July 17th, 2015
It is a longstanding and widespread practice for physicians to retain substitute physicians to take over their professional practices when the regular physicians are absent for reasons such as illness, pregnancy, vacation, or continuing medical education, and for the regular physician to bill and receive payment for the substitute physician’s services as though he/she performed them. The substitute physician generally has no practice of his/her own and moves from area to area as needed. The regular physician generally pays the substitute physician a fixed amount per diem, with the substitute physician having the status of an independent contractor rather than of an employee. These substitute physicians are generally called “locum tenens” physicians.
Section 125(b) of the Social Security Act Amendments of 1994 makes this procedure available on a permanent basis. Thus, beginning January 1, 1995, a regular physician may bill for the services of a locum tenens physicians. A regular physician is the physician that is normally scheduled to see a patient. Thus, a regular physician may include physician specialists (such as a cardiologist, oncologist, urologist, etc.).
B. Payment Procedure
A patient’s regular physician may submit the claim, and (if assignment is accepted) receive the Part B payment, for covered visit services (including emergency visits and related services) of a locum tenens physician who is not an employee of the regular physician and whose services for patients of the regular physician are not restricted to the regular physician’s offices, if:
• The regular physician is unavailable to provide the visit services;
• The Medicare beneficiary has arranged or seeks to receive the visit services from the regular physician;
• The regular physician pays the locum tenens for his/her services on a per diem or similar fee-for-time basis;
• The substitute physician does not provide the visit services to Medicare patients over a continuous period of longer than 60 days subject to the exception noted below; and
• The regular physician identifies the services as substitute physician services meeting the requirements of this section by entering HCPCS code modifier Q6 (service furnished by a locum tenens physician) after the procedure code. When Form CMS-1500 is next revised, provision will be made to identify the substitute physician by entering his/her unique physician identification number (UPIN) or NPI when required to the carrier upon request.
EXCEPTION: In accordance with section 116 of the “Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP Extension Act of 2007” (MMSE), enacted on December 29, 2007, the exception to the 60-day limit on substitute physician billing for physicians called to active duty in the Armed Forces has been extended for services furnished from January 1, 2008 through June 30, 2008. Thus, under this law, a physician called to active duty may bill for substitute physician services from January 1, 2008 through June 30, 2008 for longer than the 60-day limit.
If the only substitution services a physician performs in connection with an operation are post-operative services furnished during the period covered by the global fee, these services need not be identified on the claim as substitution services.
The requirements for the submission of claims under reciprocal billing arrangements are the same for assigned and unassigned claims.
C. Medical Group Claims Under Locum Tenens Arrangements
For a medical group to submit assigned and unassigned claims for the services a locum tenens physician provides for patients of the regular physician who is a member of the group, the requirements of subsection B must be met. For purposes of these requirements, per diem or similar fee-for-time compensation which the group pays the locum tenens physician is considered paid by the regular physician. Also, a physician who has left the group and for whom the group has engaged a locum tenens physician as a temporary replacement may bill for the temporary physician for up to 60 days. The group must enter in item 24d of Form CMS-1500 the HCPCS modifier Q6 after the procedure code. Until further notice, the group must keep on file a record of each service provided by the substitute physician, associated with the substitute physician’s UPIN or NPI when required, and make this record available to the carrier upon request. In addition, the medical group physician for whom the substitution services are furnished must be identified by his/her provider identification number (PIN) or NPI when required on block 24J of the appropriate line item.
Physicians who are members of a group but who bill in their own names are generally treated as independent physicians for purposes of applying the requirements of subsection A for payment for locum tenens physician services. Compensation paid by the group to the locum tenens physician is considered paid by the regular physician for purposes of those requirements. The term “regular physician” includes a physician who has left the group and for whom the group has hired the locum tenens physician as a replacement.