In the world of ABA therapy billing, few things can be as frustrating and challenging as dealing with rejected claims. These rejections not only disrupt the cash flow of a practice but can also lead to significant administrative burdens. This guide aims to shed light on the intricacies of rejected claims, offering clarity and solutions for ABA therapy providers.

What is a Rejected Claim in ABA Billing?

A rejected claim refers to a claim that has been returned by the payer (usually an insurance company) due to errors or inconsistencies. Unlike denied claims, which are processed and deemed unpayable, rejected claims are not processed at all. They are sent back to the provider, indicating that corrections are needed before the claim can be reviewed.

Why Do Claims Get Rejected?

There are several reasons why an ABA therapy claim might be rejected:

Incorrect Patient Information:
Imagine a scenario where a claim is submitted for a patient named “Johnathan Doe.” However, during the initial registration, a minor oversight occurred, and the insurance company has him registered as “Jonathan Doe.” Such a slight misspelling, though seemingly trivial, can lead to a claim rejection. To circumvent such issues, it’s imperative to meticulously verify patient details against their official documents, such as ID cards or insurance cards. Implementing a system where patients can confirm their details electronically during the initial stages can also significantly reduce such discrepancies.

Invalid ICD-10, Procedure or Diagnosis Codes:
Consider a situation where an ABA therapist, after a long day, mistakenly uses the code for “Individual therapy, 30 minutes” when documenting a session that was, in reality, a group therapy session. This mismatch in coding can instantly result in a claim rejection. Regular training sessions for billing staff on the latest coding updates and guidelines become essential in such cases. Additionally, embracing billing software that offers code suggestions or alerts for potential mismatches can act as a safety net, catching errors before they become problematic.

Missing Information:
There might be instances where, in the rush of things, a claim gets submitted without essential details, such as the rendering provider’s NPI. Without this critical piece of information, the insurance company is left in the dark, unable to determine who provided the service, leading to an inevitable rejection. To prevent such oversights, it’s beneficial to establish a rigorous review process. Creating a mental or written checklist of essential details for claim submission and ensuring that every claim undergoes this scrutiny before submission can be a game-changer.

Duplicate Claims:
In the vast world of medical billing, there’s always room for human error or system glitches. Picture a scenario where a claim for a session held on January 15th gets submitted twice. Such duplicate submissions can quickly be flagged and rejected by vigilant insurance systems. To counteract this, implementing a robust tracking system that assigns a unique identifier to each claim becomes invaluable. This system ensures that any duplicates are quickly identified and rectified, saving both time and resources.

Expired Insurance Coverage:
It’s not uncommon for a lapse in communication or oversight to result in services being rendered after a patient’s insurance policy has expired. Envision a situation where a patient’s insurance policy expired on December 31st, but a claim is submitted for a session held on January 5th. Such claims are bound to be rejected. To stay ahead of such issues, it’s wise to regularly update and verify insurance details for all patients. Automated reminders or alerts for upcoming policy expirations can be set up, giving both the provider and the patient ample time to renew or update their insurance details.

Out of Network Coverage:
Imagine a situation where a patient seeks services from an ABA therapist, believing that the therapist is within their insurance network. However, unbeknownst to the patient, the therapist is actually out-of-network. When the claim is submitted, the insurance company quickly flags it, as they don’t have a contract with this particular therapist. Such rejections can be disheartening for both the provider and the patient. To mitigate this, it’s crucial for therapy providers to clearly communicate their network affiliations to patients. On the patient’s end, verifying in-network providers with their insurance company before seeking services can prevent such misunderstandings.

Failure to Meet Precertification Authorization:
Consider a scenario where a patient requires a specific, intensive ABA therapy regimen. However, this particular treatment requires prior authorization from the insurance company to ensure it’s medically necessary. If the therapy provider proceeds without obtaining this precertification, the subsequent claim is likely to be rejected. To navigate this, providers should be well-acquainted with treatments that require prior authorizations and ensure they obtain these before proceeding with the service.

Service is Not in Your Client’s Plan:
Every insurance plan has its specifications, detailing the services it covers. Picture a patient who, after a consultation, is recommended a particular therapy module. Post-treatment, it’s discovered that this module isn’t covered under the patient’s insurance plan. Such oversights lead to claim rejections. The onus is on providers to verify the services covered under a patient’s plan before administering treatment. Concurrently, patients should be encouraged to familiarize themselves with their plan’s coverage to avoid unexpected out-of-pocket expenses.

Not Enrolled or Ineligible to Enroll:
In some instances, a patient might believe they’re covered by an insurance plan when, in reality, they’re either not enrolled or ineligible for enrollment. Envision a situation where a parent seeks ABA therapy for their child, assuming the child is covered under their workplace insurance. However, due to certain criteria or administrative oversights, the child isn’t enrolled. Claims for services rendered in such situations are bound to be rejected. To prevent this, it’s essential for providers to verify the enrollment status of every patient before initiating treatment. Additionally, educating patients about the importance of regularly checking their enrollment status can be beneficial.

Understanding these intricacies and potential pitfalls in the claim submission process is paramount. By being proactive, vigilant, and implementing the strategies mentioned, ABA therapy providers can significantly reduce the number of rejections they face, ensuring a smoother billing process and a healthier bottom line.

Rejected Claims vs. Denied Claims: Is There a Difference?

Yes, there’s a significant difference between the two:

  • Rejected Claims: These are claims that have errors preventing them from being processed. They are returned to the provider for correction and resubmission.
  • Denied Claims: These are claims that have been processed by the payer but deemed unpayable due to various reasons, such as non-covered services or lack of prior authorization.

The Impact of Rejected Claims on ABA Therapy Practice Billing

Rejected claims can have several adverse effects on ABA therapy practices:

Delayed Payments:
In the bustling world of ABA therapy, where every session, every intervention counts, delayed payments can throw a wrench in the smooth operation of a practice. Consider a scenario where a small therapy center, operating on tight margins, faces a series of claim rejections. Each rejection translates to a delay in reimbursement, straining the center’s cash flow. This can lead to challenges in meeting operational costs, paying staff salaries, and even investing in necessary resources for patient care.

Increased Administrative Work:
Every rejected claim isn’t just a missed payment; it’s an administrative task waiting to be addressed. Picture a dedicated billing team, already juggling multiple responsibilities, now tasked with reviewing, correcting, and resubmitting a pile of rejected claims. This added workload can lead to longer working hours, increased stress, and even the potential for further errors if the team is stretched too thin.

Potential Loss of Revenue:
While some rejected claims can be corrected and resubmitted, there’s always the risk that some might slip through the cracks. Envision a scenario where, amidst the chaos of peak therapy seasons, certain rejected claims are overlooked and never resubmitted. This oversight can lead to a direct loss of revenue, impacting the financial health of the practice.

Strain on Patient Relationships:
At the heart of every ABA therapy practice is the relationship between the therapist and the patient. Now, imagine a situation where frequent billing issues, stemming from claim rejections, lead to unexpected bills for the patient. Such situations can lead to dissatisfaction, mistrust, and in some cases, patients might even consider seeking services elsewhere.

Audits and Fines:
Consistent claim rejections can raise red flags for insurance companies. If a practice has an unusually high rate of rejections, it might be subjected to audits. These audits, while ensuring compliance and accuracy, can be time-consuming and stressful. Moreover, if discrepancies or non-compliance issues are found, the practice might face hefty fines. Consider the ramifications of an audit that uncovers systematic coding errors. Not only does the practice have to bear the cost of fines, but its reputation might also take a hit, affecting future patient relationships and trust.

What Happens When a Claim is Rejected?

When a claim is rejected, it’s returned to the provider with an explanation of the rejection reason. Providers must then review the claim, correct the errors, and resubmit it for processing.

Can You Dispute a Rejected Claim?

Technically, there’s no “dispute” process for rejected claims as there might be for denied claims. Instead, the provider should correct the errors and resubmit the claim. However, if a corrected claim is denied, then the provider can initiate a dispute or appeals process with the payer.

Tips for Avoiding Rejected Claims

Regular Training:
In the ever-evolving landscape of medical billing, staying updated is not just beneficial—it’s essential. Think of a newly inducted member of the billing team, fresh out of training, and eager to make a mark. Without regular training sessions, this individual might inadvertently use outdated codes or overlook new billing guidelines, leading to claim rejections. By investing in periodic training sessions, practices ensure that their billing team is equipped with the latest knowledge, reducing the likelihood of errors.

Use of Updated Software:
In today’s digital age, relying solely on manual processes can be a recipe for mistakes. Picture a seasoned billing professional, adept at their job but struggling with an outdated software system that lacks modern error-checking features. Such a scenario is ripe for oversights. By adopting modern billing software, practices benefit from built-in error checks, code suggestions, and alerts for potential mismatches. This technological safety net can catch common mistakes before they escalate into rejections.

Double-Checking Patient Information:
The importance of accurate patient information cannot be overstated. Envision a scenario where a long-term patient, Mrs. Smith, gets married and changes her last name to Mrs. Jones. If this change isn’t updated in the system, any subsequent claims under “Mrs. Smith” are bound to be rejected. A simple practice of verifying patient details during each visit, especially after significant life events, can prevent such rejections. Encouraging patients to confirm their details, either in person or through electronic systems, adds an additional layer of verification.

Staying Updated with Payer Policies:
Insurance policies aren’t static; they evolve, with new guidelines and stipulations introduced periodically. Consider a situation where an insurance company introduces a new prior authorization requirement for a specific ABA therapy module. If the therapy provider isn’t aware of this change, claims for this module will face rejections. By regularly reviewing updates from payers and maintaining open channels of communication, practices can stay compliant and reduce the risk of rejections.


Dealing with rejected claims can be a daunting task, but with the right knowledge and practices in place, ABA therapy providers can minimize rejections and ensure a smoother billing process. By understanding the reasons behind rejections and implementing proactive measures, practices can maintain a healthy cash flow and focus on what they do best: providing quality care to their patients.