Compliance Newsletter Addresses RAC Outpatient Billing Errors

on Tuesday, 03 February 2015. All News Items | Recovery Auditor | Outpatient Services | Coding | Billing

Watch Those Definitions!

I love reading, writing and the English language – I am such a grammar geek that I actually belong to a “grammar” blog. In writing, you want to make sure you are choosing your words wisely and appropriately – in other words, definitions matter. As we see in this quarter’s Medicare Compliance Newsletter, definitions also matter when billing for your services to Medicare, especially the definitions related to procedure and diagnosis codes.

Last week we addressed a couple of CERT issues from the January Medicare Quarterly Provider Compliance Newsletter that affected hospital inpatient claims. This week we will look at some deficiencies with outpatient records identified by the Recovery Auditors.

Extracorporeal Photopheresis – CPT 36522

Medicare covers extracorporeal photopheresis (drug and UVA light treatment of white blood cells) only for certain conditions per National Coverage Determination 110.4. This procedure is covered by Medicare for:

  • Palliative treatment of skin manifestations of cutaneous T-cell lymphoma that has not responded to other therapy
  • Patients with acute cardiac allograft rejection whose disease is refractory to standard immunosuppressive drug treatment
  • Patients with chronic graft versus host disease whose disease is refractory to standard immunosuppressive drug treatment

Medicare claims for CPT 36522 must contain one of the following ICD-9 diagnosis codes for the above covered conditions to support medical necessity and be eligible for Medicare payment: 202.10-202.18 and 202.20-202.28, 996.83, or 996.85. A RAC automated review identified overpayments for claims with this service that did not contain an appropriate diagnosis code.

Facet Joint Injections

According to the newsletter, “Medicare will consider facet joint blocks to be reasonable and necessary for chronic pain (persistent pain for three (3) months or greater) suspected to originate from the facet joint.” Due to findings from RAC reviews, Medicare reminds providers about the following facts of facet joint injections:

  • It is expected that facet injections reported with CPT codes 64490-64495 will be performed under fluoroscopic guidance.
  • Multiple nerves innervate each facet joint, but injections are to be reported per facet joint level, not per nerve. Facet joint levels refer to the joints that are blocked and not the number of medial branches that innervate them. For example, CPT codes 64490 and 64493 are used to report all of the nerves that innervate the first level paravertebral facet joint and not each nerve; CPT codes 64491, 64492, and 64494, 64495 report all nerves at the second and third additional levels and not each additional nerve.
  • Codes 64490-64495 are unilateral procedures.
  • Use modifier 50 to report bilateral injections (facet joint injections on both the right and left sides of one level of the spine). If multiple bilateral injections are performed, modifier 50 should accompany each facet CPT joint injection code that was performed on both sides of one level.
  • Only one facet injection code should be reported at a specific level and side injected (e.g., right L4-5 facet joint), regardless of the number of needle(s) inserted or number of drug(s) injected at that specific level.

IV Infusion Units

Providers are to report only one “initial” intravenous infusion code for chemotherapy and therapeutic infusions (CPT codes 96413, 96365, and 96369) per day unless the patient has two different infusion sites or more than one visit on the same day. In the case of two infusion sites or multiple encounters, it is appropriate to append a -59 modifier to the second “initial” service. An initial infusion code is defined in MLN Matters Article MM3818 as the code that “best describes the key or primary reason for the encounter and should always be reported irrespective of the order in which the infusions or injections occur." Also be sure to follow the CPT reporting hierarchy for drug administration codes in selecting the initial service.

Hospitals need to bear in mind that for drug administrations, observation services spanning more than one day are considered one encounter as explained in the Medicare Claims Processing Manual, Chapter 4, section 230:

“Drug administration services are to be reported with a line item date of service on the day they are provided. In addition, only one initial drug administration service is to be reported per vascular access site per encounter, including during an encounter where observation services span more than 1 calendar day.”

As always, it benefits providers to pay attention to the details when billing Medicare – such as the definitions of “initial” infusion and facet joint “level” versus nerve. In coding and billing, definitions matter!

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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