Code 99291 is used for critical care, evaluation, and management of the critically ill or critically injured patient, first 30–74 minutes.1 It is to be reported only once per day per physician or group member of the same specialty.
Code 99292 is for critical care, evaluation, and management of the critically ill or critically injured patient, each additional 30 minutes. It is to be listed separately in addition to the code for primary service.1 Code 99292 is categorized as an add-on code. It must be reported on the same invoice as its primary code, 99291. Multiple units of code 99292 can be reported per day per physician/group.
Despite the increased resources and references for critical care billing, critical care reporting issues persist. Medicare data analysis continues to identify 99291 as high risk for claim payment errors, perpetuating prepayment claim edits for outlier utilization and location discrepancies (i.e., settings other than inpatient hospital, outpatient hospital, or the emergency department). 2,3,4
Bolster your documentation with these three key elements.
Critical Illness, Injury Management
Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) define “critical illness or injury” as a condition that acutely impairs one or more vital organ systems such that there is a high probability of imminent or life-threatening deterioration in the patient’s condition (e.g., central nervous system failure; circulatory failure; shock; renal, hepatic, metabolic, and/or respiratory failure).5
Hospitalists providing care to the critically ill patient must perform highly complex decision making and interventions of high intensity that are required to prevent the patient’s inevitable decline. CMS further elaborates that “the patient shall be critically ill or injured at the time of the physician’s visit.”6 This is to ensure that hospitalists and other specialists support the medical necessity of the service and do not continue to report critical care codes on days after the patient has become stable and improved.
Consider the following scenarios:
CMS examples of patients whose medical condition may warrant critical care services (99291, 99292):6
- An 81-year-old male patient is admitted to the ICU following abdominal aortic aneurysm resection. Two days after surgery, he requires fluids and pressors to maintain adequate perfusion and arterial pressures. He remains ventilator dependent.
- A 67-year-old female patient is three days post mitral valve repair. She develops petechiae, hypotension, and hypoxia requiring respiratory and circulatory support.
- A 70-year-old admitted for right lower lobe pneumococcal pneumonia with a history of COPD becomes hypoxic and hypotensive two days after admission.
- A 68-year-old admitted for an acute anterior wall myocardial infarction continues to have symptomatic ventricular tachycardia that is marginally responsive to antiarrhythmic therapy.
CMS examples of patients who may not satisfy Medicare medical necessity criteria, or do not meet critical care criteria, or who do not have a critical care illness or injury and, therefore, are not eligible for critical care payment but may be reported using another appropriate hospital care code, such as subsequent hospital care codes (99231–99233), initial hospital care codes (99221–99223), or hospital consultation codes (99251–99255) when applicable:1,6
- Patients admitted to a critical care unit because no other hospital beds were available;
- Patients admitted to a critical care unit for close nursing observation and/or frequent monitoring of vital signs (e.g., drug toxicity or overdose);
- Patients admitted to a critical care unit because hospital rules require certain treatments (e.g., insulin infusions) to be administered in the critical care unit; and
- Patients receiving only care of a chronic illness in absence of care for a critical illness (e.g., daily management of a chronic ventilator patient, management of or care related to dialysis for end-stage renal disease). Services considered palliative in nature as this type of care do not meet the definition of critical care services.7