Emergency Room Services

on Tuesday, 20 February 2018. All News Items | Medicare Coverage | Documentation | Billing

TPE Target and New PEPPER Target Area

“If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.”

-George Bernard Shaw

Probe & Educate Target: Emergency Room Services

This past November, the Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC) WPS announced that they would begin reviewing facilities billing emergency room services (CPT codes 99281-99285) as part of the Targeted Probe and Educate (TPE) review process.

The TPE process includes MACs utilizing data analysis to identify:

  • Providers and suppliers who have high claim error rates or unusual billing practices, and
  • Items or services that have high national error rates and are a financial risk to Medicare.

WPS provides the following guidance in the announcement for a successful review of emergency department visits for facility services (Type A Emergency Rooms):

  • The number and type of interventions under the facility charge,
  • The visit record showing the signs/symptoms that support medical necessity for the interventions, and
  • The internal guidelines used to determine the HCPCS equivalent CPT code (99281-99285) for the hospital resources being billed.

WPS is currently the MAC for Jurisdiction 5 (IA, KS, MO, and NE Providers) and Jurisdiction 8 (IN, MI Providers). For those of you in a different MAC Jurisdiction, take note now as in general when one MAC targets a specific service it is not long before other MACs follow suit.

Are you an Outlier?

The question is, how do your E.R. levels codes compare to other facilities? Now, the Program for Evaluating Payment Patterns Electronic Report for short-term acute care hospitals (ST PEPPER) can assist you in analyzing your volume of emergency room services claims and comparing your data to your state, MAC jurisdiction and at the national level.

As of the 4th Quarter of the 2017 CMS IPPS Fiscal Year (July – September 2017), Emergency Department Evaluation and Management Visits (ED E&M) is a new PEPPER Target Area.

Target areas are approved by CMS because they have been identified as prone to improper payments. The Twenty-fourth Edition of the ST PEPPER User’s Guide notes that “concerns with overuse/misuse of higher level E&M codes have been prevalent for several years. The Office of Inspector General identified increasing trends of E&M coding for higher-level services (https://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-04-10-00180.pdf ) as well as improper payments associated with E&M coding errors (https://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-04-10-00181.pdf).”

PEPPER Recommendations for Outliers?

High Outliers could represent coding and billing errors related to over-coding of CPT code 99285. Appendix 5 of the User’s Guide notes attributes CPT 99285 as when “usually, the presenting problem(s) are of high severity and pose an immediate significant threat to life or physiologic function.” The ST PEPPER recommends reviewing a sample of claims coded to 99285 to validate the code is supported by documentation in the medical record.

Low Outliers could represent coding errors related to under-coding 99285. The ST PEPPER recommends reviewing a sample of claims coded to 99281, 99282, 99283 or 99284 should be reviewed to validate the code level is supported by documentation in the medical record.

Related article about the ST PEPPER: http://www.mmplusinc.com/news-articles/item/pepper-resources-guide-updates.

To learn more about the TPE Review Process visit the CMS TPE webpage at: https://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Monitoring-Programs/Medicare-FFS-Compliance-Programs/Medical-Review/Targeted-Probe-and-EducateTPE.html

Article by Beth Cobb

Beth Cobb, RN, BSN, ACM, CCDS, is the Manager of Clinical Services at Medical Management Plus, Inc.  Beth has over twenty-five years of experience in healthcare including eleven years in Case Management at a large multi-facility health system. 

In her current position, Beth is a principle writer for MMP’s Wednesday@One weekly e-newsletter, an active member of our HIPAA Compliance Committee, MMP’s Education Department Program Director and co-developer of MMP’s proprietary Compliance Risk Assessment (CRA) Tool. You may contact Beth 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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