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Family Practice Coding Alert

These Tips Help You Decide if Destruction, I&D Visits Also Warrant E/M Service

Improve your procedure-related coding with solid understanding of modifier 25

Two astute Family Practice Coding Alert readers noticed possible inconsistencies in the publication's advice on billing an E/M service with a minor procedure. The June 2006 Family Practice Coding Alert -Reader Questions: Check Diagnosis for I&D for Testicular Pain- suggests -that a physician cannot bill for an E/M when a procedure is done at the same visit,- says Kris Cuddy, CPC, with Mid-Michigan Physicians. -This same issue offers an article describing how the physician may bill for cerumen impaction removal and an E/M on the same day.-

To make matters more confusing, the March 2006 Family Practice Coding Alert reader question -Review Insurer's Modifier Policies- describes a patient who comes in for a non-healing spot on his hand. The FP diagnoses the spot as a common wart and uses cryosurgery to destroy it. 

-The answer indicates billing E/M 99212-25 and 17000 (Destruction [e.g., laser surgery, electrosurgery, cryosurgery, chemosurgery, surgical curettement], all benign or premalignant lesions other than skin tags or cutaneous vascular proliferative lesions; first lesion) for destruction of the wart,- says Sharon Carson, outpatient coder at Spooner Clinic, part of the St. Mary-s/Duluth Clinic Health System in Minnesota.

Before you get the lowdown on what makes these scenarios different and the factors that led to the recommendations, make sure you have a solid grasp of these modifier 25 principles.  Review CPT's Procedure Inclusion Statement You probably know that modifier 25 (Significant, separately identifiable evaluation and management service by the same physician on the same day of the procedure or other service) refers to a -significant, separately identifiable evaluation and management service- but you may overlook its extended definition.  -For you to bill a modifier 25-appended service, the E/M service must be over and above the procedure's pre- and post-op work,- says Vicky V. O-Neil, CPC, CCS-P, coding and compliance educator in St. Louis, Mo.
This principle stems from CPT's modifier 25 language. In Appendix A of the CPT 2006 manual, the AMA explains that you may need to use modifier 25 -to indicate that on the day a procedure or service identified by a CPT code was performed, the patient's condition required a significant, separately identifiable E/M service above and beyond the other service provided or beyond the usual preoperative and postoperative care associated with the procedure that was performed.-

Tip: Documentation will probably meet modifier 25's criteria if you can draw a line between the E/M service and the procedure to show the separate nature of the two charges. In the first paragraph, the physician should document a history, [...]