2015 Drug Screening Codes

on Monday, 01 December 2014. All News Items | Outpatient Services | Coding | Billing

How Complex Can It Get?

We may not know if the testing method for drug screening is classified as moderate or high complexity without looking it up, but I bet everyone will agree that the process of selecting the correct CPT/HCPCS codes for drug screen billing is highly complex.

CPT made a lot of changes to drug assays, specifically drug screening and definitive testing of non-therapeutic drugs, for 2015. And to complicate things even further, Medicare is not accepting the new CPT codes and has established some new HCPCS codes for drug identifications. Medical Management Plus will be covering the drug assay code changes in our coding webinar on December 4, 2014 in more detail, but here is a summary of the major changes.

Instead of classifying drug assays by qualitative versus quantitative, CPT now has three types of drug assays:

  1. Presumptive drug assays to detect the possible presence of a drug by simpler testing methods,
  2. Definitive drug assays that provide specific identification of individual drugs using complex testing methods, and
  3. Therapeutic drug assays to monitor clinical response to a known, prescribed medication.

The assignment of CPT codes for presumptive drug assays are based on the drug classification into one of two drug class lists developed by CPT and the complexity of the testing methods. Drug class list A includes drugs generally considered drugs of abuse and identified by simpler testing methods such as optical observation and chemistry analyzer immunoassay or enzyme assay. Drug class list B includes drugs such as acetaminophen, salicylates, etc. and involves most complex immunoassay analyzer or chromatography methods. The CPT codes for drug screening are:

  • CPT 80300 - Drug screen, any number of drug classes from Drug Class List A; any number of non-TLC devices or procedures, (eg immunoassay) capable of being read by direct optical observation, including instrumented-assisted when performed (eg, dipsticks, cups, cards, cartridges), per date of service
  • CPT 80301 - Drug screen, any number of drug classes from Drug Class List A; single drug class method, by instrument test systems (eg, discrete multichannel chemistry analyzers utilizing immunoassay or enzyme assay), per date of service
  • CPT 80302 - Drug screen, presumptive, single drug class from Drug Class List B, by immunoassay (eg, ELISA) or non-TLC chromatography without mass spectrometry (eg, GC, HPLC), each procedure
  • CPT 80303 - Drug screen, any number of drug classes, presumptive, single or multiple drug class method; thin layer chromatography procedure(s) (TLC) (eg, acid, neutral, alkaloid plate), per date of service
  • CPT 80304 - Drug screen, any number of drug classes, presumptive, single or multiple drug class method; not otherwise specified presumptive procedure (eg, TOF, MALDI, LDTD, DESI, DART), each procedure

For Medicare, drug screening codes are the same as last year. Although the description for high complexity lists immunoassay and enzyme assay, most immunoassay and enzyme assay methods are actually moderate complexity tests. Test complexity is determined by the FDA and is listed on their website. Laboratory personnel can help in determining the complexity of drug screen tests that your hospital performs. Medicare’s HCPCS code definitions are:

  • HCPCS G0431 - Drug screen, qualitative; multiple drug classes by high complexity test method (e.g., immunoassay, enzyme assay), per patient encounter
  • HCPCS G0434 - Drug screen, other than chromatographic; any number of drug classes, by CLIA waived test or moderate complexity test, per patient encounter

Both CPT and Medicare developed new codes for individual non-therapeutic drug assays. The new CPT codes are CPT codes 80320 – 80377. CPT clarifies that these codes are to be used for complex definitive methods such as those involving mass spectrometry and specifically excludes immunoassay and enzyme assay testing methods. The new HCPCS codes describing individual drug assays accepted by Medicare for 2015 are HCPCS codes G6030 – G6058. So far Medicare has not provided any guidance on the use of these codes, such as if they are limited to particular testing methodologies.

Because of differences in the basis of the code descriptions, it will not be easy to cross-walk the CPT codes and the Medicare HCPCS codes. We also will have to wait and see if Medicare issues any guidance, particularly for the use of the individual drug codes. The chart below provides some suggestions on cross-walking the drug screening codes.


CPT Code

Medicare HCPCS Code


Complexity Comment

80300 G0434 Optical observation Usually waived or moderate complexity
80301 G0434 (or G0431) Analyzer immunoassay or enzyme assay Most moderate complexity; some may be high complexity
80302 G0431, G0434 or G6030-G6057 More complex immunoassay or non-TLC chromatography May be moderate or high complexity methods; may be appropriate to use G6030-G6057 individual drug code
80303 ?? Thin layer chromatography Complexity? No Medicare chromatographic code for moderate complexity


As high complexity is a determining factor in drug testing, it also appropriately describes the process of determining which codes to use for billing. This year, it just seems to become even more complex and even worse, Medicare is packaging the payment for all drug screening codes. All of this work and brain drain for no reward!!

Article by Debbie Rubio

Debbie Rubio, BS, MT (ASCP), is the Manager of Regulatory Affairs and Compliance at Medical Management Plus, Inc. Debbie has over twenty-seven years of experience in healthcare including nine years as the Clinical Compliance Coordinator at a large multi-facility health system. In her current position, Debbie monitors, interprets and communicates current and upcoming regulatory and compliance issues as they relate to specific entities concerning Medicare and other payers. You may contact Debbie at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

This material was compiled to share information. MMP, Inc. is not offering legal advice. Every reasonable effort has been taken to ensure the information is accurate and useful.

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