Behavioral Health Billing ChallengesBehavioral health billing stands out from other medical specialties because of its complex procedural structure. It covers a wide range of conditions, such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorders, substance use disorders, or schizophrenia. As a healthcare provider for behavioral health billing services, it is important that you understand and address these specific challenges. 

This blog helps you grasp the core idea of all the challenges and ultimately helps you get rid of them effectively. 

Commonly used CPT Codes in Behavioral Health Billing

Here is a table summarizing all the important behavioural health CPT codes used for describing the behavioral health services rendered to the patients.


CPT Codes Description
96132 Psychological testing interpretation and report, each additional 30 minutes
90832 Psychotherapy, 30 minutes with patient
90837 Psychotherapy, 60 minutes with patient
90791 Psychiatric diagnostic evaluation
90834 Psychotherapy, 45 minutes with patient
90853 Group psychotherapy (other than of a multiple-family group)
90840 Psychotherapy for crisis; each additional 30 minutes
90839 Psychotherapy for crisis; first 60 minutes
96130 Psychological testing evaluation services
90846 Family psychotherapy (without patient present)

Behavioral Health Billing Challenges

Behavioral health billing faces some unique challenges due to the complex nature of diagnosis and procedures. Some of the specific challenges are as follows: 

Behavioral Health Billing Challenges

Documentation and Medical Necessity

The successful submission of behavioral health billing depends on the detailed documentation that directly supports the necessity of each procedure of the service provided. Healthcare Physicians need to document the diagnosis, treatment interventions and progress notes. However, documenting behavioral health conditions accurately is a cumbersome job. 

Technology and Administrative Burdens

Although the application of electronic health record (EHR) systems and billing software tends to bring about a better operational servicing system and greater efficiency, the implementation and integration of this software pose administrative burdens. The providers spend time and funds in training the staff and designing systems which will satisfy the particular requirement of behavioral wellness sites. 

Data entry and documentation cycle, assisted by the electronic system, keep the level of attention to detail high to ensure correctness and compliance with health care billing regulations. In addition, if technical problems come up, software updates, and system shut downs disrupt work and productivity, they need to be accessible anytime from technology vendors.

Complex Coding Structure

The complex coding structure adds an additional layer of obstacles for healthcare providers. The wide range of services covered by behavioral health billing necessitates multiple sets of codes and modifiers. These sets include Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes, International Classification of Diseases (ICD) codes, and the Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS). The physician needs to attentively assign all the possible combinations of codes for multifaceted treatment plans.

In addition, behavioral health services cover a wide range of procedures and treatments, such as medication management, psychotherapy, crisis intervention, etc. Only a professional coder can understand these procedures and select the right code that matches the description.

Limited Coverage and Reimbursement Rates 

Limited coverage and fee schedules present formidable obstacles to behavioral health billing, ultimately threatening providers’ financial viability and patients’ access to care. A lack of insurance reimbursement rates may cause providers to refuse to provide different services or accept patients with insurance rights for lower payments. This, in turn, further aggravates disparities in obtaining medical care. Also, under-coverage for mental health services leads to subpar treatment of patients, which results in the deterioration of symptoms, higher healthcare costs, and a low quality of life. 

Diverse Range of Services

A particular challenge in the clinical realm of behavioral health comes to deciding which of the wide range of services presented should be financed by healthcare providers through the billing process. The codes for billing and the rate of reimbursement vary according to whether it is an individual counseling session, medication management, or a psychiatric assessment. 

To avoid underpayment and to comply with payment rules and regulations, providers must accurately record and classify every service they provide. 

Authorization and Precertification Requirements 

The authorization and precertification requirements pose a significant issue for behavioral health billing. This is because of its time-consuming nature and cumbersome procedural requirements. Providers need to spend a lot of time and money filling out detailed authorization requests. They sometimes have to face denials even with thorough submissions, making it difficult to maintain a steady revenue flow and leaving patients without the necessary treatment. 

The appeals process adds additional obstacles and pressure on the providers. The impact is not limited to administrative burdens but also directly interferes with patient outcomes. 

All these challenges faced by the healthcare provider depict the complex structure of behavioral health billing. Healthcare physicians need to be compliant with coding guidelines as well as the regulatory authorities for accurate and timely reimbursement.

Strategies for Mental Healthcare Providers

Following are some of the effective strategies to mitigate all the challenges faced by healthcare providers.

Strategies for Mental Healthcare Providers

Understand Coding Systems

  • Make yourself familiar with the Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) Codes as well as the Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) codes applicable to behavioral health care.
  • Keep abreast of modifications and additions to coding systems. This will ensure that your billing is accurate.

Stay Up-to-Date on Billing Regulations

  • Keep up-to-date on the rules and policies set by both the insurance companies and the government programs for their billing requirements.
  • Take part in continuous training and continuing professional development activities to improve your knowledge of billing.
  • Outline the billing regulations inside your facility and influence guidelines to ensure compliance.

Effective Documentation and Justification

  • Standardize the templates of treatment plans, progress notes, and diagnostic assessments that are followed by the staff.
  • Verify that the documented services are correct and necessary, as well as acceptable for the circumstances.
  • Provide detailed records of any attempts at interventions, tests, or referrals during sessions.

Communication with Insurance Companies and Patients

  • Create an open-door policy for insurers to help with billing questions or claim denials.
  • Make sure patients are educated about their insurance coverage and their financial responsibilities concerning behavioral health services.
  •  Outline clearly the billing practices and charges so that patients’ concerns about fees are addressed and any questions are also answered.


In conclusion, although the complexities of behavioral health billing present insoluble challenges, it also highlights the need to supply healthcare doctors with the tools and education that can help them handle billing effectively. By understanding the unique nuances of behavioral health billing, providers can ensure accurate documentation, compliant billing practices, and timely reimbursement, ultimately enabling them to focus on what matters most: providing quality service to patients.

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