Advertiser Disclosure

What is an Advance Beneficiary Notice (ABN) for Medicare Recipients?

5 mins read
Our goal is to give you the tools and confidence you need to improve your health and finances. Although we may receive compensation from our partner insurance companies, whom we will always identify, all opinions are our own. CoverRight Inc. and CoverRight Insurance Services Inc. (NPN: 19724057) are collectively referred to here as "CoverRight".

Advance Beneficiary Notices (ABNs) constitute a vital aspect of Medicare that empowers beneficiaries with insights and helps them make informed decisions about their healthcare.

In this article, we explain what ABN is, explain their significance for Medicare beneficiaries, and discuss their role in navigating healthcare coverage.

What is an Advance Beneficiary Notice (ABN)?

An Advance Beneficiary Notice is a mandatory document that healthcare providers must share with Medicare beneficiaries before they receive a service. It is necessary, however, only in those cases where a provider has reason to believe Medicare will not pay for a particular service based on coverage rules. 
ABNs is protect beneficiaries from unexpected financial liabilities. It allows them to accept or refuse a service that Medicare might not pay for. Failure to provide an ABN when mandated may result in the provider having to take on the beneficiary’s financial liability.

ABNs apply only to Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) and not to Medicare Advantage or Medigap plans. 

When and Why Healthcare Providers Issue ABNs

Healthcare providers issue ABNs when there is uncertainty about Medicare coverage for a particular service based on federal rules. 
ABNs ensure beneficiaries are aware of potential out-of-pocket expenses and can choose to either receive or forgo a service that Medicare might not cover. 

How Does the ABN Differ from Other Medicare Notices?

ABNs stand out from other Medicare notices, such as the Notice of Exclusions from Medicare Benefits (NEMB) and the Medicare Summary Notice (MSN). 

Here are some key features that distinguish ABNs from other Medicare notices:

  1. Purpose: The ABN allows the beneficiary to decide whether to receive a service or item, knowing they may be responsible for the cost.
  2. Timing: The provider must give an ABN before providing a service or item. This lets the beneficiary consider their options and seek other sources of coverage if necessary.
  3. Content: An ABN must include specific information about the service or item, including why Medicare is not likely to cover it, the estimated cost of the service or item, and the beneficiary’s right to appeal if they don’t receive coverage.
  4. Signature: The beneficiary must sign the ABN to indicate that they understand the information and agree to be responsible for the cost of the service or item if Medicare denies coverage.

In contrast, a NEMB notice specifies services or items not covered under Medicare, while an MSN notice lays out the covered services or items a beneficiary has received. 

Situations Requiring an Advance Beneficiary Notice

ABNs are only issued under special circumstances to allow beneficiaries to optimize their choice of services. Here are some situations where they must be issued:   

Non-covered Services or Items

Healthcare providers issue ABNs when they anticipate Medicare may not cover a particular service or item. This is usually because the service or item is experimental or beyond Medicare coverage guidelines.

Services That Are Likely Not Medically Necessary

ABNs are also issued when healthcare providers recommend services that may not meet Medicare’s medical-necessity requirements. This evaluation is on factors such as the recipient’s health condition or available alternatives.

Services Provided Without Medicare Billing Information

Medicare recipients may receive services without readily available billing information, making it difficult to determine whether Medicare will cover the costs. ABNs serve as indicators of transparency in such situations. 

Medicare Coverage Rules And ABNs

Each Medicare plan comes with distinct coverage ranges and limitations. Beneficiaries must be thoroughly familiar with their plan details to accurately evaluate the significance of an ABN. 

Understanding Medicare Part A and Part B Coverage

Medicare Part A covers hospital insurance, nursing facility care, and some home healthcare services. 
Medicare Part B is medical insurance and focuses on medically necessary services such as doctor’s visits, preventive care, and outpatient services.

How do ABNs Relate to Medicare Coverage Rules?

Although Medicare insurance is comprehensive, there are certain gaps in coverage under the existing rules and guidelines. That’s what makes ABNs relevant to Medicare coverage rules. They offer transparency to beneficiaries when providers are not sure if Medicare will cover the cost of a particular item or service. Issuing an ABN helps beneficiaries understand the financial liabilities they might incur based on Medicare coverage rules. 

Exceptions and Special Circumstances

The rules surrounding ABNs are subject to certain exceptions, as in the case of medical emergencies. Healthcare providers also cannot deny essential care even if you refuse to sign an ABN, for instance. Other special circumstances can involve a beneficiary’s unique medical condition or healthcare needs. 

What to Do When Presented with an ABN

Here’s what you should do if you receive an Advance Beneficiary Notice from a Medicare provider: 

Review the ABN and Ensure Comprehension

Make sure to go through the ABN in detail and understand why Medicare may not pay for a particular service or item. Refer to your plan details for more clarity on coverage rules and seek clarification from your healthcare provider if you have any questions.

Evaluate the Necessity and Potential Risks of the Service or Item

Make a judgment call on how necessary the item or service is to your well-being. Also, make sure you’re in a position to take on the risk of financial liability if Medicare refuses to pay for the item or service under consideration. 

Discuss Options with your Healthcare Provider

Find out if there are alternatives to the service or item you hoped to receive from your healthcare provider. There are cases where Medicare doesn’t cover a given service but does cover an alternative. Also, discuss if there are other coverage options you can explore.

Make an Informed Decision Based on the Information Provided

Weigh your healthcare needs against the potential out-of-pocket expenses you may incur. Here are some other avenues you can consider:

  1. Pay first, then file a claim: You can pay upfront for a service or item if you still want it and request your provider to still file a claim with Medicare. You can file an appeal if Medicare refuses coverage. 
  2. Pay and don’t file a claim: This is when you’re willing to pay for the service or item in full. You can avoid filing a claim if you are reasonably certain that Medicare is not going to pay for it. 
  3. Refusal is an option: You can refuse a healthcare service or item if Medicare is unlikely to pay for it. Make sure to evaluate the impact of this decision on your health after discussing it with your provider. 

Reach out to CoverRight for expert guidance on ABNs or any other aspect of Medicare. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Should I Do If I Disagree With the ABN?

You have the right to appeal if you believe Medicare should cover the cost of a service or item. The appeal process allows you or a representative to present your case to Medicare for further consideration.

Can Healthcare Providers Refuse Treatment If I Don’t Sign the ABN?

Healthcare providers cannot refuse essential treatment because you chose not to sign an ABN. Discuss your decision with your provider to understand the implications and explore alternatives.

How Do I Know If My Medicare Plan Covers A Particular Service? 

Determine whether your Medicare plan covers a particular service by consulting the Medicare Coverage Database (MCD) or your Medicare administrative contractor (MAC). These resources provide up-to-date information on covered services.

Are There Any Resources Available for Additional Assistance?

Yes. Explore the official Medicare website, reach out to your State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIP), or engage a support platform like CoverRight

Richard Chan

Richard is the Founder of CoverRight and based in New York. He is passionate about empowering consumers to take control of their health and finances. Prior to starting CoverRight, Richard had extensive experience working in financial services with over 8 years' experience in consumer lending and investment banking.

Latest from Blog