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What are Modifiers in Medical Coding and Billing?

modifiers-in-medical-coding

In medical coding and billing, modifiers play a significant role in providing additional information about a procedure or service rendered to a patient. Modifiers in medical coding are two-character codes that are added to a Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) code or Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) code to provide further clarification or specificity. These medical coding modifiers help ensure accurate reimbursement and communicate specific circumstances surrounding a procedure or service.

Here are some key roles and purposes of modifiers in medical coding and billing:

     

      1. Provide additional information: Modifiers help convey specific details about a procedure or service that may affect its billing or reimbursement. For example, a modifier can indicate that a procedure was performed on multiple sites, on both the left and right sides of the body, or on multiple fingers or toes.

      1. Notify anatomical location: Some modifiers indicate the precise location of a procedure. This is particularly important when procedures involve specific areas of the body. For instance, a modifier may specify the exact level of a spinal procedure or the specific joint involved in an orthopaedic procedure.

      1. Specified timing: Medical Coding Modifiers can indicate when a service was performed in relation to other procedures or circumstances. For example, a modifier may indicate that a service was performed during a post-operative period, which affects the reimbursement for that service.

      1. Indicate services provided by various providers: Modifiers in medical billing can be used to differentiate between services provided by different healthcare professionals involved in a patient’s care. For instance, a modifier may indicate whether a service was provided by a physician, a non-physician practitioner, or an assistant at surgery.

      1. Flag unusual circumstances: Modifiers are used to identify unique situations or exceptions that may impact the reimbursement of a procedure. This could include procedures performed in emergency situations, during a global surgical package, or under specific circumstances outlined in payer policies.

      1. Prevent billing errors: Modifiers help prevent billing errors and ensure accurate reimbursement. They provide important details that clarify the specific circumstances or variations of a procedure, preventing misunderstandings or incorrect billing.

    It’s important to note that the appropriate use of modifiers requires adherence to specific coding guidelines established by various organizations, including the American Medical Association (AMA), Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and individual insurance payers. These guidelines outline the specific circumstances and conditions under which modifiers should be used to ensure accurate coding and billing practices.

    What is a CPT Code Modifier?

    CPT coding modifiers are two-digit codes that are added to CPT codes to offer supplementary details regarding evaluation and management procedures conducted during an office visit.

    What is an HCPCS Code Modifier?

    The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) creates HCPCS codes, which stand for Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System. While CPT codes are predominantly utilized with Medicaid, Medicare, and private insurance companies, there are certain scenarios where HCPCS codes are preferred over CPT codes.

    HCPCS codes are primarily employed for services related to transportation, outpatient prospective payment system, durable medical equipment, and orthotic devices. Depending on the situation, both Medicare and other insurance companies utilize HCPCS modifiers. These modifiers consist of two alphabetical digits, two alphanumeric characters, and a single alphabetical digit.

    Here are some of the latest Medical Modifiers Updates- 2023

       

        1. AB: Audiology service furnished personally by an audiologist without a physician/npp order for non-acute hearing assessment unrelated to disequilibrium, or hearing aids, or examinations for the purpose of prescribing, fitting, or changing hearing aids; service may be performed once every 12 months, per beneficiary

        1. JZ: Zero drug amount discarded/not administered to any patient.

        1. LU: Fractionated payment of car-t therapy

        1. N1: Group 1 oxygen coverage criteria met.

        1. N2: Group 2 oxygen coverage criteria met.

        1. JW: Drug amount discarded/not administered to any patient.

      New HCPCS Codes List 2023 (non-exhaustive)

      C1747: Endoscope, single-use (i.e. disposable), urinary tract, imaging/illumination device (insertable)

      C1826: Generator, neurostimulator (implantable), includes closed feedback loop leads and all implantable components, with rechargeable battery and charging system

      C1827: Generator, neurostimulator (implantable), non-rechargeable, with implantable stimulation lead and external paired stimulation controller

      C7500: Debridement, bone including epidermis, dermis, subcutaneous tissue, muscle and/or fascia, if performed, first 20 sq cm or less with manual preparation and insertion of deep (eg, subfacial) drug-delivery device(s)

      C9143: Cocaine hydrochloride nasal solution (numbrino), 1 mg

      C9144: Injection, bupivacaine (posimir), 1 mg

      D0372: Intraoral tomosynthesis – comprehensive series of radiographic images

      D0373: Intraoral tomosynthesis – bitewing radiographic image

      D1781: Vaccine administration – human papillomavirus – dose 1

      G0320: Home health services furnished using synchronous telemedicine rendered via a real-time two-way audio and video telecommunications system

      J2401: Injection, chloroprocaine hydrochloride, per 1 mg

      M1153: Patient with diagnosis of osteoporosis on date of encounter

      Global Surgery Modifiers

      24 Unrelated postoperative evaluation and management (E/M) service
      25 Separate E/M on same day as other service
      57 Decision for surgery
      58 Staged/related postoperative procedure
      78 Unplanned postoperative return to the operating room
      79 Unrelated postoperative procedure

      A Case in Study

      A physician recently agreed to pay $625,000 to settle accusations related to the improper use of Modifier -25. The allegations were initially raised by a whistleblower who had previously worked as a medical assistant and assisted the practice with appeals. The government claimed that the practice utilized Modifier -25 inappropriately by unbundling routine evaluation and management (E&M) services, which were not billable separately, from minor surgical procedures performed on the same day.

      The practice specialized in pain management and performed various types of procedures like trigger point injections and epidural injections. The complaints filed in court included instances where patients had scheduled procedures on the same day as an E&M service was billed, but the documentation did not support a significant and distinct E&M service beyond what is typically performed for the procedure.

      Solution

      You can be confident and avoid such coding errors using an automated medical coding solution. Learn about AI in Medical Coding.

      Conclusion

      Comprehending the regulations and guidelines governing the use of modifiers is highly important, as they play a significant role in medical coding. Failure to apply appropriate modifiers or omitting them in claims can result in denials and a loss of revenue. Improper usage of modifiers often leads to a high percentage of errors and subsequent claim denials in medical billing services.

      By opting for MCaaS, you can outsource your medical coding and billing operations to MEDICODIO. With MCaaS, you can alleviate your coding concerns. Our team consists of certified professionals who ensure a smooth revenue cycle for your practice.

      MEDICODIO also offers a SaaS-based AI-driven medical coding tool for healthcare providers and RCM companies.

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