Rule-Out, Probable, and Possible: Importance in Documentation Guidelines Friday, Dec 19 2014 

Rule outRule out: Term used in medicine, meaning to eliminate or exclude something from consideration. For example, a normal chest x-ray may “rule out” pneumonia.

Many of us in health care have always heard the directive “never code a rule-out, possible, or probable”, which is true for coding the diagnosis! However, when coding for Evaluation & Management, it is extremely helpful to document any illnesses/injuries that the physician is ruling out because that will support the physician’s medical decision making and will guide the non-clinical/administrative personnel in the physician’s thought processes.

In the “Medical Decision Making-Diagnoses or Management Options” section of the Documentation Guidelines, CMS specifically states, “For a presenting problem without an established diagnosis, the assessment or clinical impression may be stated in the form of differential diagnoses or as a “possible”, “probable”, or “rule out” (R/O) diagnosis.” (http://www.cms.gov/Outreach-and-Education/Medicare-Learning-Network-MLN/MLNProducts/downloads/eval_mgmt_serv_guide-ICN006764.pdf ; page 44)

In addition, CMS states, in the same document (page 43):

C. DOCUMENTATION OF THE COMPLEXITY OF MEDICAL DECISION MAKING
The levels of E/M services recognize four types of medical decision making (straightforward, low complexity, moderate complexity and high complexity). Medical decision making refers to the complexity of establishing a diagnosis and/or selecting a management option as measured by:
the number of possible diagnoses and/or the number of management options that must be considered;”

I highly encourage all physicians and mid-level providers to include their thought processes in their documentation guidelines. Remember, many of the “bean-counters” that decide the appropriateness of your documentation are not clinical!

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What Insurance Companies Don’t Want You to Know! Friday, Oct 26 2012 

Finally! A long awaited and much anticipated book about ERISA by two well-respected leaders in the health care industry! This book will provide the secrets in getting claims paid, how to fight denials, and halt recoupments using the features within the ERISA regulations.

This is a must buy! Quite frankly, this is important even if you are a layperson covered under your employer’s group health plan! These are the secrets that your insurance company doesn’t want you or your doctor’s office to know!

Book Description

Publication Date: October 15, 2012
New book helps medical practices use the secrets within the ERISA regulations to their benefit to increase practice profitability The Medical Practice Guide to ERISA: Employee Retirement Income Security Act The Federal law ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act) helps the majority of medical practices make carriers pay on claims that are now being denied, delayed and recouped. Only a small percentage of practices understand how ERISA works — yet with this new book, ERISA could possibly become a practice’s best friend! ERISA is complex and most medical practices, “Don’t know what they don’t know when it comes to dealing with ERISA!” Practices are in the dark in understanding how to protect their employer’s rights in collecting the monies owed them. ERISA regulates the practice s health benefits, health benefit payments, EOBs, and most importantly, appeal rights Using this book will allow the reader to not only capture the funds on thousands of dollars that the carriers are now unfairly denying, but will empower the reader to stop the unfair recoupments, illegal timely filing and improper appeal periods that carriers mistakenly quote to physicians and hospital offices. The authors map out the smart but ingeniously simple tactics that practices can use to force insurance carriers to honor their responsibilities on the policies owned by patients — and to convince the carriers to adhere to what the policies actually require them to cover. Providing an overview of the ERISA law, the Self/Verno book provides tips, tools and techniques to leverage ERISA for practice advantage. They take a close look at real-world ERISA situations, violations and outcomes. Armed with this roadmap, physicians and executive staff can better put their resources to work– leveraging ERISA to improve practice profitability. Noteworthy Features Clear Roadmap Written in layman’s terms so practice leaders can immediately begin to implement a strategy of getting claims paid, how to fight denials and halt recoupments. Practical Guidance Includes real world examples and case studies of how medical practices can use the ERISA rules to work for them. Also included is practical information on how to use the ERISA website and answers to the most frequently asked questions about ERISA. Templates to Get You Started Sample letters (describing exact situations and how they can be handled) will get you started and help your practice take control of the process. Selected Table of Contents Healthcare Basics Definitions Laws Employee Benefits Security Administration: Frequently Asked Questions about ERISA Using ERISA Claims Issues Sample Letters – Timely Filing Denial Response, Refund Demand Layperson Response, Unpaid Claims Letter, Incorrectly Paid Claims Letter, Bundling Denial Letter, Down Coding Letter, Payment to Patient Letter Additional Resources – Helpful Websites, Layperson Documents Authorized Representation, Assignment of Benefit Form

You can purchase through Amazon by clicking on this link:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Medical-Practice-Guide-ERISA/dp/0988304007/ref=pd_rhf_cr_p_t_1

ICD-10-CM implementation date is October 1, 2014 Saturday, Sep 1 2012 

The final rule setting the ICD-10-CM implementation date as October 1, 2014 was released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) on August 24, 2012.

Why am I being Charged for my “FREE” physical? Saturday, Sep 1 2012 

Due to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), or commonly called “Obamacare”, Health Plans are starting to cover Preventive Medicine services at 100% with no copays, coinsurance or deductible. Unfortunately, insurance companies are not informing patients that dealing with medical issues during these preventive medicine visits will result in an out-of-pocket charge that could result in a co-payment, or a substantial out-of-pocket expense if they have not met their deductible. Insurance companies require all services to be itemized and coded appropriately. One of the primary reasons is to prevent the health plans from paying for services that are not covered. Providers cannot code problem visits as preventive because this would be insurance fraud and could result in the insurance company denying the claim, dropping the physician from their network, and/or, if a government plan, the physician can face imprisonment and fines.

This has resulted in patients becoming angry with their doctor’s offices. Many practices are trying to figure out how to deal with this issue. At my practice, we notify patients before their preventive visit by posting signs on the exam room walls and the medical assistant provides a written notification for the patient to sign that they understand the billing policy. We are also trying to have the physician alert the patient, during the preventive medicine visit, when their concerns become a medical visit and may result in an out-of-pocket expense to the patient. Depending on the severity of the patient’s concern, the physician may be obligated to address the medical issue because, if he didn’t, it could result in a bad outcome for the patient. For example, if the patient states that they have been dizzy and having terrible headaches, this could mean that the patient may have a brain tumor or other significant medical issue. If the physician ignored this complaint, it would harm the patient or could harm others if the patient were driving a vehicle and had an episode. In addition, this would easily become a malpractice lawsuit against the physician.

Some physicians have chosen not to do both a preventive medicine visit and a problem visit on the same day. If the patient is scheduled for a wellness visit and a problem comes up, the physician would either make the decision to change the visit to a problem-oriented visit and reschedule the preventive if the problem is high risk; or have the patient return to deal with the problem issue at a later date if the problem is a low risk. This method keeps the appointments separate and easier for the patient to understand the difference. The downside is that it requires the patient to come back for a second visit, taking additional time off work, to deal with something that could have been handled during one visit.

FOBT (Fecal Occult Blood Testing) Coding Fact Sheet Sunday, Aug 12 2012 

Erica Schwalm graciously allowed me to post her coding fact sheet for Fecal Occult Blood Testing. Thank you, Erica!

“My office was having a lot of billing errors related to billing for FOBTs so I made this coding fact sheet to help everyone (physicians and coders) out!  Perhaps it will be of some use to some of you as well.  82270 can NOT be billed for FOBT done via DRE, but 82272 can…  I was seeing a lot of providers trying to bill 82270 with wellness visits when they shouldn’t have been and then, on the other hand, I found many “problem” FOBT’s (82272) that were never billed for when they should’ve been.”

Erica D. Schwalm, CPC, CPC-GENSG, CMRS

http://www.ericacodes.com

FOBT (Fecal Occult Blood Testing) Coding Fact Sheet 

There are two types of FOBT – Screening (82270) & Diagnostic (82272)

1.  The SCREENING test is covered yearly for those aged 50 and over.  This is a preventive test done in the absence of any signs or symptoms.

The patient is given “Stool Cards” to take home and collect three consecutive specimens.  When complete, the pt sends the cards in for testing.  Once testing is complete, then we can bill for CPT code 82270Blood, occult, by peroxidase activity (eg, guaiac), qualitative; feces, consecutive collected specimens with single determination, for colorectal neoplasm screening (ie, patient was provided 3 cards or single triple card for consecutive collection).

We cannot bill for the test when the pt is given the cards, only once they are returned and interpreted.

We cannot bill for screening FOBT when done during a rectal exam because only one sample is tested.  This does not meet the qualification for the code.  This method is considered to be included in the payment for the office visit.

The only acceptable diagnosis for this is V76.51 (Screening for colorectal cancer)

 

2.  The DIAGNOSTIC test is covered when medically necessary for signs & symptoms without regard to patient age or frequency limitations.

The patient may be given “Stool Cards” to take home and collect 1 – 3 specimens.  When complete, the pt sends the cards in for testing. Once testing is complete, then we can bill for CPT code 82272Blood, occult, by peroxidase activity (eg, guaiac), qualitative, feces, 1-3 simultaneous determinations, performed for other than colorectal neoplasm screening.

In some situations, the physician may perform the test during a rectal exam (e.g. pt comes in c/o abdominal pain and tarry stools, physician would need to know immediately if there is active GI bleed).  Unlike code 82270, this one CAN be billed even when only one specimen is tested.

Do not use a v-code.  Use the sign or symptom(s) that prompted the test (e.g. rectal bleed, abdominal pain, etc.)

HHS PROPOSES ONE-YEAR DELAY OF ICD-10 COMPLIANCE DATE Monday, Apr 9 2012 

For Immediate Release: Monday, April 09, 2012
Contact: CMS Office of Public Affairs
202-690-6145

HHS PROPOSES ONE-YEAR DELAY OF ICD-10 COMPLIANCE DATE

(CMS-0040-P)

Action

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today announced a proposed rule that would delay, from October 1, 2013 to October 1, 2014, the compliance date for the International Classification of Diseases, 10th Edition diagnosis and   procedure codes (ICD-10).

The ICD-10 compliance date change is part of a proposed rule that would adopt a standard for a unique health plan identifier (HPID), adopt a data element that would serve as an “other entity” identifier (OEID), and add a National Provider Identifier (NPI) requirement.   The proposed rule was developed by the Office of E-Health Standards and Services (OESS) as part of its ongoing role, delegated by HHS, to establish adopt standards for electronic health care transactions under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).   OESS is part of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

Background

On January 16, 2009, HHS published a final rule to adopt ICD-10 as the HIPAA standard code sets to replace the previously adopted ICD–9–codes for diagnosis and procedure codes (see HIPAA Administrative Simplification;  Modifications to Medical Data Code Set Standards to Adopt ICD-10-CM and ICD-10-PCS,  74 FR 3328). The compliance date set by the final rule was October 1, 2013.

Implementation of ICD-10 will accommodate new procedures and diagnoses unaccounted for in the ICD-9 code set and allow for greater specificity of diagnosis-related groups and preventive services.  This transition will lead to improved accuracy in reimbursement for medical services, fraud detection, and historical claims and diagnoses analysis for the health care system.  Many researchers have published articles on the far-reaching positive effects of ICD-10 on quality issues, including use of specific reasons for patient non-compliance and detailed procedure information by degree of difficulty, among other benefits.

Some provider groups have expressed serious concerns about their ability to meet the October 1, 2013 compliance date.   Their concerns about the ICD-10 compliance date are based, in part, on implementation issues they have experienced meeting HHS’ compliance deadline for the Associated Standard Committee’s (ASC) X12 Version 5010 standards (Version 5010) for electronic health care transactions.  Compliance with Version 5010 is necessary prior to implementation of ICD-10.

All covered entities must transition to ICD-10 at the same time to ensure a smooth transition to the updated medical data code sets.   Failure of any one industry segment to achieve compliance with ICD-10 would negatively impact all other industry segments and result in rejected claims and provider payment delays.   HHS believes the change in the compliance date for ICD-10, as proposed in this rule, would give providers and other covered entities more time to prepare and fully test their systems to ensure a smooth and coordinated transition among all industry segments.

Provisions of the proposed rule announced today

HHS is proposing to change the ICD-10 compliance date to October 1, 2014.

As stated, the ICD-10 compliance date change is part of a proposed rule that would adopt a standard for a unique health plan identifier (HPID), adopt a data element that would serve as an “other entity” identifier (OEID), and add a National Provider Identifier (NPI) requirement.

Standards compliance date

HHS proposes that covered entities must be in compliance with ICD-10 on October 1, 2014.

The proposed rule, CMS-0040-P, may be viewed at www.ofr.gov/inspection.aspx.

A news release on the proposed rule may be viewed at http://www.hhs.gov/news.

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I’d rather buy a month’s worth of Starbucks than…pay my doctor bill Wednesday, Jul 6 2011 

One of the biggest frustrations we have in the health care industry is due to patients not understanding their own health insurance benefits. Oftentimes, patients think that just because they carry insurance, that means that everything is covered and they don’t have to pay anything. Patients receive health care service and a month later they discover that their insurance doesn’t cover that particular service; however, instead of accepting the responsibility of paying, many patients fight, demand, and threaten the physician’s office staff to make the balance go away.

This phenomenon has gotten worse in the past twenty years or so. I subscribe to the theory that much of this mentality is due to the inception of HMO’s. In the beginning, HMO’s had either zero patient financial responsibility, or an exceptionally low out-of-pocket cost. People have been conditioned in thinking that health care is an entitlement. After about a decade, due to insurance companies (and employer groups) not being able to withstand the expense of higher utilization of “free” health care, they began to make the consumer more responsible by charging higher co-pays and not covering certain services. Unfortunately, most Americans expect the same Cadillac coverage without any additional expense (beyond their insurance premium and co-pay).

A major challenge in physician practices is to help their patient’s understand their insurance company’s reimbursement policies, all the while maintaining good will. Physicians are finding themselves having to develop various financial informed consent forms to assure that the patient understands that they may be responsible for some of the cost. Medicare has required this, in the form of Advanced Beneficiary Notices (ABN), for years.  Even so, we often hear patients state, “I signed it but didn’t read it.”  Or, “I was afraid if I didn’t sign it that I wouldn’t get the service.” Perhaps the days of accountability are long gone.

One of the biggest threats we hear from patients is that they will leave our practice if we don’t write off their balance. Not much that you can do about that. Health care is a business and we cannot pay the bills with altruism. In addition, it is fraud to bill the insurance company for services and write off the patient’s responsibility. Aside from financial hardship cases, routine adjustments of patient responsibility can get a physician excluded and/or fined by the government when it is a government program such as Medicare or Medicaid. Worst case scenario for commercial insurance is the insurance company dropping the physician from their network.

With lower reimbursements, practices really need to devote more energy in collecting all revenues due. The average overhead for a primary care physician practice is reaching 60%. There are no government subsidies for physicians, other than rural health care, community health care centers and native american health centers. More and more physicians are closing their offices, retiring early, selling their practices to hospitals, transitioning to concierge medicine, or going to cash only practices. This is devastating to primary care because of the physician shortage; however, many specialists are also getting hit hard as well.

Burn Coding/Rule of Nines Monday, Apr 18 2011 

There are several CPT codes related to burn coding that I want to share with you to enhance your coding and reimbursement. These codes refer to local treatment of burned surface area only. When using these burns codes, remember to document percentage of body surface involved and depth of burn. Remember your “Rule of Nines” in calculating Total Body Surface Area!

  • 16000 Initial Treatment, first degree burn, when no more than local treatment is required.
  • 16020 Dressings AND/OR Debridement of partial thickness burns, Initial OR Subsequent; small (less than 5% total body surface area)
  • 16025 Dressings AND/OR Debridement of partial thickness burns, Initial OR Subsequent; medium (e.g. whole face or whole extremity, or 5% to 10% of total body surface area)
  • 16030 Dressings AND/OR Debridement of partial thickness burns, Initial OR Subsequent; large (e.g. more than one extremity, or greater than 10% of total body surface area)

 

These codes can be used in addition to an office visit; however, the office visit must be medically necessary and a modifier -25 must be appended to the office visit. An example of a medically necessary office visit would be to prescribe medications (such as antibiotics and/or pain medication, for example).

Rule of Nines Burn Chart for Adults

Rule of Nines Burn Chart for Infant

Gardasil (HPV Vaccine) approved for boys/young men Sunday, Aug 22 2010 

In the past several years, the FDA has approved new immunizations in an effort to prevent various illnesses, including sexually transmitted diseases that could result in cancer.  Once such vaccine, Gardasil, is “currently is approved for use in girls and women ages 9 through 26 for the prevention of cervical, vulvar and vaginal cancer caused by HPV types 16 and 18; precancerous lesions caused by types 6, 11, 16, and 18; and genital warts caused by types 6 and 11.”  In October 2009, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it approved the use of Gardasil vaccine for boys/men between the ages of 9 and 26 years of age, as well.

According to About.com, in providing Gardasil vaccines to young men, “the result would likely be:

  • less spreading of HPV
  • hopefully, fewer cases of cervical cancer in women
  • perhaps, a decrease in other types of cancer”

HPV can cause genital warts in men that may lead to several types of cancer, including oral, penile and anal cancers.

As with most new immunizations, it can take up to a year for this to process through to the insurance companies before they create policies to cover the vaccines.  At this point, Gardasil is covered by most health plans for girls and young women; however, the same is not true for boys and young men.  The Gardasil vaccine is quite expensive and requires a serious of three vaccines over a six month period that could cost in the range of $650-800 for the entire series.  It is recommended that you verify with your health plan, beforehand, whether or not they cover this vaccine, especially for the male gender.  If they do not cover this vaccine, it will result in the cost being transferred to patient responsibility.

FDA announcement:  http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/ucm187003.htm

About.com:  http://cancer.about.com/od/hpvvaccine/a/hpv_vaccine_boys.htm

New Trick by the Health Insurance Industry Tuesday, Nov 3 2009 

Imagine that you are an independent contractor for a company that pays you a specific rate for a specified amount of work; however, if you do more than the specified amount of work you would receive an additional amount.  Now, if you were to do that additional amount of work separately you would receive 100 dollars.  But, if you do that additional amount of on the same day as your normal work load, you would receive your normal pay for your normal work load and 50 dollars for the additional amount of work.  Would that be acceptable to you?

To illustrate further, I do my work and earn $100.   Tomorrow, I fill in for someone else and do their work and earn $100.  Okay, that seems fair. Tomorrow, I not only do I do my job, but I also completely do someone else’s work.  As an independent contractor, should I receive $100 for my normal work and that’s it?  Should I receive $200 for a double workload?  How about if I only get $150…$100 for my work and $50 for completing someone else’s job?  I think many of us would say that I should receive $200!

Unfortunately, many physicians are experiencing the $150 example from health plans when it comes to providing medical care on the same day as a preventive medicine visit.  According to universal coding principles, it is expected that a physician will code an evaluation and management (Office Visit) for diagnostic (medical) issues when done on the same day as a preventive medicine (complete physical).  One of the primary reasons is so insurance companies do not have to reimburse for services outside their reimbursement policies; for example, if the patient does not have preventive medicine benefits but comes in for a physical, the physical can not be coded as a covered medical benefit just to get  paid.

In physician coding, we are trained to code all services accurately to represent what actually was performed and documented so as to not open the practice up to the risk of fraud and abuse allegations.  In theory, one would think that if there is a universal coding policy, then the service should be reimbursed in a consistent manner; however, this is not the case.  What we are seeing is that the majority of health plans will pay the problem visit at 50% and the physical at 100% (there’s your $150!).  A few others will not reimburse the problem visit at all on the same day as the physical (you only get $100…double the work at the pay of one job!).  Consequently, many physicians are telling patients that they cannot have both services performed on the same day, thus the physician is able to get full reimbursement for each service (aha! that’s where I put my $200!).

It is inconvenient to the patient to make two appointments; but with the increasing expenses that physician’s practices are having to absorb, it is just not possible to throw away all or half of a reimbursement.  In addition, it is inconvenient to other patients who are not able to get in to be seen because of the physician’s full schedules…or doing in two visits that which he can do in one.  Understandably so!  The physician should be reimbursed for all of his services fairly.  This will allow the physician to be able see additional patients who require medical attention and not play insurance games!

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