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.
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.