What Does Accept Assignment Mean?

What does it mean to accept assignment on the CMS 1500 claim form - also called the HCFA 1500 claim form.? Should I accept assignment or not? What are the guidelines for accepting assignment in box 27 of the 1500 claim?

These commonly asked questions should have a simple answer, but the number of court cases indicates that it is not as clear cut as it should be. This issue is documented in the book “Problems in Health Care Law” by Robert Desle Miller. The definition appears to be in the hands of the courts. However, we do have some helpful guidelines for you.

One major area of confusion is the relationship between box 12, box 13 and box 27.  These are not interchangeable boxes and they are not necessarily related to each other.

According to the National Uniform Claim Committee (NUCC), the "Accept Assignment" box indicates that the provider agrees to accept assignment.  It simply says to enter an X in the correct box.  It does NOT define what accepting assignment might or might not mean.

It is important to understand that if you are a participating provider in any insurance plan or program, you must first follow the rules according to the contract that you sign. That contract superceeds any guidelines that are included here.

Medicare Instructions / Guidelines

PARTICIPATING providers MUST accept assignment according to the terms of their contract.  The contract itself states:

“Meaning of Assignment - For purposes of this agreement, accepting assignment of the Medicare Part B payment means requesting direct Part B payment from the Medicare program.  Under an assignment, the approved charge, determined by the Medicare carrier, shall be the full charge for the service covered under Part B.  The participant shall not collect from the beneficiary or other person or organization for covered services more than the applicable deductible and coinsurance.”


By law, the providers or types of services listed below MUST also accept assignment:

  • Clinical diagnostic laboratory services;
  • Physician services to individuals dually entitled to Medicare and Medicaid;
  • Services of physician assistants, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, nurse midwives, certified registered nurse anesthetists, clinical psychologists, and clinical social workers;
  • Ambulatory surgical center services for covered ASC procedures;
  • Home dialysis supplies and equipment paid under Method II;
  • Ambulance services;
  • Drugs and biologicals; and
  • Simplified Billing Roster for influenza virus vaccine and pneumococcal vaccine.

NON-PARTICIPATING providers can choose whether to accept assignment or not, unless they or the service they are providing is on the list above.

The official Medicare instructions regarding Boxes 12 and 13 are:

“Item 12 – The patient's signature authorizes release of medical information necessary to process the claim. It also authorizes payments of benefits to the provider of service or supplier when the provider of service or supplier accepts assignment on the claim.”

“Item 13 - The patient’s signature or the statement “signature on file” in this item authorizes payment of medical benefits to the physician or supplier. The patient or his/her authorized representative signs this item or the signature must be on file separately with the provider as an authorization. However, note that when payment under the Act can only be made on an assignment-related basis or when payment is for services furnished by a participating physician or supplier, a patient’s signature or a “signature on file” is not required in order for Medicare payment to be made directly to the physician or supplier.”

Regardless of the wording on these instructions stating that it authorizes payments to the physician, this is not enough to ensure that payment will come directly to you instead of the patient.To guarantee payment comes to you, you MUST accept assignment.

Under Medicare rules, PARTICIPATING providers are paid at 80% of the physician fee schedule allowed amount and NON-participating providers are paid at 80% of the allowed amount, which is 5% less than the full Allowed amount for participating providers. Only NON-participating providers may "balance bill" the patient for any amounts not paid by Medicare, however, they are subject to any state laws regarding balance billing.

TIP: If you select YES, you may or may not be subject to a lower fee schedule, but at least you know the payment is supposed to come to you.

NON-MEDICARE Instructions / Guidelines

PARTICIPATING providers MUST abide by the terms of their contract.  In most cases, this includes the requirement to accept assignment on submitted claims.

NON-PARTICIPATING providers have the choice to accept or not accept assignment.

YES means that payment should go directly to you instead of the patient.  Generally speaking, even if you have an assignment of benefits from the patient (see box 12 & 13), payment is ONLY guaranteed to go to you IF you accept assignment.

NO is appropriate for patients who have paid for their services in full so they may be reimbursed by their insurance.  It generally means payment will go to the patient.

TIP: If you select YES, you may or may not be subject to a lower fee schedule, but at least you know the payment is supposed to come to you.