Medicare assignment is when your health care provider agrees to accept whatever original Medicare pays for a specified medical visit or treatment. It is important because it saves the Medicare beneficiary from having to pay at the time of service as the provider bills Medicare and the supplemental carrier (if the patient has Medicare Gaps filler insurance) thus the patient has no out-of-pocket costs.
When original Medicare was first offered doctors were not required to accept assignment and original Medicare patients paid the provider and then filed forms with original Medicare to get their money back. Later on, as the program developed, Medicare mandated that all providers who wished to take part in Medicare must take assignment – thus eliminating the burden of payment from the Medicare patient. However, patients without Medicare supplemental insurance may be asked to pay their 20 percent co-pay and full or remaining deductible at the time of service.
Assignment is important as the health care provider who agrees to take assignment also agrees to accept the Medicare fee schedule for your medical care. Assignment prevents the health care provider from charging more for a service than Medicare allows. This is especially important to patients who do not have a supplemental Medicare policy as it prevents them from having a higher co-pay than Medicare allows. It is now a requirement that health care providers who want to accept Medicare patients must take assignment. Providers who do not accept Medicare assignment have chosen not to take part in the Medicare program. Medicare patients who use a no-participating health care provider waive their Medicare benefits for medical treatment by that provider and can be charged according to whatever fee schedule the provider uses.