An initial hospital care service (99221-99223) is permitted when the transfer is between:
- Different hospitals;
- Different facilities under common ownership which do not have merged records; or
- Between the acute-care hospital and a PPS (prospective payment system)-exempt unit within the same hospital when there are no merged records (e.g. Medicare Part A-covered inpatient care in psychiatric, rehabilitation, critical access, and long-term care hospitals).4
In all other transfer circumstances not meeting the elements noted above, the physician should bill only the appropriate level of subsequent hospital care (99231-99233) for the date of transfer.1 Do not equate “merged records” to commonly accessible charts via an electronic medical record system or an electronic storage system. If the medical record for the patient’s acute stay is “closed” and the patient is given a separate medical record and registration for the stay in the transferred facility, consider the transfer stay as a separate admission.
Billing Two Services on Day of Transfer
Whether the transfer is classified as intrafacility or interfacility, an individual hospitalist or two separate hospitalists from the same group practice may provide the acute-care discharge and the transfer admission. A hospital discharge day management service (99238-99239) and an initial hospital care service (99221-99223) can only be reported if they do not occur on the same day.1 Physicians in the same group practice who are in the same specialty must bill and be paid as though they were a single physician; if more than one evaluation and management (face to face) service is provided on the same day to the same patient by the same physician or more than one physician in the same specialty in the same group, only one evaluation and management service may be reported.5
CMS will allow a single hospitalist or two hospitalists from the same group practice to report a discharge day management service on the same day as an admission service. When they are billed by the same physician or group with the same date of service, contractors are instructed to pay the hospital discharge day management code (99238-99239) in addition to a nursing facility admission code (99304-99306).6
Conversely, if the patient is admitted to a hospital (99221-99223) following a nursing facility discharge (99315-99316) on the same date by the same physician/group, insurers will only reimburse the initial hospital care code. Payment for the initial hospital care service includes all work performed by the physician/group in all sites of service on that date.
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.
References available online at the-hospitalist.org