Cpt codes and physical therapy what you need to know webpt estenosis lumbar sintomas

Self-care/home management training (e.g., activities of daily living [ADL] and compensatory training, meal preparation, safety procedures, and instructions in use of assistive technology devices/adaptive equipment), direct one-on-one contact (15 minutes)

As mentioned in the intro above, while CPT codes are similar to ICD-10 codes in that they both communicate uniform information about medical services and procedures, CPT codes identify services rendered rather than diagnoses. In short, CPT codes are procedure codes and ICD-10 codes are patient diagnosis codes.

Here is an example of ICD-10 and CPT codes in use: Today, if you diagnose a patient with “Benign paroxysmal vertigo, bilateral,” you would use the ICD-10 code H81.13 to indicate your diagnosis.


Then, you might complete standard canalith repositioning on your patient, in which case you would include CPT procedural code 95992 on your claim. What is Modifier 59? How Do I Use It?

“Under certain circumstances, the physician may need to indicate that a procedure or service was distinct or independent from other services performed on the same day. Modifier 59 is used to identify procedures [and/or] services that are not normally reported together, but are appropriate under the circumstances. This may represent a different session or patient encounter, different procedure or surgery, different site or organ system, separate incision/excision, separate lesion, or separate injury (or area of injury in extensive injuries) not ordinarily encountered or performed on the same day by the same physician. However, when another already established modifier is appropriate, it should be used rather than modifier 59. Only if no more descriptive modifier is available, and the use of modifier 59 best explains the circumstances, should modifier 59 be used."

So, how does modifier 59 come into play in the therapy setting? If you’re providing two wholly separate and distinct services during the same treatment period, it might be modifier 59 time. The National Correct Coding Initiative (NCCI) has identified procedures that therapists commonly perform together and labeled these “edit pairs.” Thus, if you bill a CPT code that is linked to one of these pairs, you’ll receive payment for only one of the codes. It’s therefore your responsibility as the therapist to determine whether you’re providing linked services or wholly separate services. This, in turn, determines whether modifier 59 is appropriate. Modifier 59 Example

For example, let’s look at one of the most commonly billed codes: 97140 (manual therapy techniques like mobilization/manipulation, manual lymphatic drainage, or manual traction on one or more regions, each for 15 minutes). According to NCCI, the following are considered linked services when billed in combination with 97140: 95851, 95852, 97164, 97168, 97018, 97124, 97530, 97750, and 99186. So, if you bill any of these codes with 97140, you’ll receive payment for only 97140. Medicare actually uses this example on its site to explain appropriate use of modifier 59 among rehab therapists.

CMS states that when billing 97140 and 97530 (therapeutic activities; direct, one-on-one patient contact by the provider; or use of dynamic activities to improve functional performance, each for 15 minutes) for the same session or date, modifier 59 is only appropriate if the therapist performs the two procedures in distinctly different 15-minute intervals. This means that you cannot report the two codes together if you performed them during the same 15-minute time interval.

If the care you provide meets the appropriate criteria, you can add modifier 59 to 97530 to indicate it was a separate service and should be payable in addition to the 97140. The same holds true for billing 97140 with 95851, 95852, 97164, 97168, 97018, 97530, or 97750. However, you can never bill 97124 with 97140—and you cannot add any modifier to change this restriction, because these codes are mutually exclusive procedures, according to CMS. When Should I Use Modifier 59?

Modifier 59 can monumentally impact your Medicare reimbursements, and unfortunately, it’s the modifier physical therapists struggle with most. Perhaps that’s because the CPT Manual doesn’t offer the most helpful guidance. Therefore, we recommend asking the following questions to decide if and when you should use modifier 59. Are you billing for two services that form an NCCI edit pair?

There are instances in which it’s appropriate to use modifier 59 in conjunction with physical therapy services. Recognizing those instances, though, requires you to recognize NCCI edit pairs. To make a long story short, edit pairs—also called linked services—are sets of procedures that therapists commonly perform together. If you submit a claim containing both of the codes in an edit pair, you’ll only receive payment for one of the procedures, because the payer will assume that one of the services was essentially “built into” the other. Did you perform those two services separately and independently of one another?

Okay, so you’re dealing with an edit pair. But what if—for whatever reason—you actually didn’t perform those services together? That’s where modifier 59 comes into the picture. Basically, when you append modifier 59 to one of the CPT codes in an edit pair, it signals to the payer that you provided both services in the pair separately and independently of one another—meaning that you also should receive separate payment for each procedure. Does your documentation support your assertion that you performed the two services separately and independently of one another?

When it comes to telling your patients’ stories, codes and modifiers can only say so much. It’s on you to fill in the plot holes with detailed, defensible documentation. After all, your documentation justifies your billing decisions—and if you’re ever faced with an audit, your notes will be your main source of proof that those decisions were the right ones. That means you should never:

Clinicians, coders, and billers should only use modifier 59 as a last resort (i.e., when there’s not a better option). As the CPT Manual states, “…when another already established modifier is appropriate, it should be used rather than modifier 59. Only if no more descriptive modifier is available, and the use of modifier 59 best explains the circumstances, should modifier 59 be used.”

Now, you’ve probably heard talk about the new set of modifiers that CMS created for providers to use in place of modifier 59, when appropriate. The new modifiers—XE, XP, XS, and XU—are intended to bypass a CCI edit by denoting a distinct encounter, anatomical structure, practitioner, or unusual service. However, even though these modifiers went into effect January 1, 2015, the APTA has stated that therapists do not need to start using them in place of modifier 59—at least not yet. That being said, therapists may be required to use the new modifiers in the future, so keep an eye—or an ear—out for further instruction regarding modifier 59 usage.