouraged me beyond belief. I too have stopped working in massage for the past year and am just about to restart my practice in May when I will be fully vaccinated. I have been thinking of starting slowly, raising my rates, etc., and reading your plans has given me confirmation that my plans are smart and valid.
Thank you and I look forward to reading more of your work.
Just came across this as I was searching for billing health insurance for massage. I have heard it’s less than ideal with terrible rate and a lot of paperwork.
What do your opinion on billing PIPs and WC?
Julie Onofrio says
PIP and WC usually pays more. PIP is getting to be problematic too in some ways. You just really have to watch the number of sessions you do and if they are better end the sessions and if they are not getting better refer them back to doctors. It isn’t supposed to cover maintenance massage. Health insurance was very good for many years here in WA but the fees have gone down significantly. If other states start paying I am not sure what their allowable fees would be. This is where our associations have failed us miserably. They should be advocating in the health care arena for us.
I agree. It’s disheartening to see how health insurance almost works against us. I’m originally from Canada and practicing as an RMT there, insurance/benefits are a blessing. I was sad to learn the opposite here. Thanks for the info and feedback. I appreciate the great information on your site and blog!