rcm glossary


Beneficiary is an individual or entity who receives healthcare services and is eligible to receive benefits from a health insurance plan or government program.

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What is Beneficiary?

Beneficiary is a term commonly used in the healthcare revenue cycle management (RCM) industry. In the context of healthcare, a beneficiary refers to an individual who is eligible to receive benefits from a healthcare insurance plan or program. This term is often associated with government-sponsored healthcare programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, but it can also apply to private insurance plans.

The beneficiary is typically the person for whom the healthcare services are provided, and they may be the primary policyholder or a dependent covered under a family plan. The term can also extend to include other individuals who are entitled to receive benefits, such as a spouse or child of the primary policyholder.

Difference between Beneficiary and Subscriber

While the terms "beneficiary" and "subscriber" are often used interchangeably, there is a subtle difference between the two. The beneficiary is the individual who is eligible to receive the benefits, while the subscriber is the person who holds the insurance policy or plan. In most cases, the subscriber is also the primary policyholder, but this is not always the case.

For example, in a family insurance plan, the subscriber may be the parent or guardian who holds the policy, while the beneficiaries would be the spouse and children covered under the plan. It's important to note that the subscriber may or may not be a beneficiary themselves, as they may not require healthcare services or may have coverage through another insurance plan.

Beneficiary in Government-Sponsored Healthcare Programs

In government-sponsored healthcare programs like Medicare and Medicaid, the term beneficiary is commonly used to refer to individuals who are eligible for coverage.

Here's a brief overview of how the term beneficiary applies to these programs:

1. Medicare Beneficiary: In the context of Medicare, a beneficiary is an individual who is eligible for coverage under the federal health insurance program for people aged 65 and older, as well as certain younger individuals with disabilities. Medicare beneficiaries can receive coverage for hospital stays (Part A), medical services (Part B), and prescription drugs (Part D) through various Medicare plans.

2. Medicaid Beneficiary: Medicaid is a joint federal and state program that provides healthcare coverage to low-income individuals and families. In this program, a beneficiary refers to an individual who meets the eligibility criteria set by their state and is entitled to receive healthcare services covered by Medicaid.

Examples of Beneficiaries

To further illustrate the concept of beneficiaries in healthcare RCM, here are a few examples:

1. John is a 70-year-old retiree who is covered under Medicare. He is the primary policyholder and beneficiary of his Medicare plan. When John visits a healthcare provider, he presents his Medicare card, and the provider bills Medicare for the services rendered.

2. Sarah is a single mother with two children. She works full-time and receives health insurance coverage through her employer. Sarah is the subscriber of the insurance plan, while her children are the beneficiaries. When Sarah's children visit a doctor, the provider bills the insurance company under Sarah's policy.

3. Michael is a low-income individual who qualifies for Medicaid coverage in his state. He is considered a Medicaid beneficiary, and when he seeks medical treatment, the healthcare provider bills the state Medicaid program for the services provided.

In each of these examples, the individuals are beneficiaries of their respective healthcare plans or programs, and their eligibility determines the coverage and benefits they receive.


In healthcare revenue cycle management, understanding the term beneficiary is crucial for accurately identifying individuals who are eligible to receive benefits from healthcare insurance plans or programs. Whether it's a government-sponsored program like Medicare or Medicaid or a private insurance plan, the beneficiary is the person for whom healthcare services are provided. Differentiating between beneficiaries and subscribers helps ensure proper billing and reimbursement processes.

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