Practice Economics

Know Surgical Package Requirements before Billing Postoperative Care


With the growth of HM programs and the admission/attending role expansion, involvement in surgical cases comes under scrutiny for medical necessity.

Hospitalists often are involved in the postoperative care of the surgical patient. However, HM is emerging in the admitting/attending role for procedural patients. Confusion can arise as to the nature of the hospitalist service, and whether it is deemed billable. Knowing the surgical package requirements can help hospitalists consider the issues.

Global Surgical Package Period1

Surgical procedures, categorized as major or minor surgery, are reimbursed for pre-, intra-, and postoperative care. Postoperative care varies according to the procedure’s assigned global period, which designates zero, 10, or 90 postoperative days. (Physicians can review the global period for any given CPT code in the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule, available at

Services classified with “XXX” do not have the global period concept. “ZZZ” services denote an “add-on” procedure code that must always be reported with a primary procedure code and assumes the global period assigned to the primary procedure performed.

Major surgery allocates a 90-day global period in which the surgeon is responsible for all related surgical care one day before surgery through 90 postoperative days with no additional charge. Minor surgery, including endoscopy, appoints a zero-day or 10-day postoperative period. The zero-day global period encompasses only services provided on the surgical day, whereas 10-day global periods include services on the surgical day through 10 postoperative days.

Global Surgical Package Components2

The global surgical package comprises a host of responsibilities that include standard facility requirements of filling out all necessary paperwork involved in surgical cases (e.g. preoperative H&P, operative consent forms, preoperative orders). Additionally, the surgeon’s packaged payment includes (at no extra charge):

  • Preoperative visits after making the decision for surgery beginning one day prior to surgery;
  • All additional postoperative medical or surgical services provided by the surgeon related to complications but not requiring additional trips to the operating room;
  • Postoperative visits by the surgeon related to recovery from surgery, including but not limited to dressing changes; local incisional care; removal of cutaneous sutures and staples; line removals; changes and removal of tracheostomy tubes; and discharge services; and
  • Postoperative pain management provided by the surgeon.
  • Examples of services that are not included in the global surgical package, (i.e. are separately billable and may require an appropriate modifier) are:
  • The initial consultation or evaluation of the problem by the surgeon to determine the need for surgery;
  • Services of other physicians except where the other physicians are providing coverage for the surgeon or agree on a transfer of care (i.e. a formal agreement in the form of a letter or an annotation in the discharge summary, hospital record, or ASC record);
  • Postoperative visits by the surgeon unrelated to the diagnosis for which the surgical procedure is performed, unless the visits occur due to complications of the surgery;
  • Diagnostic tests and procedures, including diagnostic radiological procedures;
  • Clearly distinct surgical procedures during the postoperative period that do not result in repeat operations or treatment for complications;
  • Treatment for postoperative complications that requires a return trip to the operating room (OR), catheterization lab or endoscopy suite;
  • Immunosuppressive therapy for organ transplants; and
  • Critical-care services (CPT codes 99291 and 99292) unrelated to the surgery where a seriously injured or burned patient is critically ill and requires constant attendance of the surgeon.

Classification of “Surgeon”

For billing purposes, the “surgeon” is a qualified physician who can perform “surgical” services within their scope of practice. All physicians with the same specialty designation in the same group practice as the “surgeon” (i.e. reporting services under the same tax identification number) are considered a single entity and must adhere to the global period billing rules initiated by the “surgeon.”

Alternately, physicians with different specialty designations in the same group practice (e.g. a hospitalist and a cardiologist in a multispecialty group who report services under the same tax identification number) or different group practices can perform and separately report medically necessary services during the surgeon’s global period, as long as a formal (mutually agreed-upon) transfer of care did not occur.

Medical Necessity

With the growth of HM programs and the admission/attending role expansion, involvement in surgical cases comes under scrutiny for medical necessity. Admitting a patient who has active medical conditions (e.g. hypertension, diabetes, emphysema) is reasonable and necessary because the patient has a well-defined need for medical management by the hospitalist. Participation in the care of these patients is separately billable from the surgeon’s global period package.

Alternatively, a hospitalist might be required to admit and follow surgical patients who have no other identifiable chronic or acute conditions aside from the surgical problem. In these cases, hospitalist involvement may satisfy facility policy (quality of care, risk reduction, etc.) and administrative functions (discharge services or coordination of care) rather than active clinical management. This “medical management” will not be considered “medically necessary” by the payor, and may be denied as incidental to the surgeon’s perioperative services. Erroneous payment can occur, which will result in refund requests, as payors do not want to pay twice for duplicate services. Hospitalists can attempt to negotiate other terms with facilities to account for the unpaid time and effort directed toward these types of cases.

Consider the Case

A patient with numerous medical comorbidities is admitted to the hospitalist service for stabilization prior to surgery, which will occur the next day. The hospitalist can report the appropriate admission code (99221-99223) without need for modifiers because the hospitalist is the attending of record and in a different specialty group. If a private insurer denies the claim as inclusive to the surgical service, the hospitalist can appeal with notes and a cover letter, along with the Medicare guidelines for global surgical package. The hospitalist may continue to provide postoperative daily care, as needed, to manage the patient’s chronic conditions, and report each service as subsequent hospital care (99231-99233) without modifier until the day of discharge (99238-99239). Again, if a payor issues a denial (inclusive to surgery), appealing with notes might be necessary.

Carol Pohlig is a billing and coding expert with the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia. She is faculty for SHM’s inpatient coding course.


25 - Significant, Separately Identifiable Evaluation and Management Service by the Same Physician on the Same Day of the Procedure or Other Service.

It may be necessary 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. A significant, separately identifiable E/M service is defined or substantiated by documentation that satisfies the relevant criteria for the respective E/M service to be reported. The E/M service may be prompted by the symptom or condition for which the procedure and/or service was provided. As such, different diagnoses are not required for reporting of the E/M services on the same date. This circumstance may be reported by adding modifier 25 to the appropriate level of E/M service.3 Report this modifier with separately identifiable visits provided on the same day as minor surgical procedures or endoscopies.

57 - Decision for Surgery

An evaluation and management service that resulted in the initial decision to perform the [major] surgery (within one day of the procedure) may be identified by adding the modifier 57 to the appropriate level of E/M service when provided the day before or day of major surgery.3 Decisions for elective surgeries are typically made at a previous outpatient encounter and are not subject to modifier 57 requirements.

24 - Unrelated Evaluation and Management Service by the Same Physician During a Postoperative Period

The physician may need to indicate that an evaluation and management service was performed during a postoperative period for a reason(s) unrelated to the original procedure. This circumstance may be reported by adding the modifier 24 to the appropriate level of E/M service.3 Modifier 24 is not recognized when appended to postoperative visits provided during the same hospitalization in which the surgery occurred. Append modifier 24 to all unrelated postoperative outpatient care, or inpatient care during subsequent hospitalizations within the designated global period. Modifier 24 is only used for visits associated with 10- or 90-day postoperative periods.


  1. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Medicare Claims Processing Manual: Chapter 12, Section 40. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services website. Available at: Accessed May 5, 2012.
  2. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. ICD-10: HHS proposes one-year delay of ICD-10 compliance date. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services website. Available at: Accessed May 5, 2012.
  3. Abraham M, Ahlman J, Anderson C, Boudreau A, Connelly J. Current Procedural Terminology 2012 Professional Edition. Chicago: American Medical Association Press; 2011.

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