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CIGNA ASH Update for Acupuncture Providers – Sam Collins

 

 

Well, as always, let’s kind of work with what’s going on and changing for us in the realm of coding and billing. And specifically this episode, we’re going to spend some time with American specialty health and Cigna.

Click here to download the transcript.

Disclaimer: The following is an actual transcript. We do our best to make sure the transcript is as accurate as possible, however, it may contain spelling or grammatical errors.  Due to the unique language of acupuncture, there will be errors, so we suggest you watch the video while reading the transcript.

And we’re Live. All right,

Greetings everyone. This is Samuel Collins, your coding and billing expert for acupuncture and the American Acupuncture Council. Welcome you to another episode of, to the point by the American acupuncture council. And thank you for spending some time with me. I will always want to give you some updates. What’s changing. What’s going on. What’s new. If you have not, please take a look at the American Acupuncture Council Network site to check our new section. Cause we do update information there. Along with these shows. We also have information on our Facebook page too. If you’ll take a look there. Well, as always, let’s kind of work with what’s going on and changing for us in the realm of coding and billing. And specifically this episode, we’re going to spend some time with American specialty health and Cigna. Cause I know a lot of you have gotten some letters, so let’s go to the slides, everyone.

All right. As always here’s our website, of course, we’ll take a look there. That’s where the new section is, but let’s kind of focus in on what’s been going on or what is going on with Cigna. So let’s take a look at this letter that I’m sure many of you received. Notice. This one is just dated February 26 and it says here Cigna is pleased to announce that they are expanding their acupuncture per provides our customers with access to services effective June 1st. Now let’s read this thoroughly because it says we encourage you to become a participating provider with Ash to support acupuncture services for Cigna customers, benefits plans nationwide beginning June 1st. So let’s start first with notice. It says encourage it. Doesn’t say we require. In addition, it says as a result of this program, this will contract directly with providers for acupuncture services for Cigna benefits.

Now, for those that are familiar with American specialty health or Ash, it is one of the largest plans out there that manages typically chiropractic acupuncture as well as physical therapy. And most people often will give a kind of negative outlook to this company. Now I want to be careful. I’m not saying they’re a bad company, but the one factor that many people focus on is that they simply have a very low reimbursement. They do have some other requirements, but as far as being negative towards it, I’ve heard people say it’s not so much the company. I think they’re fine. It’s just the reimbursement as well. So it says here, we’re going to use that company, which means reimbursements are going to decrease based on this. And it says, provide contract administration, medical necessity, review, and claims processing. Now I will say this. They have a very good plane claims processing portal that can make things easier.

And actually if you use their portal, they actually give you a bonus payment. So that’s pretty good. Don’t get too excited. That bonus payment is literally pennies to a dollar nonetheless. Um, this is what’s occurring now. What’s important. It says we encourage you and then notice here. It says what this means to you. You must be contracted with Ash in order to provide in-network acupuncture services. So what that is saying that if you wish to be in network with Cigna, you must Ash. Now. Sure. Some of you have been through the program with Accu care, maybe a couple others that were handling this. They’ve just simply moved the contract over to Ash. So does that mean they won’t have benefits? No. It just simply means that if you want to have in network benefits, now this is where we really have to decide how well this is going to work.

Now it says here about advantages, continuity of care, access to their Ashlyn, which is their, um, billing portion, no fees to join. That’s all good advantages of a hundred percent, a hundred percent. Peer-to-peer here’s the downside. The downside is they’re often very strict when it comes to medical necessity. Now I’m not saying they’re too strict, but you have to remember, they’re going to look for how well is the care working? What are the changes being made? So it’s something you really want to start to take a look at as to whether or not that’s something you can work with or how many visits you see. Because often after five visits, they’re going to request additional information, which I will say is terribly hard, but it doesn’t mean that’s going to be extra work. And we have to decide whether or not this is going to be a benefit we want.

Well, there’s a second part to the letter and something I want to emphasize here is this. It says for applicable areas, this is not going to include California, Washington, state, Oregon, or Tennessee. So those areas already have contracts with Ash. So you won’t necessarily have to join, but the benefits can be managed there. And it’s not including benefits for North Carolina and Virginia, which they say are upcoming. So what they’re saying is if you want to join, they’re looking for you to join sometime around April 1st. Now that’s when you can begin, do you have to join for you to have these benefits? Is what my concern is. The answer is simply no, the patients will still continue to have the benefits, but what will it pay and how do we decide? So here’s one of the things we do. I do seminars, of course, I’m sure many of you have attended.

And I also have a consulting service that our network that I work with you one-on-one. Well, one of the things you have to do is kind of do what I do with my members. And that is to figure out how worthwhile is it to be a member of this? Let’s start to talk about it this way. I’m going to keep this kind of simplistic for the timeframe we have. But think of it this way. When you join Cigna or Ash, you’re trading something now, what are you trading? You’re trading generally, you’re going to get less money per visit, but more patients. That’s kind of the advantage. If you’re in network, are you going to get considerably more people? So one of the things to consider is how does Cigna patients come to you in the first place? Were they coming to you because you were in network with something or were they simply coming? So in other words, if you are already getting the patients, how has joining going to bring more? In fact, my concern would be, if you join, you simply are going to get less. So the choices, if it can give you much

More volume and will it make up

For the decrease in reimbursement. So let’s talk about the in network and out of network in network means you’re controlled to those fees and you may not collect anything different other than what’s allowed. If you are out of network, they’re going to pay what they allow, but then you can balance bill the patient. Now that balance billing is fine, but how much will the patient take? How much can they afford? Would it be better for them to go to an in-network doctor where they have to pay maybe a $15 copay compared to coming to you where it could be $40? So that’s something to consider. Although I will say this, don’t be afraid to offer your patients good service. People don’t choose acupuncturist because you’re cheap. They choose it because you can help them and make them feel better. And there’s a value to that.

So before we begin in talking about what the fees are of this thing, let’s talk about joining. When you join, you have to wait out what what’s good. What’s bad. So I suggest take a piece of paper, draw a line down the center on one side, please. Yes. On the other side, put no and start looking at the potentials. One thing to start with is, is this plant exclusive? Well, I’ll start with, it’s not, so that’s going to be a no. Why would I join something? That’s non-exclusive unless somehow it could send me many more patients. So I’m going to check a no on that one because it’s not exclusive. The next thing says is the pay reasonable? Well, I’m going to show you in just a moment. Not very now. I’m not going to say it’s horrible, but it’s not very good. So that’s already two there.

The only thing I could think that this would do for you is bring you a lot of new patients. Because if I look under the note, it’s, non-exclusive, it doesn’t pay very much. If they’re already current patients, how does that help? And there’s other requests they have after you do a certain number of visits, probably after five years, I have to do what’s called a treatment authorization. So this is, there’s a lot of downside to this in the sense of the extra work. Not saying it’s too hard, but please go in with your eyes open. I want you to think of the value. Well, let’s talk about what does it cost to treat a patient in your office? By example, let’s say your overhead per month is $4,000 and you see about a hundred patient visits. It’s a month now, again, that’s 25 a week.

That means it costs you $40 just to keep your office open on those number of patients. So by example, under some of these Ash policies, they pay 1550 $5 max per visit. So therefore if you’re getting $50 or $55 max, that means you’re making only 10 or $15 per patient think of how much extra volume. So in other words, if you have only asked patients, you’re going to go broke this one, you have to be a value added patient. And maybe this is where this can make a difference. Can it bring you someone that you have not already seen that will be new to your office? My key factor is going to be, does it really bring that type of value is the trade-off worth it? Well, let’s take a look at what they’ve done in California. Over this past year, American specialty health has worked with blue shield of California.

And what it allows is a car, an acupuncturist to do ENM codes. So exams, acupuncture in some objective therapies. Well, that sounds pretty good. Realize too, this plan doesn’t cover massage or TuiNa. So those services can be built with a patient separately so long as you inform them beforehand. So that sounds good. Except when you see, well, what’s the allowance. Well, even though they say they cover all of these things, the max per day is $55 and it’s inclusive and all visits count towards. So if you have a patient come in and get one service, it’s going to count as a complete visit. There’s no like, Oh, I just did a therapy. It’s still going to count. So here’s their allowance. This is the California. One $30 for exams essentially. And then 20 to 30 for re-exams. Okay. Not bad, but remember that’s still within the max.

So you’ll notice here. The plan says it pays $55 max per visit. Well, isn’t it interesting that the first set is 45 and the second set is 10. So in other words, as soon as you do two sets, you’ve maxed out. Even if you did an exam, do you get paid separately for that? Nope. The max per day is still 55. So therefore there’s really no additional benefit of them to think it’s paying you 55 per visit. Even the therapies you’ll notice are $10. So therefore, even if you did these therapies plus the acupuncture, what are you getting? Pre-visit 55. Now I’m not attempting to sound overly negative. I’m just saying, be aware of what the plan pays. This particular plan with Ash in California pays $55. Now American specialty health does do a medical necessity. And I would say, this is something I believe they’re pretty good at.

They kind of look at the patient. Yeah. As an overall, what do they cover? Things like headaches, hip or knee pain with arthritis or not extremity pain, mechanical irritation, pain, syndromes, back and neck pain. And of course not vomiting. And of course, you know, that Cigna has one of the most prolific diagnosis, allowances of all plans. I don’t foresee that changing the concern is how much, well, how much also relates to, well, how many visits are you going to get out of this? What they do pay attention to is your diagnosis understand less severe diagnosis. Don’t get as many visits, back pain compared to, let’s say a disc injury are very different. They do pay attention to things like this. And when you do your authorization, keep in mind indications in their history, such as it acute or trauma or traumatic chronic. Those make a difference.

A patient with comorbid factors, things that inhibit their recovery should be brought up. But when you do an exam, anything, you do the range of motion, palpation, orthopedic testing. If you do it, neurologic testing, quantify it. Don’t just tell me it’s positive. But also they do pay attention to tongue and pulse. So I’ll give them credit. They do follow some traditional principles. However, at the end of the day, what they’re looking for is can you show that you’re making the patient better? So understand that for $55 after five visits, do you have to do more of this information to get additional visits potentially? And it depends again on severity of diagnosis, they also look at the goals, how are you going to get the patient better? Well, let’s look at what this Cigna proposal is. And I couldn’t put the fee schedule up because it says it’s proprietary, but this is one I received from the, uh, Idaho area.

And, and I should say Midwest. And so you can see here, it’s not much different than what I just showed you. The 33 to 44 exams. The acupuncture they’ll notice here are going to be far cheaper. They are doing $40 for acupuncture. And I want to point out, I put a mistake here. This should be 40, not 45. The additional sets are paid for nothing. They’re just certain inclusive. So if you do one set or 10 sets, you’re going to get the same money. So something to consider when joining these plans, if you are a four set type of provider three set, this is going to be hard to absorb because that means you’re spending 45 minutes with a patient and getting $40 of reimbursement. Now, what if you’re the type of provider that does one set can be efficient. You needle the patient, make sure they’re finding, maybe they rest for a while and you’ll come back kind of a battlefield acupuncture or modern acupuncture style.

Maybe it can work because you can do volume. The difficulty is how much volume can you do? You know, at some point there’s a finite amount of things that an acupuncturist can do. Well, here’s what their fee schedule. Again, same thing for acupuncture and for therapies. So notice $10. So again, what is the maximum per visit? Well, it’s going to be 50 assuming, uh, acupuncture and a therapy. What they haven’t made clear, will they always pay the therapy separately. Now here’s for the region for the East Eastern areas. This is when I got out of DC. You’ll notice about the same prices, prices a little higher than the Midwest, I guess, but then you’ll notice fees are all the same. So what I’m going to suggest when you get into this, notice every therapy. Now the thing that frustrates me with this is how do you justify charging $10 for a hot pack and then $10 for exercise.

When exercise requires one-on-one care, that’s detailed undocumented compared to just lay in a hot pack on someone. How does that seem reasonable? So my bone to pick here is they should be paying providers more. And so I’ve had a lot of providers asking me, Sam, what I joined this? Now, all I can say is I’m going to give my opinion. Each of you have to make a decision on your own, how well this works. If you can do a high volume practice and there are a number of patients that are going to come in, only because they’re in this space, it could be worth it. However, if you are a two or three set provider, right, and you’re getting only $40, that’s going to be hard to swallow, but here’s the point. If you’re out of network, is it going to be the same thing?

Anyway, the difference is you can charge the patient. And what I’d explained to the patient is your plan pays $50. My visit is 80 and what you’re going to get with my visit is a much better level of care. I will be able to spend more time with you and really correct it as opposed to what I call a poke and run doctor, meaning, put the needles in and run out. Now, I’m not saying that in a negative way, there’s places for all types of providers. I could just find this very hard to work with now, how is this going to work? If providers do not join, will they still have benefits? Nothing has been shown from Ash or from Cigna. That patient we’ll lose benefits. If they go to out network providers, I think mostly this is a way to get the PR profession to join where they are going to gain more control.

Now I’m not against the medical necessity side. I think that’s fine. I just think that this reimbursement level is a hard one to sustain a practice. Let’s face it. If all you got were $50 from every patient and you spend a half hour with every patient, that means you make a hundred dollars per hour, assuming everything works efficiently or 800 per day, you can say, Hey look, that’s 4,500 per week. You know, or knowing that 4,500, excuse me. Uh, but those amounts could I, well, there’s 4,500 per week. Could I make that work well? Sure. But that’s, if you’re very efficient within that. So is it terrible? No. Is it really commensurate with what they were already paying? I don’t think so. And so that’s something that as a provider, you’re going to have to look at and decide, is it worth it to me now?

I will tell you, I’ve given you a little thumbnail of information. I tried to get it out there to you to get a little understanding. If you need more or want more, we offer services to do that. Our seminars at the American Acupuncture Council do that, but also we offer a service. That’s called the network. Just take your phone, scan this, come and take a look at the services we offer. Allow me to be part of your team where you can call me, email me, text me, or fax me questions. And we can work this through the, see how this is going to work and how to make sure you can keep your practice viable. I’m not going to be overly negative, but I want to say that obviously this is going to create a much greater level of control with much lower reimbursement. And that’s something I’ll say it’s not a positive for the profession.

So I’ve gotten a lot of feedback from different States and I’m talking to their state organizations where they have surveyed and a large number of providers have indicated they’re not going to join. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s not very many, what will Ash do or Cigna? All the patients will still have access to benefits. So what I’ll say to you is make a good decision for your office, make an informed decision. And the good news is what if you do join or don’t join. Can you always go back and change your mind? Sure. You can always go back and drop out or join. You want to do what’s best for your practice. Remember you are important to your patients and it’s good to be important, but it’s more important to be good. And to give that good service, you want to make sure that you have a viable practice to do it, allow us a chance to help you, but also the American Acupuncture Council is always here for you. Next week’s class is going to be with Poney Chiang. So pay attention to that. Otherwise I’ll say to all of you, best wishes, keep a close eye out and don’t be afraid to take a look and decide to be or not to be if you will. Thanks everyone. I’ll see you next time. This is Sam Collins, your coding and billing expert.

 

Sam Collins for AAC02102021

Do Not Risk Loss of Payment! – AAC Infonetwork

 

 

I want to talk to you a little bit about what’s been going on and I’m sure many of you have noticed on what’s called the medically unlikely edits or the limits to care. And I’m sure some of you have seen it.

Click here to download the transcript.

Disclaimer: The following is an actual transcript. We do our best to make sure the transcript is as accurate as possible, however, it may contain spelling or grammatical errors.  Due to the unique language of acupuncture, there will be errors, so we suggest you watch the video while reading the transcript.

Hi everyone. This is Samuel Collins, the coding and billing expert for acupuncture and the American Acupuncture Council. But most importantly, the coding and billing expert for you. While I do have roles with the world health organization, United healthcare and Optum health. My ultimate goal is for the practitioners just as American Acupuncture Council is, and this is another addition to make sure that you’re getting things right, understanding what’s going on, promoting your practice. And I do the billing side I’m with the American Acupuncture Council Network, which means we’re part of the malpractice side that really helps you with the coding, the billing, the education and seminars we’re here today. I want to talk to you a little bit about what’s been going on and I’m sure many of you have noticed on what’s called the medically unlikely edits or the limits to care. And I’m sure some of you have seen it.

Hey, why are they denying? In fact, we’re running into some areas in New York where they’re paying only for one, which actually shouldn’t be what’s there others paying for two or three? Well, what is correct? What do we have to make sure we’re doing to make sure we are getting paid fully, but also making sure if they don’t pay us, what do we do about it? And where does it come from? So let’s go to the slide. So you can start to take a look at what’s happening. So in these slides, you’ll notice I have here. It says acupuncture, medically unlikely edits. MUE is what they term it. And what that deals with is the maximum number of services that can be done per day. And that’s not just for acupuncture acts. So that includes physical medicine and other services. And also want to hit a little bit on to medical necessity, cause that’s really kind of where this dovetails.

So if you take a look here and I know this is smallest, let me enlarge this a little bit for you. You’ll notice here. This is from empire blue, cross blue shield. And notice what they’re bringing to this doctorate says the review indicated your average utilization of acupuncture sessions of one hour or greater personal one-on-one contact with a patient is higher than expected. So that means you’re doing an hour more so than everyone else. They’re not saying necessarily it’s wrong, but because it’s above average, they’re trying to figure out why. So notice in the next paragraph I highlighted it says, we are aware of many factors that may impact the coding of your acupuncture services. Our goal is to assist providers. So they’re not necessarily trying to be punitive, but trying to figure out why are you doing more is for too much, not necessarily, if you talk to most acupuncturist and I’ve taught seminars now for 23 years.

And I would say the average acupuncture is probably does between two and three sets regularly. So four is not unheard of, but it’s not typical, but I would say the average is two or three. So when it goes to four on a very regular basis, there could be some issues. In fact, this is probably where the medically unlikely edits come from. Well, let’s talk about it from a medical necessity standpoint, if you’re going to do ortho, that’s why that’s part of what we have to determine. So I’m going to give you what medical necessity is determined by the company, American specialty health, which I’m sure a lot of you have a tendency to. There’s kind of a love, hate relationship with them. I don’t think the hate is so much from the protocols is just, I wish they paid more, but ultimately I do think they make a nice protocol for what they determine as medical necessity.

So always understand when you’re going to do four sets or more, the Y has got to be based on the diagnosis. The severity of the problem. Now the difficulty with diagnosis is often the diagnosis for acupuncture is simply just pain. So how does that really demonstrate severity unless you’re coding like a lumbar disc. It really doesn’t. So remember your chart notes are going to be an important factor. The past medical history of the history, including is it traumatic? Is it repetitive? Is it acute? In other words, severity, what’s also going to be part of that though, is comorbid factors. Things that can complicate the patient, things that are underlying patients, very overweight patient has a very poor diet. Patient is diabetic. While you may not be treating those things directly, could they affect how the patient responds? Meaning why did I do four sets, other things?

They look at our range of motion, palpatory findings, orthopedic testing, neurologic testing, but they also do look at the tongue and pulse notice all these say quantify. Cause we want to know, well, if it’s severe, these things would all be more severe as evidence and quantified do. Remember they will look at the functional limitation, how the patient is getting better or not better just stating the patient feels better is not going to be enough. We have to be, how is it better? What can they do now that they couldn’t do before? And there’s always going to be goals for it. So ultimately think of medical necessity as kind of looking at how you would see a patient overall in their improvement, not just paying level. And there’s something to think of. This is from a company called health partners and I liked the way they put together the factors that they look at for medical necessity, things they put in mind.

Notice the first thing, gender fatigue, lack of energy, notice mobility, agility, strength, sleep issues, not falling asleep. You know, not waking up feeling rested or just the decreased quality of life. Those are factors that if you quantify given issue of potential severity beyond just stating pain, now I bring this up because of course, if you’re going to do acupuncture, we know that there’s four codes and you know that the four codes are there to allow us to build additional services when necessary. Some patients may get one, two, three, or four, but what’s important to remember is that acupuncture requires two things for billing purposes, for billing purposes, you’ll notice the acupuncture code says one or more needles, which means you have to insert a needle. But then it also says initial 15 minutes and each subsequent code says the same thing. It says reinsertion, which really should be additional insertion and 15 minutes.

So the codes are really going to be based on inserting needles and spending time. So if you’re telling me that you’ve done four sets, that means you actually have to be in the room with the patient for the full fifth, 60 minutes or close to it and do four distinct insertions one in the first 15, second, 15 and so on, which is not something that you wouldn’t do, but you have to document it and let’s remember, and see here. It says how the 15 minute session is defined. Remember, as soon as you walk in the room with the patient, say, Hey, how are you feeling today? The time starts, all the things you do. That’s part of your acupuncture, including review of history. Hand-washing choosing points. All of that counts. What’s important is to document it because you’re doing multiple sets. The one issue we’ve run in through the American acupuncture council is offices.

Aren’t documenting that well. So that becomes a problem. Well, it’s also a problem just based on number. So let’s take a look here and I’ll show you. This is an example of a soap note for acupuncture that has documented three sets. And I want you to see here, and I don’t want you to really comment about necessity. Just show how it works. Notice each set is identified set one, two and three. Notice the points are identified in addition, the face-to-face time from and two, or it could be minutes and then retention. So clearly when you see here, you’re noticing there is clearly three sets because there’s three separate insertions as documented notice the face-to-face time equals hitting the eight minute rule, if you will. And then it shows the separate retention. Remember don’t count retention towards the total time. So if you’re doing multiple sets, we have to make sure that we’re documenting all those factors. Because if we’re doing two, three or four, it still has to be shown. Did we do it? Well, this brings me to this kind of medically unlikely edits or what CPT does is they do edits for all types of codes. And there’s two types of edits that are common.

The first one is called the correct coding initiative at it. Yeah,

That is one that the correct coding initiative edit is one that there we go is used for coding, such for chiropractors, like a chiropractor. When they Do manipulation, there are codes that are part of manipulation That have to be separately coded. So by example, they Have to not code nine 71, four zero With manipulation. This I apologize. My phone is,

But you have someone who keeps trying to call through. So I apologize That these coding initiatives, goodness, here we go. And my apologies for this, I Cannot seem to get someone to understand what a message says. I’m not available. That I’m not Nonetheless, they kept trying let’s do this.

Okay. My falsies bear with me, correct coding initiatives. Just tell me what codes can and cannot be billed together. Okay? So for chiropractors, that’s common for record Puncture. It’s not, but we’re acupuncture does help.

Some common issues. Common issues for acupuncturists are under something called the Medically unlikely edits.

Medically unlikely deal with codes that can not be coded for an excess amount of units. Now you may think, what does that mean? This is where it comes in. You’ve noticed where they’re saying acupuncture can only be billed for say three sets or two sets depending on who you’re dealing with. That’s what they’re referring to. So what are you Louise there for any CPT code that the maximum amount of services that will be provided under one visit or a date of service, this applies to all types of codes. So by example, to show you where it’s also applies, it’s not just for acupuncture. Things like modalities have one, some have four. If it’s an attempt to Allie, when it’s timed such as notice the here it’s just the unattended services or one notice the codes for electric STEM allow for, but then ultrasound is only two. And again, that’s just based on these edits that say that’s the maximum per visit we’ll procedures. Get a little bit different. Notice for exercise nine, seven one one zero. It is six

For neuromuscular education. It is, it is for

Because it’s a little different service than exercise. So they’re limiting to four notice massage only four. Now you may say who comes up with these it’s part of the coding committees edits that do such. So make sure that you’re using the correct codes and amount of units. Now I doubt many of you go well above that notice manual therapy says six. So these are what they’re going to indicate as the amount that you can do maximum per day. So if you did more than six, they’re going to say no. Well, where does our services fit? You can see here therapeutic activities, by the way, I chose these codes here on the right side specifically because that’s the limits for those codes. But also those are the codes. If you’re billing VA patients, those are the services that the VA will automatically authorize for acupuncture providers.

But here’s what we’re running into. As I mentioned, the VA, take a look here. Here’s what’s called the standard episode of care SEOC and you’ll notice it says for acupuncture 12 visits, but notice it says a maximum of one additional unit of acupuncture with, or without electric STEM when reinsertion of needles. So under this one, and this is an Optum health, when they’re saying, Hey, you can only do two. And I’m sure many of you have run into that. Whereas before you could do four or five, it’s just saying they’re allowing only two. So that’s OptumHealth now again, that goes against what the normal edit says, because notice this one from tri West and you’ll see, this is really just from December. I know you can’t see the date, but you’ll notice here. It says the maximum unit

Acupuncture. And you’ll notice the map

Maximum units for acupuncture indicate nine, seven, eight one zero. The first set is one unit, but then the additional sets notice are two. So notice they’re indicating under this correct coding under the many medically unlikely edits. The limit is three, meaning one initial set and up to two additional sets. Now to give you a little history of that, that hasn’t always been the case. I want you to see here. This comes directly from United healthcare, and this is dated notice 2018 through 19. And it was different. It says the medically unlikely edits indicated that you can do one initial set, but then three additional sets of manual. And then electoral was one and two only. So three total. So at that time it was four, but let’s fast forward to this year. You’ll notice again, this is the health care notice from 2020. And now it’s indicating that according to this edit notice here, it says the policy enforces the code description for acupuncture services, which are to be reported based on 15 minute time increments, personal face-to-face time.

And it’s indicating in accordance here nine, seven, eight one zero is one. By the way, one makes sense. You can only have one initial set, but then notice instead of it being three, it is now two. So that’s also two here. So what is the new rule for medically unlikely edits for acupuncture is three. Now what if you say Sam, I need to do more now. Medically unlikely doesn’t mean an absolute, could you defend doing more and request more? Sure, but now you’d have to show the medical necessity of what did my fourth set do that wasn’t completed within the first three sets? I think there’s some things that can be disputed there, particularly if you’re doing front and backside sets multiple diagnosis, but again, you’d have to kind of come up with what is the fourth set doing that the others aren’t simple answer.

If you build three, you should not have much problem, but we’re seeing issues here. This is a United healthcare, and you’ll notice on this visit, they’re paying the one initial set they’re allowing it, but then notice this one they’ve taken out. It used this code in three, six, two. So what does [inaudible] mean? Well, let’s look at this full EOB notice in three, six, two says the number of days or units exceeds our acceptable maximum. So let’s take a look at what there are allowing notice on this one, visit on 10 27, they’re allowing the initial set, they’re paying the full amount or allowing it, but then on the additional sets they allow the nine seven eight one one four one and nine, seven eight, um, one, one again, but then not allowing the third set or the third or four set, which would be the nine, seven eight one three.

Now, even this one here, what I’m trying to point out is that they’re beginning to say, Hey, we’re not going to pay more than three if you bill such. So you want to make sure that if you’re billing more than three chances are with some payers. And I will tell you anthems Cigna, Aetna, as well as United have begun to really follow this as well as the VA. So what do we need to do to make sure we’re getting paid properly is to make sure we’re number one, sticking within the three. And if we’re going to go more than three, we’re going to have to send explanation, but here’s one of the problems we’ve run into. There are some plans, even like this one that they’re not paying that third. So when that happens, what’s going on. Here’s another one and this is an empire or excuse me, a Cigna, excuse me.

And I’m just going to blow this up so you can see here. It indicates the number of units built for this service exceeds the limit for the day. Now, if you look at this bill though, they’re allowing the first set and the second set, but not allowing the third. So then wait a minute. Why are they not allowing that amount or excuse me, they are allowing that amount. I want to share this one is doing three. So there’s one initial one, follow one follow. But then the fourth is saying no. And that comes from those edits. If you were billing more than three, you’re very likely to be denied for the fourth. Some payers may allow, but most are going to follow these edits. But what if you’re running into an issue with it where you’ve billed only three and they’ve denied it, then I’m going to push back.

Here’s a letter. And you know, you’re welcome to kind of see how it does. It just brings up the points of I’ve recently received a claim for payment that was denied due to the medically unlikely edits. And you’re going to bring up the medically unlikely edits indicate that there should be three. So if they’re only paying for two, this is the response. You have to say, the medically unlikely edits indicate three, unless you have a contract otherwise. And I’ve seen a lot of plans doing this. And I think what’s occurred is a lot of them have misinterpreted the edits and somehow are allowing to, so you want to make a little bit of a pushback. In addition, for those of you who are billing Optum, when you’re billing, Optum, meaning VA, and they’re only allowing two, here’s my concern. How is the Western part of the country try West allowing three and the Eastern part of the country only allowing two yet.

It’s the same, the same benefit. And of course it’s because Optum has misinterpreted it and there should be three. So this is a little bit of the pushback. Is this something I’m very excited about? No, I don’t like to see any limitations, but we have to know what we’re working with now. The good news is three sets is pretty typical that most aren’t going even that high. In fact, I’ve taught seminars now for 20 years. And I would say on average, when I asked the room, how many people are doing four sets, it’s a very minor percentage. But when I ask who’s doing two or three, it’s most so again, if you’re sticking within two or three, this may not make much of an effect, but if you’re doing four, a Canon may want to rethink of what’s going on. Now you can see, this is what I’m here to do is help you understand it, help you fight back with it.

And I’m going to say, give me a chance to help you do that. The American Acupuncture Council is your resource for these courses, but also I’m a resource. Allow me to be part of your office, take your phone out, take your camera and just put it over that code. And what that’s going to do is give you an opportunity to hire me for your office, but we’re going to give you the first 30 days for no charge. Give me a trial. Let me help you with a claim. Let me help you show what’s going on. Realize these rules and codes. We have fight back letters and all types of things that we can do that I can aid you and making sure you’re being properly paid and not having something where your claims are constantly being denied. Think of how many times you’ve had denials for ENM codes or other services that were not correct.

What do you do about it? I’m going to give you the rules and the laws, not opinions to fix it. The American Acupuncture Council is your resource. Allow me to be part of your office. You can join for as little as $25 a month, or you can do it with seminars. So I’m going to say, take a look at the services we offer I’ll guarantee you’ll get help. In addition, take a look on our site when get there. I’ve got videos and things of other things that we have done and looking at our news section for updates, we are here to help and I want to make sure today you understand what do I deal with and how do I deal with medically unlikely edits? What do they mean if I can do three great, but what if they’re cutting me less than three? But what if I do four?

How do I fight back for that? So that’s what we’re here to do is to help you for that. So I’m going to wish you well and say, stay tuned next week. The, um, host will be Jeffrey Grossman, and I’ll see you next time. I hope I become part of your office. Take a look at our site, take a look at the services we offer. We’re here to make your office successful. Don’t guess let’s make sure you’re getting paid. We do much more than just simply tell you a code. We make sure you’re doing it right. Thank you everyone.

Please subscribe to our YouTube Channel (http://www.youtube.com/c/Acupuncturecouncil ) Follow us on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/acupuncturecouncil/), LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/company/american-acupuncture-council-information-network/) Periscope (https://www.pscp.tv/TopAcupuncture). Twitter (https://twitter.com/TopAcupuncture) If you have any questions about today’s show or want to know why the American Acupuncture Council is your best choice for malpractice insurance, call us at (800) 838-0383. or find out just how much you can save with AAC by visiting: https://acupuncturecouncil.com/acupuncture-malpractice-quick-quote/.

 

E & M Code Evaluation 2021

2021 Evaluation and Management Coding Update


“So I want to give a little bit of an introduction today as to what’s occurring to at least give you a feeling for it. Certainly this is not going to be what I can fully give you at a full seminar and a, through a consultation, but at least to give you some updates enough to be able to get in, to handle what has changed. So E&M codes, evaluation, and management, or if you will, exam codes are being updated for 2021. So I’m sure you’re all familiar with what a hat we have had of course, in the past, which of course were the standard E&M codes.”

Click here for a copy of the transcript.

Disclaimer: The following is an actual transcript. We do our best to make sure the transcript is as accurate as possible, however, it may contain spelling or grammatical errors.  Due to the unique language of acupuncture, there will be errors, so we suggest you watch the video while reading the transcript.

Hey, welcome everyone. Happy new year.

Glad to have you with me. Thank you to the American Acupuncture Council for giving an opportunity for us to share with you information, putting in billing and really making your practice for the new year. So happy new year to everyone. And of course, year of the ox. And I also will tell you, it’s going to be the year of time. I’m Sam Collins, the coding and billing expert for acupuncture. In fact, you probably see multiple articles from you and acupuncture today and other publications, as well as I’m on the United healthcare committee for coding and reimbursement sitting for acupuncture’s behalf, as well as who for ICD 11. So I have a very vested interest, of course, in your practice, in the thriving of what you do. Well, of course, this year, like all years, there’s always something new and updating, and I’m sure some of you have already noticed there’s been some changes that have happened with E&M (evaluation and management) codes.

Make sure you check out our 30 day trial s we can prove to you how simple it is to get you paid.  Click here!

So I want to give a little bit of an introduction today as to what’s occurring to at least give you a feeling for it. Certainly this is not going to be what I can fully give you at a full seminar and a, through a consultation, but at least to give you some updates enough to be able to get in, to handle what has changed. So E&M (evaluation and management) codes, evaluation, and management, or if you will, exam codes are being updated for 2021. So I’m sure you’re all familiar with what a hat we have had of course, in the past, which of course were the standard E&M (evaluation and management) codes. Now, when I say E&M (evaluation and management) always remember that means evaluation and management. So that means evaluation the exam management, the, you know, dealing with the patient, discussing with them. And I’m sure you’re all pretty familiar with these codes in the sense of we have new patient codes. And of course we have established patient codes. What, what these codes are, for course are simply for exams. These codes are no longer going to be there. At least described this way. What they’re doing is trying to make this a lot easier to deal with. So obviously you’ll see these codes. And I think the one thing we all picked up on that was always, there was things like this. You’ll notice here. It says physicians typically spend 10 minutes. Well,

I’m sure you’re all aware that never was the reason

For the code. It was not something based on what’s typical, but what was considered an average and more about what you did on the exam. Now, a quick note, what is not changing is the definition of a new patient or established patient. A new patient of course, is going to remain the same. That’s someone brand new or office or someone you’ve never seen before. Okay. Meaning I’ve never seen them, but it could also be a patient you haven’t seen for three years. So do recall the three year rule when it comes to a new patient, even if it’s a past patient, but they’ve not been to you within three years or more, you may build a new patient again. So that’s the new patient code that’s not changed and established patients not changing either. That’s any exam of a patient that’s existing. Existing means anyone you’ve seen within three years.

So it could even be a new injury, but it also obviously would be a re-exams. So what’s changing. So I kind of chose this Bob Dylan kind of theme times, they are a changing and this is really a dramatic shift and what’s changing. So the bottom line is the codes are changing, but I want everyone to be aware if you attended a seminar with us, the American acupuncture council that I’ve taught, I’ve actually been teaching these changes since 2019. So hope you have a little bit of information if you’ve been there, but let’s keep this in mind. I’m sure most of you are aware. The old way of coding was pretty complicated. There were a lot of guidelines that you can see here. The 1997 documentation guidelines was 50 pages long. And in this guideline, you’ll see all of these things where you had. If you see on the left side here, all these organ systems that you had to have, and then of course it was the number of bullets of what things did you do?

Did you do a range of motion? Did you do palpation? Did you do tongue? And these bullets added up, so you had to have kind of a scoring. So familiarly, if you were billing a nine, nine, two Oh three, you had to do at least two or more organ systems in 12 bullets, which for most people was like, I don’t understand what you’re talking about, or it becomes complicated on the way that acupuncture is, do it. And I’m sure if you’ve been to our seminars again, you’ve seen this guideline as well. That talks about for each code. So notice each code nine, nine two Oh one to two, one two says problem-focused expanded, but you’ll notice it talks about the number of bullets. This is what was complicated. And frankly, this is the reason they’re making a fairly big change with this. The reason why is finally CPT, I think did something to less complicate.

And I won’t say CPT is necessarily trying to complicate, but they’re trying to make it accurate. Well, what they realize they needed to do something with these codes because they really weren’t working for the way doctors examined patients and particularly acupuncturists. And the whole point of this change is to increase time with your patient. Not doing a lot of other works, like doing certain bullets, just to meet the guidelines. It should improve the payment accuracy as well, because it allows you to truly pill a code that’s accurate for what you do, because I’m sure some of you as an acupuncturist are pretty frustrated that often you might spend 30 to 45 minutes with the patient, but yet the exam based on the old guidelines, it might only come out to a two Oh two and you’re thinking, Oh my goodness, I spent 45 minutes. So this update is really reflecting that.

And so what’s happened is these new codes now indicate a focus on time. Oh, let me go back here. And so you’ll notice here. The first thing you’ll notice is nine, nine two Oh one has been eliminated. So you’re never going to use nine, nine two zero one. Again, what we have now for new patients is nine nine two zero two through nine nine two zero nine, excuse me, nine nine two one five. So two zero one has been eliminated. So some people are like, Oh, this is going to be a problem. So take a look here. You’ll notice. Now this code says it’s an office or other outpatient visits. So notice it doesn’t necessarily say exam though. That’s part of it. And it says for the evaluation and management of a new patient, which requires medically appropriate history and examination and a straightforward medical decision-making.

Now you may look at that go, well, what does straight mean? Well, it means it’s fairly minimal, but here’s the best part. Take a look at this. And this is really something excellent for acupuncturists. It says here, when using time for code selection, 15, 29 minutes of total time spent on the date of the encounter. So in other words, the big change for this year is time now becomes a focus that you can use should choose the appropriate code. So if you Ben 15 to 29 minutes, the code would be nine 92. Well, too, if you spend you’ll notice here 30 to 44 minutes, it will be a two Oh three. If you spend 45 to 59 minutes, a 200, and then if you’re going, obviously plus an hour to up to an hour and 14 minutes, it would be a two Oh five. So now what you can do as a provider, start to log the amount of time you’ve taken with the patient.

Cause understand that the time you spend with a patient, not always as doing exam things or palpation, right? If you will, but taking the history gathering. In fact, here’s the really cool part about this. Notice this statement here, it says of total time spent on the date of the encounter. So no longer is it just face to face time. It’s now going to be the entire time. So by example, I bet many of you have a patient fill out a relatively detailed history form. And of course, once they fill that out, you’re going to spend maybe five or 10 minutes reviewing it before you even go in the room with the patient, because you want to see what they said that week and ask more points, questions. Here’s the important part of that. You now you can take the time you did reviewing that before seeing the patient, this is before or after seeing the patient so long as it’s in the same day, it doesn’t have to be face-to-face.

So now I want you to start thinking not only is time important when you document acupuncture, as we’re all aware, but it now also becomes important when doing evaluation. So it’s going to be important if you will to think of it. This is the year of time. I know it’s the year of the ox, but it’s the year of time you’re going to time acupuncture. But now I want you to start to tell me how much time you spent doing any of the activities that are running [inaudible] to your acupuncture visit or exam it could be, or the patient or after if you’re having to review or, you know, probably, uh, consult with another doctor potentially. So you’ll notice all of them have a time value. Now that’s different. So this is a completely new description. That old description is now gone. Now, the other thing that did update a little bit, they did obviously indicate time.

But one thing to note nine, nine two, one, one you’ll notice here does not have a time value. And that’s because that’s considered a value for a non doctor seeing the patient like a staff person, which wouldn’t happen in a Kairos or excuse me, an Accu setting, but maybe in a medical setting, they might have a staff taken a blood pressure. So think of it this way. You’re going to code a nine nine two one one. You’re always going to code. According to time, notice on a re exam of a patient 10 to 19 minutes. Now as a two, one to 20 to 29 minutes is a two, one three. So where I think things are going to be a lot easier for acupuncture. Now, just going to document the time now I will say, let’s be a little careful. If you tell me you spend an hour with every patient, no matter what they have, that’s going to be problematic because now it’s not an issue of what you’re seeing.

It’s a style, but assuming you do more or less, depending on severity, this all makes a lot of sense. And so now you’re simply going to pick the code that’s appropriate. I do believe you’re going to see a lot more potentially two Oh threes and twos, zero fours, based on that timing of that first visit. However, I do think on the re-exams we might be more in the 200 threes and two, one twos, not the two, one fours. It goes on re-exams will you spend more than 30 minutes on the re-exams? I won’t say that is this typical, but not saying not here’s the important part document the time. So here’s, what’s changed the old really based everything on the complexity. And you had to have history of physical exam, medical decision making, and it had to all fit within these guidelines. Well, the new one no longer requires a specific history or exam.

Now that doesn’t mean there isn’t an importance to a history and exam. It just means that’s not going to be the absolute basis for the codes. They’re going to allow you to use the time that you spend with the patient. If you will counseling them to an extent, in addition, they will still allow medical decision making. That’s what MDM stands for here, medical decision-making. So this is where I’m sure some of you have seen this. You can go to a medical doctor and maybe you’re with him or her all of 10 minutes, but they Ville bill a very high value code and you think, Oh my God, how could they build such a code for 10 minutes? Because the medical decision-making being life or death or something that with a great risk of morbidity, mortality may be higher. So there’s still going to be a component of that.

But I think this really helps complementary providers like acupuncturist, better code according to the amount of time and things you need to do with the patient. So to kind of give a synopsis, you’ll notice nine, nine, two Oh two to two Oh five. You’ll notice the total minutes here, but then notice it says medically appropriate. So do keep in mind. If someone comes in with a simple shoulder pain, I doubt that’s ever going to reach a high level, even if you spent an hour. Cause what about that would be high in the sense of risk of morbidity mortality, but what if they have multiple areas? What if there’s low back pain and it’s rated into the stomach? Those all certainly could make a difference. In addition, notice now on the right side as well, it says medically appropriate for the established patients. But notice again, just the time and what it says a straight forward, think of straightforward is something you can almost see it without really even evaluating just based on the patient telling you, but the more complex, the more things we have to do deal with.

So I do want to make an emphasis here. History for an exam is no longer the reason for the code. It could be medical decision-making or time you should do an appropriate history and exam for the patient’s condition. Obviously, would you want to do a full history of a patient with a simple shoulder problem? Probably not. I mean, we don’t need as many of those factors as we did in the past just to qualify, but it would be appropriate necessarily based on the history of the patient. Tell you, so it says here healthcare providers should not interpret this change to mean that the documentation efficient exam is not necessary. A complete medical record of services is rent. Rendered is important for many reasons, such as providing information for quality initiatives, but also making sure that there’s an appropriate amount of information to make the diagnosis that we’re getting.

So although a specific level of history exam will not be a factor for 2021. You still need it for accuracy. Just be careful. Let’s not conflate everything to an hour. So my only concern would be, let’s not put ourselves in a position that if your style indicates an hour, I’m not against that, but that’s not an issue where the necessity based on severity is there. So I know this was a quick and easy to show you the new codes that they’re time-based. But I want to say to all of you, the American acupuncture council is here to help you. And I will say, give us a chance to help you. We have seminars, we have a program called the network where I can become part of your office, what I’d like all of you to do. If you have a moment, take your phone, open up your camera and that little QR code in the left side.

If you click on that, you’re going to get a free 30 days to make me part of your office. Give me a chance to make sure your claims can get paid and help you with these codes. Even better realize we do seminars, but network members get a chance to deal with me one-on-one so that we can go through, well, how do I do this, Sam? What do I need to document? What level to make sure that you’re fully compliant. So if you click there, it gives you a three free 30 days to our service. I would say, give me a chance to send me a couple of bad claims. Send me a couple of claims you weren’t paid on. I will guarantee will always make you more money. And after 30 days, you’re going to happily say, I want to stay part of your program.

As I said, this was going to be quick and easy. And it just to give you an idea, but please take a look for those of you that have our Accu code. Remember, these are all published there as well. So the new codes now are going to be more time to base with an elimination of nine nine two zero one. And of course, no time with nine nine two one one. So document your time. I’m going to say thank you to all of you. And I hope that you get a chance to try the 30 day trial, get ahold of me. Let’s get moving forward. Let’s make 20, 21 the best year ever. Your patients need you. I want to be part of that service with you. So I’m going to say thank you to all of you and I’ll see you next time. This is Sam Collins, the coding and billing expert for the American Acupuncture Council wishing you all the best .

Please subscribe to our YouTube Channel (http://www.youtube.com/c/Acupuncturecouncil ) Follow us on Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/acupuncturecouncil/), LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/company/american-acupuncture-council-information-network/) Periscope (https://www.pscp.tv/TopAcupuncture). Twitter (https://twitter.com/TopAcupuncture) If you have any questions about today’s show or want to know why the American Acupuncture Council is your best choice for malpractice insurance, call us at (800) 838-0383. or find out just how much you can save with AAC by visiting: https://acupuncturecouncil.com/acupuncture-malpractice-quick-quote/.