My physician clients often ask me for advice on how best to negotiate with managed care payers for improved reimbursement. My advice is typically the same: if you want them to pay you more than your competitors, you have to offer them something more than your competitors do. Simply being good at what you do is not enough. You have to be better than the competition because just like you, the competition is undoubtedly asking for more money too.

And, being better alone is also not enough. In order to get the payers to take notice, you must be able to demonstrate that you are better. This means that you need to be able to show them that your services are either of a higher quality, are more convenient or less expensive than the competition. Consider a recent article published by which cites a growing interest by third-party payors in driving down the “unit” cost of a health care visit. According to the article, payers are beginning to recognize that the number of patient visits is not the only driver of cost and that savings can be found in pushing down the cost of each one of those visits.

Unfortunately, many physicians have no idea of their "per unit" visit costs, and if you don’t know what your costs are, it’s pretty hard to try to manage them. The first step in negotiating managed care contracts, therefore, really should be to take a hard look at your practice, the services you offer, the cost of those services and what you do better (or should be doing better) than your competition. With that information in hand, you can develop a presentation for your important payers which demonstrates why your practice is deserving of special consideration.