Tag Archives: Cataract Surgery

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