Appropriate Billing for Ophthalmology Services
Being a Good Partner
The relationship between physicians and hospitals could be described as a symbiotic partnership, that is, a mutually beneficial relationship between different groups. Physicians need hospitals to provide the resources and personnel to care for their patients and hospitals need physicians to refer patients to the hospitals for such care when medically necessary. Physicians direct a patient’s care and decide when and what services are necessary. It also often falls on the physicians’ documentation to support that services and care provided and paid for by Medicare meet the requirements of being medically necessary. Unfortunately for hospitals, it is often their payment at risk if a physician provides a service in the hospital setting that is not medically necessary or fails to document sufficiently to support the medical necessity of the service. Because directing the patient’s care is the physician’s responsibility, many Medicare education resources about compliance are directed to the physicians. Likewise, hospitals must work with physicians to ensure services are appropriately provided and documented. Such is the case for ophthalmology services.
Though a number of ophthalmology services determined by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) to be at risk of “questionable billing” are more likely to be performed in a physician office setting, there are also services that could be performed in a hospital setting. Hospitals need to be aware of the concerns and requirements for these types of ophthalmology services.
A December 2014 OIG audit found that Medicare paid $22 million for ophthalmology claims in 2012 that were potentially inappropriate, according to national and local coverage requirements. The three eye conditions for which Medicare pays the most each year are cataracts, wet age-related macular degeneration (wet AMD), and glaucoma. The concerns for inappropriate payments related to these conditions are:
- Medicare has a national requirement stating that it will not routinely cover more than one comprehensive eye examination and scan for beneficiaries whose only diagnosis was cataracts.
- It is medically impossible to perform more than one cataract surgery on the same eye because an eye’s natural lens will never grow back.
- Submitting disproportionately more claims for complex than standard cataract surgery.
- Wet AMD
- Some Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) have local coverage determinations (LCDs) limiting the number of wet AMD diagnostic or evaluation services for which a provider may bill annually.
- Medicare paid providers substantially more for treating wet AMD with the expensive biologic Lucentis instead of other biologic treatments that are similarly effective.
- Some MACs have LCDs specifying that Lucentis injections are not covered more frequently than once per month per eye. These guidelines are in keeping with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved dosing guidelines that Lucentis injections should be administered between once monthly and once every 3 months.
- Medicare has a national requirement that it covers each step of ocular photodynamic therapy only when both steps are performed on the same date. These steps are billed separately, but they must be performed within 30 minutes of one another.
- A national requirement states that Medicare covers either of two types of screening services once every 12 months for beneficiaries at high risk for glaucoma.
A September 2015 follow up OIG report found Medicare paid $171 million for services associated with the measures on which certain providers demonstrated questionable billing.
Prior to these OIG reports, the Recovery Auditors identified overpayments associated to outpatient hospital providers billing more than one unit of cataract removal for the same eye for the same date of service. CMS published MLN Special Edition Article SE1319 in response to these findings. It reminded providers,
“According to the “National Correct Coding Initiative (NCCI) Policy Manual for Medicare Services,” Chapter 8, Section D #3, cataract removal codes are mutually exclusive of each other and can only be billed once for the same eye. Because CPT codes describing cataract extraction (66830-66984) are mutually exclusive of one another, providers may not report multiple codes for the same eye even if more than one technique is used or more than one code could be applicable. Only one code from this CPT code range may be reported for an eye.”
The NCCI Policy Manual chapter and section noted above addresses 25 other correct coding guidelines for ophthalmology services of which providers should be aware.
For another ophthalmology service, CMS clarified in a 2005 ruling that a Medicare beneficiary may request insertion of a presbyopia-correcting intraocular lenses (IOLs) in place of a conventional IOL following cataract surgery. However, if the Medicare patient selects a presbyopia-correcting IOL, he/she is responsible for payment of that portion of the charge for the presbyopia-correcting IOL and associated services that exceed the charge for insertion of a conventional IOL following cataract surgery. The MLN Article describing this ruling included payment policies for facilities and physicians. The policy relevant to hospital services states:
- For an IOL inserted following removal of a cataract in a hospital, on either an outpatient or inpatient basis, that is paid under the hospital outpatient prospective payment system (OPPS) or the inpatient prospective payment system (IPPS), respectively;
- Payment for the IOL is packaged into the payment for the surgical cataract extraction/lens replacement procedure. Medicare does not make separate payment to the hospital for an IOL inserted following removal of a cataract.
- For a presbyopia-correcting IOL inserted following removal of a cataract in a hospital, on either an outpatient or inpatient basis, that is paid under the OPPS or the IPPS, respectively;
- The facility will bill for removal of a cataract with insertion of a conventional IOL, regardless of
- whether a conventional or presbyopia-correcting IOL is inserted.
- When a beneficiary receives a presbyopia-correcting IOL following removal of a cataract, hospitals and ASCs shall report the same CPT code that is used to report removal of a cataract with insertion of a conventional IOL.
- There is no Medicare benefit category that allows payment of facility charges for services and supplies required to insert and adjust a presbyopia-correcting IOL following removal of a cataract that exceed the facility charges for services and supplies required for the insertion and adjustment of a conventional IOL.
- There is no Medicare benefit category that allows payment of facility charges for subsequent treatments, services and supplies required to examine and monitor the beneficiary who receives a presbyopia-correcting IOL following removal of a cataract that exceed the facility charges for subsequent treatments, services and supplies required to examine and monitor a beneficiary after cataract surgery followed by insertion of a conventional IOL.
The article also addresses coding requirements, beneficiary liability and notification requirements for these services.
Both hospitals and physicians must be aware of and follow the Medicare requirements for providing and billing ophthalmology services. Working together to “get it right” keeps the relationship between physicians and hospitals mutually beneficial for both parties and for Medicare.
Article by Debbie Rubio
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.