by Wyn Staheli, Director of Research
August 16th, 2018
Medicare's guidelines for reporting of timed codes is found in Medicare Claims Processing Manual Chapter 5, Section 20.2. Also known as the '8 minute' rule, it describes how to calculate time for appropriate reporting when more than one timed code is performed at the same time.
It should be noted that while many payers follow these same guidelines, some payers have different guidelines so be sure you understand the rules for each of your payers to ensure proper coding and avoid allegations of fraud.
20.2 - Reporting of Service Units With HCPCS
C. Counting Minutes for Timed Codes in 15 Minute Units
When only one service is provided in a day, providers should not bill for services performed for less than 8 minutes. For any single timed CPT code in the same day measured in 15 minute units, providers bill a single 15-minute unit for treatment greater than or equal to 8 minutes through and including 22 minutes. If the duration of a single modality or procedure in a day is greater than or equal to 23 minutes, through and including 37 minutes, then 2 units should be billed. Time intervals for 1 through 8 units are as follows:
Units Number of Minutes
1 unit: ≥ 8 minutes through 22 minutes
2 units:≥ 23 minutes through 37 minutes
3 units:≥ 38 minutes through 52 minutes
4 units:≥ 53 minutes through 67 minutes
5 units:≥ 68 minutes through 82 minutes
6 units:≥ 83 minutes through 97 minutes
7 units:≥ 98 minutes through 112 minutes
8 units:≥ 113 minutes through 127 minutes
The pattern remains the same for treatment times in excess of 2 hours.
If a service represented by a 15 minute timed code is performed in a single day for at least 15 minutes, that service shall be billed for at least one unit. If the service is performed for at least 30 minutes, that service shall be billed for at least two units, etc. It is not appropriate to count all minutes of treatment in a day toward the units for one code if other services were performed for more than 15 minutes. See examples 2 and 3 below.
When more than one service represented by 15 minute timed codes is performed in a single day, the total number of minutes of service (as noted on the chart above) determines the number of timed units billed. See example 1 below.
If any 15 minute timed service that is performed for 7 minutes or less than 7 minutes on the same day as another 15 minute timed service that was also performed for 7 minutes or less and the total time of the two is 8 minutes or greater than 8 minutes, then bill one unit for the service performed for the most minutes. This is correct because the total time is greater than the minimum time for one unit. The same logic is applied when three or more different services are provided for 7 minutes or less than 7 minutes. See example 5 below.
The expectation (based on the work values for these codes) is that a provider’s direct patient contact time for each unit will average 15 minutes in length. If a provider has a consistent practice of billing less than 15 minutes for a unit, these situations should be highlighted for review.
If more than one 15 minute timed CPT code is billed during a single calendar day, then the total number of timed units that can be billed is constrained by the total treatment minutes for that day. See all examples below.
Pub. 100-02, Medicare Benefit Policy Manual, Chapter 15, Section 220.3B, Documentation Requirements for Therapy Services, indicates that the amount of time for each specific intervention/modality provided to the patient is not required to be documented in the Treatment Note. However, the total number of timed minutes must be documented. These examples indicate how to count the appropriate number of units for the total therapy minutes provided.
Example 1 –
See the chart above. The 47 minutes falls within the range for 3 units = 38 to 52 minutes.
Appropriate billing for 47 minutes is only 3 timed units. Each of the codes is performed for more than 15 minutes, so each shall be billed for at least 1 unit. The correct coding is 2 units of code 97112 and one unit of code 97110, assigning more timed units to the service that took the most time.
Example 2 –
Appropriate billing for 40 minutes is 3 units. Each service was done at least 15 minutes and should be billed for at least one unit, but the total allows 3 units. Since the time for each service is the same, choose either code for 2 units and bill the other for 1 unit. Do not bill 3 units for either one of the codes.
Example 3 –
Appropriate billing for 40 minutes is for 3 units. Bill 2 units of 97110 and 1 unit of 97140. Count the first 30 minutes of 97110 as two full units. Compare the remaining time for 97110 (33-30 = 3 minutes) to the time spent on 97140 (7 minutes) and bill the larger, which is 97140.
Example 4 –
Appropriate billing is for 3 units. Bill the procedures you spent the most time providing. Bill 1 unit each of 97110, 97116, and 97140. You are unable to bill for the ultrasound because the total time of timed units that can be billed is constrained by the total timed code treatment minutes (i.e., you may not bill 4 units for less than 53 minutes regardless of how many services were performed). You would still document the ultrasound in the treatment notes.
Example 5 –
Appropriate billing is for one unit. The qualified professional (See definition in Pub. 100-02, chapter 15, section 220) shall select one appropriate CPT code (97112, 97110, 97140) to bill since each unit was performed for the same amount of time and only one unit is allowed.
NOTE: The above schedule of times is intended to provide assistance in rounding time into 15-minute increments. It does not imply that any minute until the eighth should be excluded from the total count. The total minutes of active treatment counted for all 15 minute timed codes includes all direct treatment time for the timed codes. Total treatment minutes - including minutes spent providing services represented by untimed codes - are also documented. For documentation in the medical record of the services provided see Pub. 100-02, chapter 15, section 220.3.
- Medicare Claims Processing Manual Chapter 5, Section 20.2