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Pathology/Lab Coding Alert

4 Tips Improve Your 88342 Billing

- Published on Tue, Nov 01, 2005
Don't lose $90 for each additional antibody

When your lab uses an immunohistochemistry cocktail,do you bill for just one service? That could be right--or it could be costing you money.

You have to know when to report multiple units of CPT 88342 (Immunohistochemistry [including tissue immunoperoxidase], each antibody). If you get it wrong, you could be underbilling, or facing fraud charges for billing too much. The following expert tips will help you get your 88342 coding right every time. Tip 1: Heed the code definition and bill per antibody The 88342 description says, “each antibody,” so you should report multiple units of the code if the lab performs more than one antibody stain on a single specimen, says Elizabeth Sheppard, HT(ASCP), marketing manager for Ventana Medical Systems in Tucson, Ariz.

For instance: The lab performs qualitative immunohistochemistry (IHC) for estrogen receptor (ER) and progesterone receptor (PR) on a breast biopsy specimen. The proper coding for the two stains is two units of 88342.
You should always be on the lookout for multiple units of 88342. “It’s not unusual for a pathologist to evaluate a series of IHC antibody stains to assist in tumor typing, and you should list each stain as one unit of 88342,” says Joan Logue, BS, MT(ASCP), principal with Health Systems Concepts Inc. in Longwood, Fla.

Ethically increase payment: Medicare’s national limitation amount for the global 88342 service is $89.44. That’s how much you stand to gain every time you correctly code 88342 for a separate IHC stain. Tip 2: Count Different Colors in Cocktails What if the lab uses an IHC “antibody cocktail”--a single stain that contains multiple histochemical antibodies? You should separately code each different-color antibody that the pathologist sees and assesses individually. As the College of American Pathologists stated in the June 2004 CAP Today, “If a specimen is stained with an antibody cocktail, report each antibody separately only if each one can be differentiated microscopically.”

Example: Some antibody cocktails are commercially available, such as Biocare Medical’s Double Vision IHC stains. If your lab uses one of these antibody cocktails, such as LCA + S100, you should charge two units of 88342, says Maria Teixeira, manager of technical support for Biocare Medical in Concord, Calif. “The Double Vision cocktails all result in two-color staining,” Teixeira says. 

Avoid this hidden trap: If the stain involves multiple IHC antibodies that are not visually distinguishable, you should report only one unit of 88342, Teixeira says. For instance, you should not bill 88342 x 2 for cytokeratin stain AE1/AE3 even though you could consider it an antibody cocktail. This stain provides a single color to detect the presence of cells expressing both low and high molecular weight cytokeratins. Reporting 88342 x 2 for a [...]

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