Category Archives: Health Care

Every practice does it…

I was debating continuing the joke into inappropriate-land, but my professionalism got the better of me.

By “IT” I mean, no matter how careful the front desk is, the doctors occasionally see a patient that has an insurance the doctor is not contracted with. If you have a lot of non-contracted patients slipping through, please read my post on how to run a tight ship at the front desk. The purpose of this article is not to cast blame, but to help you deal with the inevitable insurance fight that will result when this does happen.

Just like all posts, this will have a detailed article and a summary wrap up at the end, and a downloadable guide. If you are looking for particular information, try pressing CTL + F and a little search box will pop up. Put a one to two word search query there and press enter. You should jump directly to the part of the post that applies to you.

The BEST case scenario when you end up with an out of network patient, is that they have a PPO, Managed Care (MC), or Place of Service (POS) plan with out of network benefits. The patient will end up paying more toward their coinsurance or deductible, which, you know, sucks for them, but the allowed amount for the provider will be the same as the in network rate.

If the non-contracted insurance is an EPO, the patient has no out of network benefits. No matter how much you appeal, you will not get any payment from this insurance. Now you have to break out your flow chart. If the patient doesn’t have anything secondary to their EPO, you bill them your cash price. Or the full price. Whatever. You do you. If the patient does have a secondary, you send a claim to the secondary with a copy of the primary denial and hopefully you are contracted with them.

Here is where it gets a little complicated. If the patient has a commercial HMO, there are a ton of rules the IPA will cite in order to deny your claim. And, if the patient does not have a secondary insurance, you can decide how much effort you are going to put in trying to get the insurance to pay your claim. You can bill the patient right away or you can appeal the charge to the non-contracted IPA. I, personally, will fight with the insurance company for a couple of rounds before I bill the patient. A patient who has insurance is very unlikely to pay your bill, even if they legitimately owe it. A patient who has an HMO generally has less money in their budget then someone who has a PPO or EPO and is even less likely to pay your statement. Here are your options with a commercial HMO patient.

  1. You are a family practice/internal med contracted with the IPA, but you are not the PCP. Unfortunately, in this case, there is probably not much you can do. You can try sending a claim to the claims department with the medical records and a letter requesting retro authorization. Here is an example of a letter requesting retro authorization. You would update the letter to explain what happened in your case. I have not had much success in convincing the insurance to pay in this situation. Mostly because the IPA has ALREADY paid the other provider their cap for that patient for the month. They are not going to pay you another cap payment, and they REALLY don’t want to pay you fee for service. 
  2. You are a family practice/internal med and you are not contracted with the IPA. You have a better shot in this situation getting a retro auth from the insurance. You would use the same type of letter as in the above example. I have about a 70% success rate when this happens. 
  3. You are a specialist and you did not get an authorization. Whether or not you are contracted, you have about the same chance of getting paid if you did not get a prior auth or single case agreement. You write a letter to convince the insurance that the services were medically necessary, or urgent. 

One of the most complicated situations arises when a patient comes in and hands you a Medicare card, but it turns out they actually have a Medicare Risk HMO plan. If the patient does not have a secondary, you would handle the charge in one of the ways outlined above. However, most of our patients with MR Risk HMO plans, also have Medicaid secondary (called Medi-Cal here in California). If your provider is contracted with Medi-Cal you are not allowed to bill a patient under any circumstances. It does NOT matter that the patient went to the wrong doctor, it does NOT matter that they gave you the wrong insurance, it does NOT matter that they specifically withheld information regarding a primary insurance, it does NOT matter that the insurance they became effective with on the first of the month when you saw them is not one you are contracted with, it does NOT matter that you requested an urgent auth and the insurance denied it. Medi-Cal does not care. My out of state readers will have to let me know if your Medcaid works the same way, but that is how it works here. Also, Medi-Cal has been forcing people into HMOs as well. So what often happens, is that a supposedly straight MR patient comes in, you bill MR and they deny it stating the patient has an HMO. You can’t send that denial to Medicaid because the secondary is also an HMO and you are not the PCP. And, unlike in the previous situations, you are not allowed to bill the patient. 

Here is an example of a letter that I have successfully used to get payment from an IPA in this exact situation. 

I have added all the letters to the links and tools page, and I have created this Downloadable non-contracted patient guide, to help you easily determine what you need to send where in which situation. If you need help with your specific patient, and your specific situation, send me an email.

If your office needs training or consulting or an audit, or if you decide that all of this is too much hassle and you want to pay someone else to do it for you, you can give me a call (909) 374-5439. I am awesome at this stuff. All the partners in New Generation are awesome at this stuff, actually, and we will train, consult, or bill, well, awesomely.

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Filed under Accounts receivable, Authorizations, Billing, Denials, Doctor's Office, Follow up, Health Care, HMO, Medical Billing

Medicare Unlikely Edits – or – The Rules Private Insurances Quote to Deny Your Claims

I recently billed an extended ophthalmoscopy to Blue Cross. What does this have to do with the Medicare Unlikely Edits you ask? Not much, just an intro. If you want to get right into it, skip down to the second paragraph. OK, back to the story. As those of you who bill for an ophthalmologist know, we used two line items of the 92225 with the RT/LT modifiers. Blue Cross paid the 92225 RT but denied my charge for the 92225 LT stating that according to the Medicare Unlikely Edits, only one unit of that code was allowed per day.

OK. Two things.

  1. Why is it ALWAYS Blue Cross? Seriously, Aetna doesn’t give me these kinds of problems.
  2. I am 100% sure that the Medicare Unlikely Edits realize that people have TWO eyes and TWO units of that code are allowed per day. Now I need to look up the table, verify that information, and deconstruct the CMS terminology to write my appeal letter.

The Medicare Unlikely Edits (MUE) are a table of guidelines that CMS puts out to indicate how many units of any given service are allowed for a single date of service. Here is a link to the MUE page on the CMS site. And, to make your life much easier, here is the MUE Table. The table has the CPT/HCPCS code in the first column, the Practicioner Services MUE Values in the second column, the MUE adjudication indicator in the third column, and the “MUE Rationale” in the fourth column. There is a fair amount of terminology that CMS made up specifically for these guidelines, and there is a PDF file 43 pages long that explains what that terminology means. But I am going to give you the cliff notes version, directly from the CMS manual.

Practicioner Services MUE Values = Maximum number of units allowable for a single beneficiary on a single date of service.

MUE adjudication indicator = Claim line or date of service edit. 1 = claim line edit, 2 & 3 = DOS edit.

  • A claim line edit means that appropriate modifiers ( e.g. 59, 76, 77, 91, anatomic) can be used to report the same code on separate lines of the claim. Example: A patient is in the emergency room with an asthma attack and he gets a breathing treatment. You use 94644 for the first hour, and up to two units of 94645 for the next two hours and the patient is no longer wheezing. However, before being discharged, he starts having another attack. You bill an additional line item of 94645 with the 76 or 77 modifiers with up to two additional units.
  • Indicator 2 means that there is no situation ever in which more than the indicated number of units would ever be payable. For example, in my situation, the code 92225 has an indicator of two. That is because every person in the world has a maximum of two eyes and there is no situation in which an insurance would need to pay for more than two units for a single patient one one visit.
  • Indicator 3 means that it is “possible but medically highly unlikely that higher values would represent correctly reported medically necessary services.” So, you do have some room to appeal with these codes if you can prove the services were medically necessary.

MUE Rationale = The criteria CMS used to determine the number of units allowed for each service. **Warning* Giant list of terminology ahead**

  • Anatomic considerations – A limit on the number of units based on anatomic structures. Ex: CPT 24357 – Tenotomy of the elbow, This code has a max of two units allowable, because each person has a max of two elbows.
  • Code descriptor/CPT Instruction – A limit on the number of units based on coding instructions directly from the CPT manual. Ex: CPT 73565. The CPT description says “Radiologic examination, knee; both knees, standing, anteroposterior” and the total number of units allowed is one. The one code already includes both knees for a single unit, so no additional units are payable. Unless the test had to be re-done for some medically necessary reason. Which you would then have to prove.
  • CMS Policy – A limit on the number of units based on established CMS guidelines. Those policies and guidelines can be found on the Medicare Coverage Database
  • Nature of an analyte – A limit on the number of units based on one of the following three factors:
    1. The nature of the specimen may limit the units of service – Ex: a test requiring a 24-hour urine specimen
    2. The nature of the test may limit the units of service – Ex: a test that requires 24 hours to perform.
    3. The physiology, pathophysiology, or clinical application of the analyte is such that a maximum unit of service
      for a single date of service can be determined. Ex: the MUE for RBC folic acid level is one since the test would only be necessary once on a single date of service.
  • Nature of service/procedure – A limit on the units of service, determined in general by the amount of time required to perform a service. Ex: an overnight sleep study
  • Nature of equipment – A limit on the units of service, determined in general by the number of items of equipment that would be utliized. Ex: cochlear implants

So, when I look up the code 92225 here is what I see:

CPT     MUE Values     MUE Adjudication Indicator    MUE Rationale

92225                   2                   2 Date of Service Edit: Policy         CMS Policy

This means that for CPT code 92225 a provider can bill two units of the service, and that is per CMS policy. So, now I can write an appeal to Blue Cross, with a copy of that line of the table, and a letter stating “As you can see, per CMS policy, two units of 92225 are reasonable and customary. Since you are adhering to the Medicare Unlikely Edits, please reprocess and pay line item 92225 LT.”

I hope you can use this as an additional weapon in our never ending war against the insurance companies. As always, if you need any additional help, want to set up a training for your office, or are so touched by my helpfulness and eloquence that you would like to thank me personally (j/k) please call (909) 374-5439 or email newgenerationbilling@gmail.com.

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Filed under Health Care, Medical Billing, Medicare

Modifiers 24 and 79

A few months ago we had to do some training on our ophthalmologist account regarding when to bill the 24 modifier versus the 79 modifier in the global period to a surgery or in-office procedure. I figure, if our employees are having questions, some of you might be too, and I want you to get the maximum reimbursement for your services. First, the exact descriptions of the modifiers from the CPT book:

24 – Unrelated Evaluation and Management Service by the Same Physician or Other Qualified Health Care Professional During a Post-operative Period:
The physician or other qualified health care professional may need to indicate that an evaluation and management service was performed during a postoperative period for a reason(s) unrelated to the original procedure. This circumstance may be reported by adding modifier 24 to the appropriate level of E/M service.

79 – Unrelated Procedure or Service by the Same Physician or Other Qualified Health Care Professional During the Postoperative Period:
The individual may need to indicate that the performance of a procedure or service during the postoperative period was unrelated to the original procedure. This circumstance may be reported by using modifier 79. (For repeat procedures on the same day, see modifier 76.)

Many of our doctors do both minor and major surgeries, and we all know that patients need to come back in for follow up care on their various incisions, wounds, and ulcers to make sure everything is healing properly. The insurance companies will not pay for these follow up visits, or any visit done in a certain amount of time after the procedure without the proper modifiers as they consider the follow up visit to be an integral part of the original procedure. This time period is called the global period and the length of time varies depending on the procedure performed.  The issue with this no-payment rule comes in when the doctor diagnosis the patient with something additional during the follow up visit, or the patient needs another procedure. At that point, the doctor needs to do a complete visit including review of systems and exam and make a medical decision, and we can all agree that she should be paid for that. Here is how you get her paid. Modifier 24 goes on the office visit and you make sure you have a primary diagnosis that is different than the diagnosis on the original procedure. If the patient needs any in-office procedures, put a 79 on the procedure and make sure the diagnosis is different than the one on the original procedure. If the patient needs another major surgery in that time period, unrelated to the original, use modifier 79 as the first modifier on the surgery.  Just to avoid confusion, whether you use the modifier 24 or the modifier 79, the modifier would go on the visit subsequent to the surgery or in-office procedure.

To answer a popular question, yes, you can use modifier 79 when you are billing for the same surgery on a different body part. For example, if the patient had a cataract surgery on the left eye in January and he is getting cataract surgery on his right eye in February, you can use the same diagnosis of cataracts, the same CPT code for the surgery, and add the 79 modifier. Here is how that would look:

Date                          ICD9 code            CPT Code    Modifiers

01/13/14                 366.17                    66984             LT

02/18/14                366.17                    66984              79    RT

As for using the 24 modifier, there are all kinds of good, justifiable reasons to bill with that modifier and get your office visit paid separately. Here are just a few:

1) Patient is requesting a refill on medication for her chronic condition (hypertension, diabetes, hypothyroidism, migraines, neuralgia)

2) The patient came in with an unrelated chief complaint on his follow up visit

3) Patient came in for the follow up and the doctor identified symptoms of something else during the exam

This is by no means a comprehensive list, so if you are not sure whether or not your particular patient meets the requirements for using a 24 on the office visit, send me a quick email and I’ll let you know how I would bill it. Here is an example of how a charge like that would look.

Date                          ICD9 code                             CPT Code    Modifiers

01/13/14                  366.17                                    66984             LT

02/18/14                 250.60    362.01                  99214             24

I also have another chart for you (I love charts!) detailing the global period for each procedure. It is LONG. I do not suggest you print this one out, but save it on your own computer for reference. Oh, and, the global period for any given code is either going to be 10 days or 90 days, if it has one at all. FYI. As always, I saved the chart to my Links and Tools page for you.

EDIT: Just a quick FYI, global surgery rules do not apply to assistant surgeons. So, anyone who is billing a code for a provider assisting with a surgery, these rules don’t actually apply to you. Just go ahead and use modifiers 80-82 the way you’ve been doing. In fact, if we do send in a claim with modifier 79 (or 78 for that matter), the claim will actually be returned as unprocessable. Thank you, Adam, for helping to clear up the confusion.

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Filed under Billing, Claims, CPT, Doctor's Office, Follow up, Health Care, ICD9, Medical Billing, Modifiers, Office Visit

Quick Workers Comp Tools

Have you ever wished that you could have a list of all the lists and tools and links you need for Workers Comp in one place? Well now you can! You’re welcome.

Doctor’s First Report

PR-2 Report

OMFS Schedule

OMFS DME Prices

NDC Numbers for substances

OMFS Fee schedule for pharmeceuticals

EAMS

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Filed under Claims, CPT, Doctor's Office, Follow up, Health Care, Medical Billing, OMFS, Workers Compensation

Everything you ever wanted to know about pap smears

**DISCLAIMER**  

***This post was written in 2014 and the rules have changed since then. I am going to be putting up a new post with the new rules updated to ICD10 very soon. There are some major changes to the way the insurances accept the charges and this an old post with the old rules. If you have any questions, and can’t wait for the new post, please email me directly and I will try and help you out.*** 

The first thing about paps is that every insurance pays them differently. To tell the truth, I don’t have most of it memorized. What I do have is a binder, with one page per insurance, and all of the pap rules are laid out there, in alphabetical order.

Of course, I’m going to give those to you. I suggest you do what I do and put them all in a three ring binder. However, I can only give you the PPO pap smear rules, because your HMO contracts will not be the same as the contracts for my doctors. I can show you a few of my HMO rules, though, so when/if you make your own reference sheets you know what the necessary information is.

You CAN get an office visit and a pap smear paid on the same date on the same claim. You just need to use proper modifiers. Also, most insurances allow patients to self refer for their annual exam, so you shouldn’t have to worry about authorizations.

Here are the Pap rules for PPO insurances. For your HMO insurances, all you need to do is call the provider relations department and get a copy of the doctor’s contract. The contract will be fairly short, and very clear about which codes are paid. However, you will need to ask the provider relations people which diagnosis they need to see on the claims.

If you want to review the high risk rules you can find those on the MR website. Here is a link, for the curious.

Remember to follow the blog; you’ll get an email every time I get a new post up. Also, if you have a specific question, please don’t hesitate to email me.

 

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Filed under Billing, Claims, CPT, Doctor's Office, Health Care, ICD9, Medical Billing, Modifiers, Pap smears, Well woman exam

Please post your payments

This is along the lines of the cash in the office post. One of my doctors has lost an insane amount of money, and I would like you all to learn from his mistake.

I have a small Internal Med with an emphasis in Cardiology in Montclair. I go to their office once a week, after hours, and do all the charges and claims in about an hour. This isn’t bragging, they are small, and I am fast, and they only have me enter charges and send electronic claims. I have been doing their billing for four years and, until recently, I had never even seen one of their EOBs. They don’t want to pay me to post the payments, because they think it will cost them too much money.

I finally signed them up for a user name and password on the Online Provider Services Medicare website, against the office manager’s strenuous objections. On the first EOB I pull up, I immediately notice that ALL the EKGs I billed had been translating as 93005 instead if 93000.  The reimbursement for a 93005 is $8.93 (allowed $11.16 minus the 20% coinsurance) and the reimbursement for the 93000 is $15.14 (allowed $18.93 less $3.79 for the coinsurance). That means my Internal Med has been losing $6.21 on every EKG for at least the last four years. He probably does 20 EKGs per week. So, ($6.21) x (20 EKGs per week) x (52 weeks) x (4 years) = $25,833.60. This does not account for the fact that over the last four years Medicare reimbursements have been decreasing.

Even after this, I have not been able to convince them that it would be more cost efficient in the long run to have me post the payments as well as the charges. Please, please, please use this as a warning and properly reconcile your EOBs with your payments. Every EOB for every charge.

Also, do it by line item and not by charge, because it is too easy to miss something important. Something like this.

$25k. Gah.

P.S. If you have any questions about what you should be getting paid for things, use the Medicare Fee Schedule Look-Up. Most companies will pay a similar amount, so you are mostly safe using that as a standard.

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Filed under Accounts receivable, Billing, Claims, CPT, Denials, Doctor's Office, Follow up, Health Care, Medical Billing, Medicare, Office policy, Uncategorized