What’s Current in Coding? EZClaim Answers

EZClaim-What's Current In CodingEZClaim is always looking for ways to help our medical billing clients improve. In an effort to further that mission, this month we are kicking off the first in a series called, “What’s Current in Coding.” In this series, we will highlight coding topics, events, webinars, and more, all with the aim of keeping you current in medical billing and coding.

This month our focus came from two articles on coding sourced from the AMBA Newsletter that we feel are hot topics of the industry: “Coding for Group Visits” and the “Telehealth Coding Guide.”

Below you will find full articles and source links.

 

ARTICLE 1: “Coding for Group Visits”
Many physicians are interested in providing group medical visits. Whether the drop-in group medical appointment (DIGMA), chronic care health clinic (CCHC) or other model is delivered, the coding and billing of these services raise questions about codes and payment policies.

While past instruction on coding for group visits often indicated that physicians should report code 99499 for unlisted evaluation and management services, using this code requires that documentation is sent with the claim to identify the service(s) provided and leaves valuing of the service in the hands of the payer.

No official payment or coding rules have been published by Medicare. However, the question of “the most appropriate CPT code to submit when billing for a documented face-to-face evaluation and management (E/M) service performed in the course of a shared medical appointment, the context of which is educational”, was sent to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) with a request for an official response. The request further clarified, “In other words, is Medicare payment for CPT code 99213, or other similar evaluation and management codes, dependent upon the service being provided in a private exam room or can these codes be billed if the identical service is provided in front of other patients in the course of a shared medical appointment?”

The response from CMS was, “…under existing CPT codes and Medicare rules, a physician could furnish a medically necessary face-to-face E/M visit (CPT code 99213 or similar code depending on level of complexity) to a patient that is observed by other patients. From a payment perspective, there is no prohibition on group members observing while a physician provides a service to another beneficiary.” The letter went on to state that any activities of the group (including group counseling activities) should not impact the level of code reported for the individual patient.

Some private payers have instructed physicians to bill an office visit (99201-99215) based on the entire group visit. For compliance purposes, we recommend that you ask for these instructions in writing and keep them on file as you would any other advice from a payer.

Where each individual patient is provided a medically necessary, one-on-one encounter, in addition to the time in the group discussions, there should be no problem in billing for the visit based solely on the documented services provided in a direct one-on-one encounter.

If your group visits include the services of nutritionists or a behavioral health specialist, contact payers to determine if that portion of the group visit can be directly billed by the non-physician provider. This typically would include codes for medical nutrition therapy (97804) or health and behavior intervention (96153).

Other codes that may be applicable are the codes for education and training for patient self-management involving a standardized curriculum (98961-98962). Neither these codes nor medical nutrition or behavioral health therapy are billed by physicians. Physicians must use evaluation and management codes to report these services.

Code 99078 describes physician educational services in a group. Again, it is necessary to contact the payer to verify that coverage of this service is a payable benefit.

As with many services, coding for group visits requires that billing and coding staff do preliminary work with payers to identify desired coding applications.

Source: https://www.aafp.org/family-physician/practice-and-career/getting-paid/coding/group-visits.html

 

ARTICLE 2: “Telehealth Coding Guide”
There’s nothing more frustrating than rendering a service and not being paid. Nuanced coding rules are difficult to understand, and physicians aren’t taught this information in medical school.

Still, health care is a business. As business owners, physicians need to know how they’re paid, including what codes to use, what modifiers to append, and what details to document. Brushing up on common coding mistakes helps avoid costly recoupments and denials. We’ve asked several coding experts to provide their best advice on how physicians can maintain compliance and collect all of the revenue to which they’re entitled.

In part 1 of our two-part coding guide, we focused on coding for Telehealth and other forms of remote patient care — important codes for physician practices’ short-term survival as the U.S. continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Telephone services
In times of social distancing, telephone services have become a practical way to improve patient access and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Telephone services are ideal for straightforward problems (e.g., simple rash, asymptomatic cough, medication refills) that require a minimum of five minutes of medical discussion, says Toni Elhoms, CCS, CPC, chief executive officer of Alpha Coding Experts, LLC, in Orlando, Florida. Consider the following codes that Medicare accepts during the current public health emergency (PHE). Commercial payers may accept these codes, as well. Note that once the PHE has concluded, Medicare may only accept G2012 (virtual check-in) for telephone services.

Elhoms provides these tips to ensure compliance:

  • Document verbal consent, including patient acknowledgment and acceptance of any copayments or coinsurance amounts due.
  • Only count time spent on the phone engaging in medical discussion with the patient or caregiver. Do not report these codes for conversations lasting less than five minutes.
  • Clearly document what was discussed, as well as the outcome of the conversation (e.g., medications prescribed, referrals to specialists, additional steps for the patient to take).
  • Don’t report these codes when the telephone service ends with a decision to see the patient in 24 hours or the next available appointment.
  • Don’t report these codes when the telephone service relates to a related E/M service performed within the previous seven days or within the postoperative period of a previously completed procedure.
  • Only provide 99441-99443 and 98966-98968 for established patients. During the PHE, Medicare permits providers to bill G2012 for new and established patients.

‘The best way to operationalize these codes is to set up an edit in the practice management system that pends claims for a manual review to determine whether and which services are ultimately billable, Elhoms says.

Telehealth services
In the last few months, providers have adopted Telehealth to improve patient access and generate revenue during COVID-19. Among the services physicians can render via Telehealth to patients with Medicare during the current PHE are Medicare annual wellness visits, new and established patient office visits, prolonged services, smoking, and tobacco cessation counseling, annual depression and alcohol screenings, advanced care planning, and more. Medicare covers more than 200 services via Telehealth, many of which were added for temporary coverage during the current PHE. Commercial payer coverage of these services may vary, and it’s best to check with individual payers, Elhoms says.

Elhoms provides these tips for billing Telehealth services:

  • Pay attention to audio-only vs. audio-visual requirements. Medicare requires the use of audio-visual technology for certain Telehealth services and permits audio-only for others. Commercial payers also may have specific requirements. For example, physicians can render a Telehealth visit for advanced care planning using audio-only, but they must use audio-visual technology for a new patient telehealth office visit.
  • Don’t render Medicare’s Initial Preventive Physical Exam via Telehealth. Medicare does not permit it.
  • Document verbal consent for Telehealth, including patient acceptance of any copayments or coinsurance amounts due.
  • Use place of service (POS) code 11 and modifier -95 when billing Medicare. Note that commercial payers may require a different POS code (e.g., POS 2 or POS “other”) and modifier.
  • Document, document, document. Physicians need to prove they met all of the code requirements even when rendering the service via Telehealth, Elhoms says. “Don’t pull in a problem list if you didn’t treat or manage all of those problems,” she adds. “Physicians need to link the diagnosis with the assessment and treatment plan. That’s imperative.” One caveat is that during the current PHE, physicians can bill 99201-99215 rendered via Telehealth based on time or medical decision-making. “The total time in direct medical discussion with the patient is going to be critical,” Elhoms says.

“The best advice I can give anyone doing Telehealth right now is to watch the CMS [Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services] and commercial payer websites pretty much on a daily basis,” says Rhonda Buckholtz, CPC, CPMA, owner of Coding and Reimbursement Experts in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “The coding of services changes constantly, and practices really need to be careful.”

Online digital E/M services
Though online digital E/M services are relatively new, they also can help practices increase patient access during COVID-19. Here’s how it works: An established patient initiates a conversation through a HIPAA-compliant secure platform (e.g., electronic health record portals, secure email, secure texting). A physician or other qualified health care professional reviews the query, as well as any pertinent data and records. Then they develop a management plan and subsequently communicate that plan to the patient or their caregiver through online, telephone, email or other digitally supported communication.

Elhoms provides these tips to maintain compliance:

  • Use these codes when physicians or other qualified health care professionals make a clinical decision that would otherwise occur during an office visit. Do not use them for scheduling appointments or nonevaluative communication of test results.
  • Use these codes only for established patients.
  • Do not use these codes for fewer than five minutes of E/M services.
  • Document verbal consent, including patient acknowledgment and acceptance of any copayments or coinsurance amounts due.
  • Do not report these codes when the online digital E/M service ends with a decision to see the patient in 24 hours or the next available urgent visit appointment.
  • Do not report these codes when the online digital E/M service relates to a related E/M service performed within the previous seven days or within the postoperative period of a previously completed procedure.

Promoting these services is often the biggest barrier, says Elhoms, who suggests putting up signs letting patients know they can access their provider electronically for non-urgent medical issues.

Remote patient monitoring
Remote patient monitoring (RPM) is a relatively easy way for physicians to keep tabs on patients without requiring them to come into the office. Medicare covers RPM for patients with one or more acute or chronic conditions, and commercial payer coverage may vary. During the PHE, physicians can initiate RPM on new and established patients. Normally, Medicare permits it only for established patients.

RPM consists of two forms: monitoring data through either a non-manual or manual data transfer, says Jim Collins, CPC, CCC, a consultant at CardiologyCoder.com, Inc. in Saratoga Springs, New York.

For example, physicians can remotely monitor a patient’s pulse oximetry, weight, blood pressure or respiratory flow rate using a device that transmits daily recordings or programmed alerts. Physicians can purchase them directly from manufacturers or patients can purchase the devices themselves. Collins says patients should look for Bluetooth-enabled devices or ones that include a built-in Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) transmitter. The former requires an Internet connection, and the latter automatically transmits data to an internet cloud service through an encrypted bandwidth. Physicians can bill for the initial setup, cost of the device itself (when applicable), and data monitoring.

Another example is the self-measured blood pressure monitoring. When patients supply their own blood pressure device that a physician calibrates, physicians may be able to bill for patient education, device calibration, reviewing the data that the patient provides and communicating a treatment plan to the patient or caregiver.

“Monitoring physiologic data on a regular basis substantially reduces hospitalizations, trips to the emergency room and exacerbations of chronic conditions,” says Collins. “It can also be a huge chunk of revenue.”

Collins provides these tips for compliant RPM billing:

  • Document patient consent. Patients must opt-in for these services.
  • Document total time spent rendering these services to support time-based requirements.
  • Know when these codes are appropriate. It’s unclear whether Medicare will pay physicians for monitoring physiologic data derived from internal devices (devices placed within the patient’s body) or data derived from wearable fitness devices.
  • Only bill 99457 when the provider renders at least 20 minutes of live, interactive communication with the patient or caregiver. “It’s not going to be medically necessary to spend 20 minutes every month on every patient,” Collins says. “Patients could go for several months without physicians needing to do anything for them.”

Source: https://www.medicaleconomics.com/view/telehealth-coding-guide


 

What’s Current in Coding?” is brought to you by EZClaim, a medical billing solution. To find out if it may work for you, either schedule a one-on-one consultation with their sales team, or download a FREE TRIAL to check it out the software yourself. For additional information right now, view their web site, send an e-mail to sales@ezclaim.com, or contact the sales team at 877.650.0904.

“Health Care PRICE Transparency Act” Proposed

Health Care PRICE Transparency ActA group of senators introduced the “Health Care PRICE Transparency Act in a move to empower patients to lower their healthcare costs.

On a basic level, the Act will require all medical facilities to post payer-negotiated rates for all shoppable services, so the patient can find the most inexpensive way to take care of their medical needs. This legislation will give Americans the chance to see the actual costs of their healthcare visits, which in theory, will increase competition and lower healthcare costs for everyone.  

The added transparency of the Act will bring more accountability and competition to the healthcare industry, and gives American’s more control over their healthcare costs. However, if you are a medical practice, a hospital, or a member of the medical billing community, you need to know how you can best respond.

 

• “What is this procedure going to cost?”: There is going to be mounting pressure on practitioners, medical billers, and hospitals to have answers for the cost of procedures.  Jeff Leibach, a director with Guidehouse’s healthcare strategic solutions team, says that “regardless of the legal fate of the final rule, hospitals need to be prepared for more price transparency in the future.” So, to get in front of this—and help you compete against your competitors—you should be prepared with both what it will cost for individual services and procedures, as well as, a ‘value statement’ on why it will cost what you are charging.

Prepare to Comply or Cover the Costs: As it stands now, the legislation is moving towards technology assisting with the billing transparency. This will aid the patients to better understand the cost of services. This is a ‘clarion call’ for you to begin preparing for this reality or you will struggle with being fined and potentially publicly shamed in publications for being offenders. We recommend starting to comply NOW before the deadline ‘sneaks up’ on you.

Use It To Improve: Currently, healthcare practices are, in many cases, already working at capacity. The added effort of defining cost and selling procedures are enough to make some healthcare facilities put this off until it is too late. Yet, while many may be considering accepting the fines and fees associated with non-compliance, we advise using this as an opportunity to improve—to better establish your medical practice’s services, and promote your ability to be proactive to change. Getting ahead of the coming ‘wave’ of consumer expectations of healthcare will be a benefit.

Seek Out Vendors That Can Assist: The changes that are coming for individual practices and healthcare providers can be overwhelming, and potentially it might just be more than what an IT team or private practice can handle. Forward-thinking billing departments should be investing in software vendors that can help fill that gapEZClaim is a medical billing software company that partners with Trizetto to provide a tool called, Patient Responsibility Estimation (PRE). This tool assists in clarifying costs to consumers by providing a cheap and fast way for them to pay for out-of-pocket costs. [ Click here to learn more about how EZClaim can help you ].

 

It is clear that the expectations of consumers are changing, and the wave of medical transparency is on its way.  Accepting it, preparing for it, and using vendor software to help overcome it, can be the difference of your practice avoiding fines and fees. For those forward-thinking and proactive practices who want to learn about how EZClaim can help, e-mail one of their sales representatives, go to their website for more details, or download a FREE 30-day trial today!

What Will Be New for E/M Coding in 2021?

new for E/M codingSo, it looks that there will be a lot new for E/M coding (Evaluation and Management) in 2021, and practices should start to get ready for it.

Well, it seems the only constant in the world of medical billing is change, and 2020 would only compliment that cliché.  While the chaos of COVID-19 forced many unexpected changes—how you see your patients and bill for services—a bigger change is in the works for 2021. This change will complement the “Patients Over Paperwork” initiative from CMS and the AMA, which has been developed to eliminate “Note Bloat.”  So, since the new year will roll out changes to E/M visits, now is the time to make sure that all parties are prepared for this long overdue and welcome change to medical billing.

Evaluation and management services have been long overdue for an overhaul. The 1995/1997 guidelines were in place well before electronic medical records, and with the growth of EMR’s, the process to document for a specific level required a lot of tedious, unnecessary documentation. (A cursory a look at some of the proposed updates for E/M CPT coding and documentation requirements will verify that!)

 

PROPOSED CHANGES:
History and Examination: While the elements of history and examination that are pertinent to a specific visit shall be recorded, they will no longer be used to ‘score’ the level billed
Code Selection: It will be based on MDM or time
Medical Decision Making: It will still utilize the CMS Table of Risk.  However, the wording and explanations are being updated to provide more concise language. For instance, definitions will now be included to clearly identify subjective wording like “self-limited and stable chronic illness.” The clinical example will likely be removed, and terms are more clearly defined. We will see this same type of clarification in the MDM table. For example, the 2021 guidelines will specify that the amount and/or complexity of data to be reviewed must also include analysis.
Time-based Code Selection: It will also be easier. The guidelines will give specific amounts of time rather than the generic estimate that we currently see attached to E/M codes. Another major advantage to the codes selected based on time, it will now include non face-to-face services. There will also be additional add on codes—in 15-minute increments—if the time has been exceeded for the 99205 or 99215.

 

While changes are daunting, this change will be rewarding from a documentation standpoint. So, if you need help with training your team on these new updates, there are FREE videos available on the AMA website, or you can enlist the help of an independent consultant like RCM Insight.

One way of keeping up with these changes is to use EZClaim’s medical billing software, which is continually updated. For more details, visit their website, ezclaim.com, contact them, or just give them a call at 877.650.0904.

[ Written by Stephanie Cremeans of EZClaim ]

Collecting Payments from Patients. Find Out How.

Collecting Payments from PatientsThe most important thing a medical practice can do for their financial health is collecting payments from patients. So, because patients are not usually savvy when it comes to the nuts and bolts of their contract, they become frustrated when you send them a bill and, beginning on January 1st, your office staff get inundated with the question, “Why do I have a balance?”

“Approximately 68% of patients with bills of $500 or less did not pay off the full balance during 2016—up from 53% in 2015 and 49% in 2014.” Source: Patients May be the New Payers, But Two in Three Do Not Pay Their Hospital Bills in Full, TransUnion Healthcare, June 26, 2017

So, let’s make sure your office is equipped and able for collecting payments from patients for the services you rendered, rather than them becoming a part of this scary statistic.

Let’s begin with the basics: Make sure that your staff understands these key terms, and is comfortable explaining them to your patients.

Deductible: The deductible is the amount the patient has to pay for covered services before the insurance plan pays. Some insurance plans will apply an office visit to the deductible, others will not. Family plans typically have an individual and family deductible.

Copay & Coinsurance: These are both the portion the patient will be responsible for after their deductible has been met. Copays are a set, flat fee. Coinsurance is a set percentage that the patient will pay.

Maximum Out-of-Pocket: This is the limit of what a patient will pay for covered services within a plan year. Again, on family plans, there may be an individual max and family max.

Now, keep in mind that your staff will not know the details of your patients’ plans, nor should they be expected to! In the ever-changing world of health insurance, patients need to become better consumers. So, just being able to explain these key terms and why they create a patient balance will help them become better insurance plan shoppers!

Use your tools. Look into using Integrated Eligibility (available through your billing software and your clearinghouse). This will allow your staff to check remaining deductible balances, copay, and coinsurance amounts with the click of a button. These results allow practices to confidently collect at the time of service rather than spending time and money on sending statements and working to collect after the visit.

In addition to that, create a plan and stick to it. Use this time to review the efficiency of your patient collections plan. Are you using an outdated plan or policy? Have you considered offering payment plans to patients with an HSA card kept on file? Make sure that your employees understand how important patient collections are to the practice, educate them on the plan, and support them when they hold patients accountable to the patient collections policy.

 

For more information on how EZClaim can help you with this journey, schedule time with our sales team. Or, if you ready to get started right now, then download your FREE 30-day demo today!

[ Written by Stephanie Cremeans of EZClaim ]

Improve Your Medical Practice Revenue With Payment Options

Improve Medical Practice RevenueEducating patients about their payment options can improve your medical practice revenue.

Imagine for a moment that you are planning to buy a car. Before you even enter a car lot, you do some research on the type of car you need, the features you are looking for, and how much you are able to spend. You might even get an opinion from a friend or check out reviews online.

After you have gathered all the information you need, you feel you are ready to start shopping—and confident that you might even get some new keys by the end of the day.

This is very similar to how most business transactions work: They have a need, they research the best ways to meet their need, and they make a purchase.

However, the healthcare industry doesn’t follow this formula. Your medical practice is a business just like any other, but your customers—aka, patients—often seek out your services not knowing exactly what they will be “buying” from you, nor how much they will be paying. Add in health insurance and surprise bills and you have a confusing hodgepodge of information that calculates the patient’s final bill, which they likely will not see for several weeks.

The current system is inefficient, and it is part of the reason that up to 30% of patient bills go unpaid every year.

Changing the Patient’s Financial Experience
Many practices have improved their revenue flow by simply treating their patients more like customers. In other words, they educate them on the financial side of things, as well as how to manage their health.

In a recent NexTrust webinar, three-quarters of poll respondents (doctors and practice managers) said that they speak to patients about their payment options. Thirty-one percent said that they currently use electronic communications, and only 8% use printed materials (flyers, signs, etc.).

While speaking to patients is a good start, getting payment information in writing is crucial to driving this information home. Patients already have a lot to remember regarding their care. A simple handout on how and when to make their payments can make it much easier for patients to manage their payment responsibility.

Most providers—over 90%—educate patients about how to pay on their statements. It certainly doesn’t hurt to communicate this information this way, but don’t rely on it exclusively. Most people skim the statement to see how much they owe and most miss important instructions.

So, as you educate patients on their payment options, keep these four key areas in mind to improve your medical practice revenue:

1) Set Clear Expectations about Payments
The first step in financially engaging your patients is to remind them you are a business, and that you require regular, on-time payments to keep your doors open. Patients often don’t see their doctors as business owners. A simple statement upfront about your payment expectations encourages patients to be more proactive about paying their bills on time.

2) Educate Patients about Your Payments Process
When patients understand your payments process, they are empowered to be more proactive in participating in it. You know where billing and payments fit into your practice workflow, so make sure patients understand that, too. If you require copays to be paid before a visit, communicate that beforehand so they can be prepared. In addition to that, also communicate clearly about when any remaining balances are due.

3) Push Your Online Payment Options
The best thing you can do to increase payments is to educate patients about their online payment options. Don’t just say “We accept payments online” and leave it at that. Show them where to go to complete payments. Also tell them about the variety of payment options available to them.

For example, EZClaim customers have several online payment options:
• Guest Pay: Patients can quickly pay their balance without having to set up an account
• MyProviderLink.com: If the patient wants access to more features (such as the ability to check their balance without having to call the office or to set up automatic payments), they can register for an account through BillFlash’s payment portal
• LinkPay: The practice sends a payment link to the patient before their visit, so they can pay what they owe before the visit starts
• PlanPay: Split up larger bills into smaller monthly payments

Online payments are the future of healthcare. So, make sure your online payment options are front and center whenever you bill patients. This could include a note in their statement directing them to pay online, handing out instruction cards on how to pay online, and posting signs throughout your office directing patients to your payment portal.

4) Reach Out to Patients You Haven’t Seen Lately
Forty percent of patients defer or skip care because they don’t think they can afford it. Make sure you get the word out to your entire patient base that you can accommodate any patient’s financial circumstances, whether that means setting up a payment plan or delaying payment for a few months. If patients know they have affordable payment options, they will be more likely to seek you out when they need help, rather than going somewhere else or deferring care entirely.

 

Empowering Patients to Take Ownership Over Their Healthcare Bills
Most patients want to pay their medical bills promptly and in full, but being in the dark about what they are being charged for and what their payment options are makes that difficult. The patient financial experience matters, and when you educate your patients on their online payment options and are transparent about costs, they usually respond positively, and you will improve your medical practice revenue.

Learn more about the pay services available to EZClaim customers by visiting their partner’s website, BillFlash.com, or by e-mailing sales@billflash.com.

To learn more about EZClaim’s medical billing software solution, visit their website at EZClaim.com.

[ Written by Angela Carter with BillFlash ]

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