Why do we have a cancellation policy?
Before we get to what our appointment cancellation policy is, we thought we’d take a minute beforehand to explain why a cancellation policy is needed in the first place.
In Washington state, massage therapists are classified as piece-meal workers. Rather than a typical hourly-rate worker who is paid per the amount of time that they’re on-the-clock at work, piece-meal workers are paid per session that they perform. What this means is that if a therapist has an opening in their schedule, they don’t get paid for that time despite being at work. For this reason, we have an appointment cancellation policy in place to ensure that therapists receive at least partial income for the lost work time that results if a client cancels on too short of notice to have that spot refilled.
Also, please note that cancellation fees are not able to be covered by insurance or by any medically designated funds, such as HSA or FSA accounts, as those options can only be utilized for services performed. Cancellation fees are therefore an out-of-pocket responsibility for clients.
What is our cancellation policy?
Rather than basing our cancellation rate on contracted insurance rates or copay amounts, which have wide variation among different insurance companies and insurance plans, we base our cancellation fee on our cash rates to ensure consistency across the board for our clients. Our current policy is that for cancellations within 24 hours of the start time of an appointment, we charge 50% of our cash rate for the scheduled service, depending on if it’s a 30, 60 or 90 minute massage. The most commonly scheduled appointment time is 60 minutes, and with our cash rate for an hour of massage being $85, the cancellation fee would therefore be $42.50. This is likely higher than the majority of clients’ copays but it’s also lower than any insurance payout that we would normally receive for the session; a middle-ground amount such as this needs to be charged in order to ensure that both your therapist and the business receive partial income for the lost time.
We do not charge different rates for different modalities (ex: prenatal massage, lymphatic drainage, reflexology, etc), and therefore the amount of our cancellation fee is never determined by a client’s intended focus. There is simply a flat rate of 50% for the scheduled service.
If you’ve added an enhancement, such as aromatherapy or hot stone, to a service which you must cancel within 24 hours of the start time, that add-on will be waived and you will only be charged per above for the base amount of time scheduled. Also, if you’ve added an enhancement to a future appointment but the day of your session decide not to include that add-on when you arrive for your massage, there is no cancellation charge for dropping the enhancement from your service.
If an appointment needs to be cancelled more than 24 hours in advance, it can be done by either contacting our spa or through our website. For appointments that need to be cancelled with less than 24 hours notice, a client must contact our spa directly, as our website does not allow for such short notice cancellations.
Partial Cancellations (i.e. Arriving Late or Ending an Appointment Early)
Our rule-of-thumb policy for appointments which start late is as follows:
- If an appointment begins late due to a client arriving late, the appointment will still need to end on time as scheduled in order to prevent a cascading effect of the therapist becoming behind schedule for the rest of their shift.
- If an appointment begins late due to a therapist being behind schedule, that therapist is expected to give the full session time to each of their clients.
For our clients who do not use insurance but instead pay our cash rate, there is no partial cancellation fee for being late. Late arrivals will simply be charged the full amount for the scheduled time, and the therapist will make-up up to five minutes of time; any late time beyond five minutes will be considered lost time.
For our clients who do use insurance, the situation becomes more complicated for incomplete sessions due to the conditions of our insurance contracts.
On the back end of dealing with insurance, sessions are required to be billed in 15 minute increments. What this means is that when a client comes in for a one hour massage, we do not bill it to insurance as one unit of 1 hour, we bill it as four units of 15 minutes. While our spa’s policy for an hour of massage is 60 minutes of hands-on time, insurance companies require a minimum of half a unit (7.5 minutes) of hands-on time in order to bill for one 15 minute unit. If a client receives less than 7.5 minutes of hands-on time for that unit, we cannot legally bill for the unit.
When we are not able to bill one or more units to a client’s insurance, this reduces the income from already low insurance payout rates. Because clients running behind schedule or needing to end a session early is far more common than clients cancelling altogether with less than 24 hours notice, our spa and our therapists are not able to absorb the small but cumulative financial losses that waiving these lost times would result in. For this reason, we must implement a cancellation fee of $11 per 15 minute unit that is not able to be billed to insurance (roughly our $42.50 cancellation fee divided by four).
When it comes to late arrivals or requesting to end a session early, lost time is not able to be averaged out over numerous billable units. For example, if a client is 15 minutes late for their appointment, we cannot apply 7.5 minutes of lost time to the first unit and 7.5 minutes to the second unit, therefore achieving the minimum of half time for each unit; all late time must be applied to one unit at a time.
In order to partially mitigate lost time for appointments, our spa has the following policy for therapists:
- If a client is 7.5 minutes late or less, the session is to end on time as scheduled since the minimum requirement of hands-on time will be met.
- If a client is between 7.5-12.5 minutes late, the therapist will make-up up to five minutes in order to achieve the minimum time necessary to bill for the current unit. For example, if a client’s appointment was set to begin at 1pm and end at 2pm, but the client arrives at 1:10pm, the therapist will end the session at 2:03pm so that we can bill for all four units.
- If a client is more than 12.5 minutes late, a therapist will not be able to make up any lost time due to the risk of that putting them behind schedule for their next client. In this case, a cancellation fee for one unit (15 minutes) will be added upon the client checking-out.
Please also keep in mind that there is a difference between coinsurance and a copay (check your insurance plan to see which you have).
Coinsurance means that a percentage of what’s billed to insurance is the responsibility of the client. For example, if our contracted rate with a client’s insurance company for a full hour of massage (four 15 minute units) is $60 and the client has coinsurance of 25%, their portion owed at the time of service would be $15; their insurance company would then pay the remaining $45 balance, bringing the total payout for the session to the contracted rate of $60. However, if we are only able to bill three 15 minute units due to that client being late, the total billed to insurance would decrease to $45 (three-quarters of $60). In this case, the client’s coinsurance would be based on $45, making their portion owed at the time of service $11.25; their insurance company would then pay the remaining $33.75. However, a cancellation fee per unit (15 minutes) unbillable to insurance would then be included on the client’s appointment in addition to their coinsurance.
A copay, on the other hand, is a flat rate charged per session regardless of its length; by the rules of insurance agreements, it doesn’t make a difference if a session is 60 minutes or if it’s 30 minutes, the client is required to pay the same copay amount. When it comes to late arrivals who have copays, this flat copay amount would be charged, and just like above, cancellation fees for any units unbillable to insurance would be additionally included for the client.
Our system is currently set to send out appointment reminders via email and text; email reminders go out 48 hours prior to the start time of an appointment, and text reminders go out 48 hours beforehand.
While we do the best that we can on our end to ensure that all clients receive reminders, please keep in mind that these reminders are a courtesy. Occasionally, technological errors can occur that may delay or prevent a reminder from being sent or received, but ultimately it is the responsibility of each client to remember appointments that they’ve scheduled for themselves.
If for some reason you do not receive any reminder for an expected appointment, please contact us quickly to ensure that we have the correct date and time for your appointment, and that we also have the correct phone number and email address on file for reminders to be sent in the first place. If you receive a reminder for an appointment that you did not expect and/or do not wish to keep, please contact us by calling the spa directly more than 24 hours before the appointment’s stated start time to avoid a cancellation fee.
We understand that unexpected life events occasionally happen, and when they do we do our best to work with you.
If you begin to feel ill on the day of your appointment, please don’t feel obligated to keep your appointment out of worry of being charged a cancellation fee, as we’ll waive it for you in this case. It’s much better for your own health, our health and the health of our other clients for you to stay home and rest. All we ask is that you give us as much notice as possible so that we can hopefully fill the appointment time with another client.
When personal emergencies arise, which we typically define as harm to one’s self or property, we also can make exceptions at our discretion on a case-by-case basis.
If you are unable to keep an appointment but know of a family member or friend who would like to take it, you may contact us to put them in your place without a cancellation fee, even if it’s within 24 hours of the start time. If the person taking your appointment has been into our spa recently, it’s nice but not necessary for us to know ahead of time that they’ll be taking your spot; if the person taking your appointment has never been into our spa before, or it’s been a long time since their last visit, it’s necessary for us to know ahead of time in order to ensure that their appointment is set up correctly and that their health history has been properly updated.
We hope that this post has been informative, and that it has not only explained what our policies are when it comes to cancellations but also why we need to have them. If you have any questions or concerns, please call or email us and we’ll be glad to discuss it with you!
– Your TYDS Family