Skilled Nursing Coding

By Aimee Wilcox, MA, CST, CCS-P

The first time I remember visiting a skilled nursing facility was after my grandmother's stroke. She was rehabilitating there, trying to learn to speak again. Once she was back to her normal activities, she returned to our home where she was taken care of until she passed away several years later.

What types of services are provided at a skilled nursing facility?

Skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) are also commonly referred to as nursing homes. They offer care for different types of medical problems and patients such as:

Skilled nursing care for patients who need injections, dressing changes, medication administration, IV therapy, etc.

Rehabilitative care for patients who are recuperating from surgery, stroke, or injury who may need speech therapy, physical therapy, or even occupational therapy to partially or fully recover.

Long-term care for patients who simply need help with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing, eating, dressing, and even for part-time nursing care are not eligible for Medicare Part A benefits for SNF care but may be eligible for home health care services administered in their home.

Who can provide medical services in skilled nursing care?

Qualified non-physician practitioners (NP, PA, CNS) can provide care for all subsequent SNF visits but the initial visit must be performed by the admitting physician, as governed by the Long-Term Care Regulations.

Who manages the care patients receive in skilled nursing facilities?

Care is managed by the admitting physician who develops an official plan of care. When a patient is admitted to a SNF, the admitting physician must perform an initial comprehensive assessment within 30 days of the admission.

What are the appropriate codes for reporting the initial comprehensive assessment?

An initial comprehensive assessment must follow these guidelines:

The initial visit is reported based on the same criteria as regular Evaluation and Management (EM) coding and is determined based on time or documentation including:

The CPT codes used to report the initial visit include 99304-99306. As you can see below, the code description includes the level of documentation required for each service and the typical time spent with the patient.

99304Includes a detailed history and physical exam and medical decision making of low complexity.
Typical time spent is 25 minutes.
99305Includes a comprehensive history and physical examination and medical decision making of moderate complexity.
Typical time spent is 35 minutes.
99306Includes a comprehensive history and physical examination and medical decision making of high complexity.
Typical time spent is 45 minutes.

It is important to remember that medically necessary EM visits are payable under the Medicare Part B physician fee schedule and are considered separate from the Medicare Part A services.

Subsequent Visits: 99307-99310

Subsequent visits may be performed by a non-physician practitioners (NPP), as noted previously. Subsequent visits are coded using the following codes:

99307Problem-focused history
Problem-focused examination
Straightforward medical decision making
Typical time = 10 minutes
99308Expanded problem-focused history
Expanded problem-focused examination
Low complexity medical decision making
Typical time = 15
99309Detailed history
Detailed examination
Moderate medical decision making
Typical time = 25 minutes
99310Comprehensive history
Comprehensive examination
High complexity medical decision making
Typical time = 35 minutes

Discharge Day Management Service: 99315-99316

Discharge day management services are reported for the face-to-face time with the patient on the date of the visit, even if the patient is discharged (physically) on another day.

9931530 minutes or less
99316More than 30 minutes

A physician or qualified physician extender may report a discharge day management service code when pronouncing the death of a patient.

Providers, other than the admitting physician, who treat the patient while in a skilled nursing facility should verify patient billing with the skilled nursing facility before submitting claims to ensure proper billing and reimbursement.

Aimee Wilcox, MA, CST, CCS-P is a Certified Coding Guru (CCG) for Find-A-Code. For more information about ICD-10-CM, ICD-10-PCS, and medical coding and billing please visit where you will find the ICD-10 code sets and the current ICD-9-CM, CPT, and HCPCS code sets plus a wealth of additional information related to medical billing and coding.

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