Navigating the world of ABA therapy billing can be intricate, especially when it comes to understanding the nuances of NPI numbers. If you’re new to the concept of NPI numbers or are confused about the difference between individual and group NPI numbers, this guide is for you.

What is an NPI Number?

The National Provider Identifier (NPI) is a unique 10-digit identification number issued to healthcare providers in the United States by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). It’s used by healthcare professionals for billing purposes and to track their transactions in standardized transactions.

The History of NPI Numbers

The National Provider Identifier (NPI) is a relatively modern addition to the healthcare landscape. It was introduced under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996. Before the NPI system, healthcare providers used a myriad of identification systems, varying by payer. This inconsistency often led to confusion and inefficiencies in the billing process. Recognizing the need for a standardized identification system, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) introduced the NPI as a universal identifier for healthcare providers. Today, it’s an integral part of the healthcare billing and documentation system, streamlining processes and ensuring consistency across the board.

Individual NPI (Type 1) vs. Group NPI (Type 2)

What is an Individual NPI Number?

An Individual NPI, or Type 1 NPI, is assigned to individual healthcare providers who are in direct patient care, such as doctors, dentists, and therapists. In the context of ABA therapy, a BCBA or an RBT would have an individual NPI number.

What is a Group NPI Number?

A Group NPI, or Type 2 NPI, is assigned to incorporated businesses, such as group practices or clinics. It’s used for billing purposes when services are rendered by multiple professionals under a single organization.

Why Do I Have Two NPI Numbers?

If you’re both an individual provider and part of a larger organization or group practice, you might have two NPI numbers. The individual NPI represents you as a solo provider, while the group NPI represents the organization or group you’re affiliated with.

Can Multiple Locations Have the Same NPI Number?

Yes, a single group NPI number can be used for multiple locations of the same organization. However, individual providers will still use their unique individual NPI numbers regardless of their location.

Can a Sole Proprietor Have a Type 2 NPI Number?

Yes, a sole proprietor can obtain a Type 2 NPI number if they incorporate their practice. This allows them to bill under the business entity rather than as an individual.

How to Get an NPI Number?

Obtaining an NPI number is a straightforward process:

  1. Visit the National Plan and Provider Enumeration System (NPPES) website.
  2. Complete the online NPI application process.
  3. After submitting, you’ll receive a unique NPI number.

Can You Apply for an NPI Number Without a License?

While the NPI application does ask for a license number, it’s not mandatory. However, some insurance payers may require a valid license to reimburse for services.

Additional Questions About NPI Numbers

Why is an NPI Number Important for ABA Therapy Billing?

For ABA therapists, having an NPI number is crucial for billing insurance companies. It ensures that the therapist is recognized as a legitimate provider of healthcare services.

Is My NPI Number Confidential?

No, NPI numbers are publicly accessible through the NPI registry. However, sensitive personal information is not disclosed.

Do I Need to Renew My NPI Number?

No, once you receive an NPI number, it’s valid for life, even if you change your practice location or specialty.

Does a Provider’s NPI Change?

Once assigned, an NPI is static and does not change. It remains with the healthcare provider for life, regardless of job changes, location moves, or any other professional transitions. This permanence ensures continuity and reduces the administrative burden of updating identification numbers.

Does the NPI Replace the Tax Identification Number (TIN) or Other Identifying Numbers?

No, the NPI does not replace the Tax Identification Number (TIN) or other identifiers. While the NPI is used for billing and other healthcare transactions, the TIN is used for tax purposes. Healthcare providers will often need to provide both their NPI and TIN, especially when dealing with insurance reimbursements or federal programs. It’s essential for providers to understand the distinction and the appropriate scenarios for using each number.

How to Look Up an NPI?

Looking up an NPI is a straightforward process, thanks to the NPI Registry, a publicly accessible database maintained by CMS. To search for an NPI:

  1. Visit the NPI Registry website.
  2. Enter the provider’s name, location, or other identifying details in the search bar.
  3. Browse the results to find the specific provider and view their NPI.

This tool is invaluable for verifying the NPI of a healthcare provider or for cross-referencing details associated with a specific NPI.

NPI Numbers and Rendering Providers: The Connection

In the realm of healthcare billing, the term “rendering provider” refers to the individual healthcare professional who delivers the service to the patient. This could be a doctor, therapist, nurse, or any other healthcare provider. In the context of ABA therapy, a rendering provider might be a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) or a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) who provides direct therapy to a client.

Why is an NPI Number Crucial for a Rendering Provider?

Every rendering provider must have an individual NPI number (Type 1) to be identified in billing processes. This NPI is essential for several reasons:

  1. Identification: The NPI serves as a unique identifier for the rendering provider in all billing and insurance claims. It ensures that the specific professional providing the service is recognized and can be reimbursed accordingly.
  2. Accuracy in Billing: Especially in settings where multiple professionals might provide services (like a large ABA therapy clinic), the rendering provider’s NPI ensures that billing is accurate. It attributes the service to the correct therapist, avoiding potential billing disputes or errors.
  3. Compliance: Many insurance companies and federal programs like Medicaid and Medicare mandate the inclusion of the rendering provider’s NPI on claims. This ensures transparency and compliance with regulations.

Group NPI vs. Rendering Provider’s NPI

While a group or organization (like an ABA therapy clinic) might have a Group NPI (Type 2), individual services rendered to patients must also include the NPI of the rendering provider. This distinction is crucial. The group NPI identifies the organization or practice, while the rendering provider’s NPI identifies the individual therapist who provided the service.

For instance, if a child receives ABA therapy at a clinic, the clinic’s group NPI would be used to identify the billing entity. However, the individual therapist’s NPI would also be included to specify who exactly provided the therapy session.


Understanding NPI numbers is essential for ABA therapists, especially when navigating the complexities of billing. Whether you’re an individual provider or part of a larger organization, having the correct NPI number ensures smooth transactions and proper reimbursement for services rendered. If you’re still unsure about any aspect of NPI numbers, consider consulting with a billing specialist or reaching out to CMS for guidance.