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Benchmark of the Week
The growth in Medicare Advantage plans is impressive, but the penetration of those plans into heretofore underserved areas may be even more so, on the evidence of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s recent issue brief “Medicare Advantage 2019 Spotlight: First Look” by Gretchen Jacobson, Anthony Damico and Tricia Neuman.

Experts say it’s still a tricky and underutilized service, but the numbers behind the annual wellness visit (AWV) wouldn’t make you think so

As year two of the Quality Payment Program (QPP) winds down, practices report ongoing challenges with CMS’ full-bore pivot to value-based care and dissatisfaction with specific elements of the program, according to a survey from the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) in Englewood, Colo.
The provider types that tend to make the most use of the 10 office E/M codes (99201-99215) are a mixed bag of specialists and primary care providers, but the big news in the most recent Medicare utilization numbers from 2017 is the continuing rise in use of the codes by nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants (PAs).

Claims for advance care planning codes 99497-99498 increased significantly between 2016 and 2017, topping out at nearly 1.3 million services collectively, according to the most recent Medicare claims data.

Providers don’t like to use unlisted codes if they can help it, and no wonder — the denial rates are ridiculous.

Most practices have been hesitant to tap into the prolonged service codes that are allowed when clinical staff spend extra time with a patient. Even as service utilization increased about 97% between 2016 and 2017, total claims remain scarce.

CMS’ plan in the proposed 2019 Medicare physician fee schedule to cut either a E/M charge or a procedure charge when modifier 25 is used would, if finalized, require some billing changes – and result in varying degrees of loss -- in common scenarios.
Practices that bill for critical care services (99291-99292) should make sure everyone understands the coding rules for these high-value codes, as well as the use of modifier 25 (Significant, separately identifiable evaluation and management service by the same physician on the same day of the procedure or other service) with critical care services. The combination of critical care and modifier 25 is on auditor radar and could trigger denials.
There are 115 CPT codes accepted by Medicare that relate to the removal of a foreign body, and in 2016, the most recent year for which we have Medicare data, they were used only 491,376 times, with 18 codes being used fewer than 100 times, and 62163 (Neuroendoscopy, intracranial; with retrieval of foreign body) used zero times.


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