- It is a full time job in medical practices to keep current on each payer’s telehealth rules, which change frequently.
- CMS continues to pay for office visits via audio/visual communications (99202–99215) and office visits via audio ony communication (99441–99443) during the pandemic. When the public health emergency ends, CMS will no longer pay for for telehealth when the patient is in their home, and will reinstate geographic and other restrictions.
- Congress passed a law in 2020 mandating that after the PHE ends, behavioral health services will continue to be allowed via telehealth, audio/visual and audio only.
- The AMA has developed a new modifier, -93 for audio only services. Effective date is 1-1-2022, but who knows what payers will require it.
Resources to download regarding telehealth
- CMS Interim Rule – March 30, 2020
- CMS Interim Rule – April 30, 2020
- List of covered CMS telehealth services
- Behavioral health and telemedicine
- Read the article about modifier CS and cost sharing here
Medicare telehealth policies during the publich health emergency
- Telephone codes were added to the list of services that can be billed via telehealth, and the rates for codes 99441–99443 were increased, to match the rates for 99212–99214
- Office visit codes must still use two-way audio and visual, real time interactive technologies, but the payment rates for audio only codes (99441–99443) were increased
- CMS added to the list of services that can be provided via telehealth to include additional hospital services, home visits, and domiciliary services, inpatient neonatal and pediatric critical care and intensive care codes may be performed via telehealth
- Additional services that are temporary additions to the services that may be performed via telehealth include care planning for patients with cognitive impairment, psychological and neuropsychological testing, physical therapy and occupational therapy and occupational therapy. The blanket waivers were updated at the end of April and physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists are now on the list of clinicians who can bill telehealth
- Subsequent inpatient telehealth may be performed daily, without the prior limit of once every three days
- See the full list here.
- The list of telehealth services include some that may be reported using audio equipment only
- In order to bill office visits or any of the services that are not indicated as video only, on the list above, you must have interactive, real-time audio visual with the patient.
Place of service and modifier
In March 2020, CMS released an interim rule with other changes.
For Medicare claims, use the place of service that would have been used if the patient had been seen face-to-face. Do not use POS 02. This means, if it is an office visit, you will be paid the higher, non-facility rate, not the facility rate. This is about $20 difference for office visits billed with POS 11. CMS now says to use modifier 95 on the claim. If billing in an outpatient department, use place of service 19 or 22. Use the place of service that would have been used. Append modifier 95 to the claim.
Medical practices need to check with their private payers to see what POS and modifier they require.
Selecting a level of service
Use the 2021 guidelines for codes 99202–99215. This can be based on time or MDM.
Not defined as telehealth
On-line digital E/M (99421–99423 and 98970–98972), virtual check in (G2010, G2012) and remote monitoring are not considered telehealth services. Do not use POS 02 or modifier 95 with these.
For Medicare, telephone codes (99441–99443) are now defined as telehealth services, because they are on the CMS telehealth list.
Medicare telehealth visits are for office, hospital visits and other services allowed via Medicare’s existing policy for telehealth services. Under the new regulations, to bill office visits and other approved telehealth services:
- The provider must use an interactive, real-time audio and video telecommunication system in order to bill office visit codes 99201–99215. If the patient does not have access to a smart phone or computer, do not bill office visit codes.
- HIPAA privacy rules waived.
- May not use applications that are front facing, such as facebook live, twitch or TikTok
- CMS instructs groups to notify the patient that third party platforms may have privacy risk
- Practitioners who may bill for telehealth include physicians, advanced practice registered nurses, physician assistants, CRNAs, clinical psychologists, clinical social workers, registered dietitians and nutrition professionals. The rule released on 3/30/2020 adds therapy codes to the list, and the April 30 rule added physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists.
- Visits are paid at the same rate as in person visits.
- The provider may waive the co-pay/deductible but is not required to do so.
- Virtual communication (phone calls, virtual check in codes G2010 and G2012, and digital E/M are not considered telehealth. Information about those services is below. Do not use place of service 02 for those services. These are not considered to be telehealth services.
- Remote monitoring services are covered, as well, are also not considered telehealth and do not require place of service 02.
On-site visits via video or through a window–report as telehealth?
CMS’s FAQ from 4/9/20 said that if the physician/NPP and the patient are located in the same facility, but not in the same room, and are communicating via telecommunication, these do not need to be reported as telehealth. Use the codes that describe the in person communication. (COVID-19 Interim Final Rule FAQs)
CMS said in their 3/30/20 rule that direct supervision could be provided via audio/visual, real time communication.
RHCs and FQHCs
The CARES Act opened up payment for E/M services in these locations. Use code G2025.
RHCs and FQHCs may bill G0071, payment for communication technology-based services for 5 minutes or more of a virtual (non-face-to-face) communication between an RHC or FQHC practitioner and RHC or FQHC patient, or 5 minutes or more of remote evaluation of recorded video and/or image by an RHC or FQHC practitioner, occurring in lieu of an office visit; (RHC or FQHC only). The updated rate is $24.76.
CMS finally released instructions about FQHC and RHC billing. There is a link to the MedLearn matters document at the article.
Payment for phone calls
- CMS will pay for phone calls using codes 99441—99443, and 98966—98968
- CMS stated in their 3/30/2020 rule that these codes may be used for new and established patient visits during the public health emergency
- Physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants should use codes 99441—99443
- Other qualified health care professionals who may bill Medicare for their services, such as registered dieticians, social workers, speech language pathologists and physical and occupational therapists should use codes 98966—98968
Real-time audio visual equipment is not required for G2012, G2010 or 99421—99423 because those are not considered telehealth services. The requirements for those are described in the article on telehealth, and in separate entries on CodingIntel.com. Links are listed later in this article.
Per the CPT definition, phone call codes 99441—99443 and 98966—98968 are services initiated by the patient (CMS did not discuss if this requirement was waived or not). They may not be provided if they are in follow-up for a visit within the past 7 days, or if they result in a visit in the next 24 hours, or next available appointment. While 99441–99443 were added to the telehealth list and the rates increased, the same is not true for 98966–98968.
Physicians, nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, certified nurse midwives and physician assistants use these codes:
99441 Telephone evaluation and management service by a physician or other qualified health care professional who may report evaluation and management services provided to an established patient, parent or guardian not originating from a related E/M service provided within the previous 7 days nor leading to an E/M service or procedure within the next 24 hours or soonest available appointment; 5-10 minutes of medical discussion
99442 11-20 minutes of medical discussion
99443 21-30 minutes of medical discussion
Registered dieticians, social workers, speech language pathologists and physical and occupational therapists use these codes
98966 Telephone evaluation and management service by a qualified nonphysician health care professional to an established patient, parent or guardian not originating from a related assessment and management service provided within the previous 7 days nor leading to an evaluation and management service or procedure within the next 24 hours or soonest available appointment; 5-10 minutes of medical discussion
98967 11-20 minutes of medical discussion
98968 21-30 minutes of medical discussion
- Coding Guidance from the AMA
- CMS enrollment COVID-19 PEHotline
- Aledade guide to getting started with telehealth
Virtual check-ins (some payers use these, not office visits)
CMS is still paying for their HCPCS codes G2012 and G2010. You know what I think about these codes. Too little money for the effort to do and document. But, these don’t require real time audio/video, the way office visits do. CMS stated in their 3/30/2020 rule that G2012 may be billed for both new and established patients during the public health emergency period.
On-line digital E/M (some payers paying these, not office visits)
CMS began paying for these in 2020. These aren’t office visits via audio/video, but are more complex and convoluted to do and document. But, they were mentioned in CMS’s rules, and so I’m including them.
Interprofessional consults (may be useful in the hospital setting)
These are not officially part of telehealth, but some groups are using them now in the hospital, so that fewer physicians see each patient in the hospital. They allow a consultant to do a time-based chart review and provide a verbal and written report back to the requesting clinician without seeing the patient.
Telehealth place of service and modifier for Commercial Payers
The place of service for telemedicine is 02.
CPT ® added modifier 95 to the CPT book in 2017. Medicare now requires it for telehealth, and many commercial payers do, as well. Experienced coders, billers, and administrators know that it is too much to hope that all of the payers will want claims to be submitted in the same way.
Modifier -95 Synchronous Telemedicine Service Rendered Via a Real-Time Interactive Audio and Video Telecommunications System: Synchronous telemedicine service is defined as a real-time interaction between a physician or other qualified health care professional and a patient who is located at a distant site from the physician or other qualified health care professional.
The totality of the communication of information exchanged between the physician or other qualified health care professional and the patient during the course of the synchronous telemedicine service must be of an amount and nature that would be sufficient to meet the key components and/or requirements of the same service when rendered via a face-to-face interaction.
Modifier 95 may only be appended to the services listed in Appendix P in the CPT book or on the list of CMS telehealth services, referenced at the start of this article. Appendix P is the list of CPT codes for services that are typically performed face-to-face, but may be rendered via a real-time (synchronous) interactive audio and video telecommunications system.