What should a consulting physician bill when seeing a hospitalized Medicare patient? An initial hospital service or a subsequent hospital visit?
Medicare stopped recognizing and paying consult codes, but consults are still requested and provided to inpatients every day. The question is, how should they be billed?
If the documentation supports an initial hospital service, use codes 99221-99223, initial hospital care codes. According to CPT, these codes are used for new or established patients. While we think of them and even talk about them as “admission” codes, CPT doesn’t use that word.
If the documentation doesn’t have a detailed history and detailed exam, then bill a subsequent hospital visit, rather than the initial hospital care services. But, the correct category of code is initial hospital care. The citation from the Medicare Claims Processing Manual is at the end of this Q&A.
Many commercial insurance companies still recognize consults. Neglecting to bill consults when the carrier pays them results in lost revenue.
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Citation from CMS | Inpatient Hospital Services
The CMS Claims Processing Manual, Chapter 12, §30.6.9 F
Physicians may bill initial hospital care service codes (99221-99223), for services that were reported with CPT consultation codes (99241 – 99255) prior to January 1, 2010, when the furnished service and documentation meet the minimum key component work and/or medical necessity requirements.
Physicians may report a subsequent hospital care CPT code for services that were reported as CPT consultation codes (99241 – 99255) prior to January 1, 2010, where the medical record appropriately demonstrates that the work and medical necessity requirements are met for reporting a subsequent hospital care code (under the level selected), even though the reported code is for the provider’s first E/M service to the inpatient during the hospital stay.
In the inpatient hospital setting and the nursing facility setting, physicians (and qualified nonphysician practitioners where permitted) may bill the most appropriate initial hospital care code (99221-99223), subsequent hospital care code (99231 and 99232), initial nursing facility care code (99304-99306), or subsequent nursing facility care code (99307-99310) that reflects the services the physician or practitioner furnished.
Subsequent hospital care codes could potentially meet the component work and medical necessity requirements to be reported for an E/M service that could be described by CPT consultation code 99251 or 99252. A/B MACs (B) shall not find fault in cases where the medical record appropriately demonstrates that the work and medical necessity requirements are met for reporting a subsequent hospital care code (under the level selected), even though the reported code is for the provider’s first E/M service to the inpatient during the hospital stay.