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Proposed Rule

Medicare Program; Revisions to Payment Policies Under the Physician Fee Schedule and Other Revisions to Part B for CY 2019; Medicare Shared Savings Program Requirements; Quality Payment Program; and Medicaid Promoting Interoperability Program

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AGENCY:

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), HHS.

ACTION:

Proposed rule.

SUMMARY:

This major proposed rule addresses changes to the Medicare physician fee schedule (PFS) and other Medicare Part B payment policies to ensure that our payment systems are updated to reflect changes in medical practice and the relative value of services, as well as changes in the statute.

DATES:

Comment date: To be assured consideration, comments must be received at one of the addresses provided below, no later than 5 p.m. on September 10, 2018.

ADDRESSES:

In commenting, please refer to file code CMS-1693-P. Because of staff and resource limitations, we cannot accept comments by facsimile (FAX) transmission.

Comments, including mass comment submissions, must be submitted in one of the following three ways (please choose only one of the ways listed):

1. Electronically. You may submit electronic comments on this regulation to http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the “Submit a comment” instructions.

2. By regular mail. You may mail written comments to the following address ONLY: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Department of Health and Human Services, Attention: CMS-1693-P, P.O. Box 8016, Baltimore, MD 21244-8016.

Please allow sufficient time for mailed comments to be received before the close of the comment period.

3. By express or overnight mail. You may send written comments to the following address ONLY: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Department of Health and Human Services, Attention: CMS-1693-P, Mail Stop C4-26-05, 7500 Security Boulevard, Baltimore, MD 21244-1850.

Start Further Info

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Jamie Hermansen, (410) 786-2064, for any physician payment issues not identified below.

Lindsey Baldwin, (410) 786-1694, and Emily Yoder, (410) 786-1804, for issues related to evaluation and management (E/M) payment, communication technology-based services and telehealth services.

Isadora Gil, (410) 786-4532, for issues related to payment rates for nonexcepted items and services furnished by nonexcepted off-campus provider-based departments of a hospital, and work relative value units (RVUs).

Ann Marshall, (410) 786-3059, for issues related to E/M documentation guidelines.

Geri Mondowney, (410) 786-1172, or Donta Henson, (410) 786-1947, for issues related to geographic price cost indices (GPCIs).

Geri Mondowney, (410) 786-1172, or Tourette Jackson, (410) 786-4735, for issues related to malpractice RVUs.

Patrick Sartini, (410) 786-9252, for issues related to radiologist assistants.

Michael Soracoe, (410) 786-6312, for issues related to practice expense, work RVUs, impacts, and conversion factor.

Pamela West, (410) 786-2302, for issues related to therapy services.

Edmund Kasaitis, (410) 786-0477, for issues related to reduction of wholesale acquisition cost (WAC)-based payment.

Sarah Harding, (410) 786-4001, or Craig Dobyski, (410) 786-4584, for issues related to aggregate reporting of applicable information for clinical laboratory fee schedule.

Amy Gruber, (410) 786-1542, or Glenn McGuirk, (410) 786-5723, for issues related to the ambulance fee schedule.

Corinne Axelrod, (410) 786-5620, for issues related to care management services and communication technology-based services in Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) and Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs).

JoAnna Baldwin, (410) 786-7205, or Sarah Fulton, (410) 786-2749, for issues related to appropriate use criteria for advanced diagnostic imaging services.

David Koppel, (214) 767-4403, for issues related to Medicaid Promoting Interoperability Program.

Fiona Larbi, (410) 786-7224, for issues related to the Medicare Shared Savings Program Quality Measures.

Matthew Edgar, (410) 786-0698, for issues related to the physician self-referral law.

Molly MacHarris, (410) 786-4461, for inquiries related to Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS).

Benjamin Chin, (410) 786-0679, for inquiries related to Alternative Payment Models (APMs).

End Further Info End Preamble Start Supplemental Information

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Table of Contents

I. Executive Summary

II. Provisions of the Proposed Rule for PFS

A. Background

B. Determination of Practice Expense (PE) Relative Value Units (RVUs)

C. Determination of Malpractice Relative Value Units (RVUs)

D. Modernizing Medicare Physician Payment by Recognizing Communication Technology-Based Services

E. Potentially Misvalued Services Under the PFS

F. Radiologist Assistants

G. Payment Rates Under the Medicare PFS for Nonexcepted Items and Services Furnished by Nonexcepted Off-Campus Provider-Based Departments of a Hospital

H. Valuation of Specific Codes

I. Evaluation & Management (E/M) Visits

J. Teaching Physician Documentation Requirements for Evaluation and Management Services

K. Solicitation of Public Comments on the Low Expenditure Threshold Component of the Applicable Laboratory Definition Under the Medicare Clinical Laboratory Fee Schedule (CLFS)

L. GPCI Comment Solicitation

M. Therapy Services

N. Part B Drugs: Application of an Add-On Percentage for Certain Wholesale Acquisition Cost (WAC)-Based Payments

III. Other Provisions of the Proposed Rule

A. Clinical Laboratory Fee Schedule

B. Proposed Changes to the Regulations Associated With the Ambulance Fee Schedule

C. Payment for Care Management Services and Communication Technology-Based Services in Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) and Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs)

D. Appropriate Use Criteria for Advanced Diagnostic Imaging Services

E. Medicaid Promoting Interoperability Program Requirements for Eligible Professionals (EPs)

F. Medicare Shared Savings Program Quality Measures

G. Physician Self-Referral Law

H. CY 2019 Updates to the Quality Payment Program

IV. Requests for Information

A. Request for Information on Promoting Interoperability and Electronic Healthcare Information Exchange Through Possible Revisions to the CMS Patient Health and Safety Requirements for Hospitals and Other Medicare- and Medicaid-Participating Providers and Suppliers

B. Request for Information on Price Transparency: Improving Beneficiary Access to Provider and Supplier Charge Information

V. Collection of Information Requirements

VI. Response to Comments

VII. Regulatory Impact Analysis

Regulations Text

Appendix 1: Proposed MIPS Quality Measures

Appendix 2: Improvement Activities

Addenda Available Only Through the Internet on the CMS Website

The PFS Addenda along with other supporting documents and tables referenced in this proposed rule are available on the CMS website at http://www.cms.gov/​Medicare/​Medicare-Fee-Start Printed Page 35705for-Service-Payment/​PhysicianFeeSched/​PFS-Federal-Regulation-Notices.html. Click on the link on the left side of the screen titled, “PFS Federal Regulations Notices” for a chronological list of PFS Federal Register and other related documents. For the CY 2019 PFS Proposed Rule, refer to item CMS-1693-P. Readers with questions related to accessing any of the Addenda or other supporting documents referenced in this proposed rule and posted on the CMS website identified above should contact Jamie Hermansen at (410) 786-2064.

CPT (Current Procedural Terminology) Copyright Notice

Throughout this proposed rule, we use CPT codes and descriptions to refer to a variety of services. We note that CPT codes and descriptions are copyright 2017 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. CPT is a registered trademark of the American Medical Association (AMA). Applicable Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) and Defense Federal Acquisition Regulations (DFAR) apply.

I. Executive Summary

A. Purpose

This major proposed rule proposes to revise payment polices under the Medicare PFS and make other policy changes, including proposals to implement certain provisions of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (Pub. L. 115-123, enacted on February 9, 2018), related to Medicare Part B payment, applicable to services furnished in CY 2019. In addition, this proposed rule includes proposals related to payment policy changes that are addressed in section III. of this proposed rule. We are requesting public comments on all of the proposals being made in this proposed rule.

1. Summary of the Major Provisions

The statute requires us to establish payments under the PFS based on national uniform relative value units (RVUs) that account for the relative resources used in furnishing a service. The statute requires that RVUs be established for three categories of resources: Work; practice expense (PE); and malpractice (MP) expense. In addition, the statute requires that we establish by regulation each year's payment amounts for all physicians' services paid under the PFS, incorporating geographic adjustments to reflect the variations in the costs of furnishing services in different geographic areas. In this major proposed rule, we are proposing to establish RVUs for CY 2019 for the PFS, and other Medicare Part B payment policies, to ensure that our payment systems are updated to reflect changes in medical practice and the relative value of services, as well as changes in the statute. This proposed rule includes discussions and proposals regarding:

  • Potentially Misvalued Codes.
  • Communication Technology-Based Services.
  • Valuation of New, Revised, and Misvalued Codes.
  • Payment Rates under the PFS for Nonexcepted Items and Services Furnished by Nonexcepted Off-Campus Provider-Based Departments of a Hospital.
  • E/M Visits.
  • Therapy Services.
  • Clinical Laboratory Fee Schedule.
  • Ambulance Fee Schedule—Provisions in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.
  • Appropriate Use Criteria for Advanced Diagnostic Imaging Services.
  • Medicaid Promoting Interoperability Program Requirements for Eligible Professionals (EPs).
  • Medicare Shared Savings Program Quality Measures.
  • Physician Self-Referral Law.
  • CY 2019 Updates to the Quality Payment Program.
  • Request for Information on Promoting Interoperability and Electronic Healthcare Information Exchange through Possible Revisions to the CMS Patient Health and Safety Requirements for Hospitals and Other Medicare- and Medicaid-Participating Providers and Suppliers.
  • Request for Information on Price Transparency: Improving Beneficiary Access to Provider and Supplier Charge Information.

2. Summary of Costs and Benefits

We have determined that this major proposed rule is economically significant. For a detailed discussion of the economic impacts, see section VII. of this proposed rule.

II. Provisions of the Proposed Rule for the PFS

A. Background

Since January 1, 1992, Medicare has paid for physicians' services under section 1848 of the Act, “Payment for Physicians' Services.” The PFS relies on national relative values that are established for work, practice expense (PE), and malpractice (MP), which are adjusted for geographic cost variations. These values are multiplied by a conversion factor (CF) to convert the relative value units (RVUs) into payment rates. The concepts and methodology underlying the PFS were enacted as part of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1989 (Pub. L. 101-239, enacted on December 19, 1989) (OBRA '89), and the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990 (Pub. L. 101-508, enacted on November 5, 1990) (OBRA '90). The final rule published on November 25, 1991 (56 FR 59502) set forth the first fee schedule used for payment for physicians' services.

We note that throughout this major proposed rule, unless otherwise noted, the term “practitioner” is used to describe both physicians and nonphysician practitioners (NPPs) who are permitted to bill Medicare under the PFS for the services they furnish to Medicare beneficiaries.

1. Development of the Relative Values

a. Work RVUs

The work RVUs established for the initial fee schedule, which was implemented on January 1, 1992, were developed with extensive input from the physician community. A research team at the Harvard School of Public Health developed the original work RVUs for most codes under a cooperative agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In constructing the code-specific vignettes used in determining the original physician work RVUs, Harvard worked with panels of experts, both inside and outside the federal government, and obtained input from numerous physician specialty groups.

As specified in section 1848(c)(1)(A) of the Act, the work component of physicians' services means the portion of the resources used in furnishing the service that reflects physician time and intensity. We establish work RVUs for new, revised and potentially misvalued codes based on our review of information that generally includes, but is not limited to, recommendations received from the American Medical Association/Specialty Society Relative Value Scale Update Committee (RUC), the Health Care Professionals Advisory Committee (HCPAC), the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), and other public commenters; medical literature and comparative databases; as well as a comparison of the work for other codes within the Medicare PFS, and consultation with other physicians and health care professionals within CMS and the federal government. We also assess the methodology and data used to develop the recommendations submitted to us by the RUC and other Start Printed Page 35706public commenters, and the rationale for their recommendations. In the CY 2011 PFS final rule with comment period (75 FR 73328 through 73329), we discussed a variety of methodologies and approaches used to develop work RVUs, including survey data, building blocks, crosswalk to key reference or similar codes, and magnitude estimation. More information on these issues is available in that rule.

b. Practice Expense RVUs

Initially, only the work RVUs were resource-based, and the PE and MP RVUs were based on average allowable charges. Section 121 of the Social Security Act Amendments of 1994 (Pub. L. 103-432, enacted on October 31, 1994), amended section 1848(c)(2)(C)(ii) of the Act and required us to develop resource-based PE RVUs for each physicians' service beginning in 1998. We were required to consider general categories of expenses (such as office rent and wages of personnel, but excluding MP expenses) comprising PEs. The PE RVUs continue to represent the portion of these resources involved in furnishing PFS services.

Originally, the resource-based method was to be used beginning in 1998, but section 4505(a) of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 (Pub. L. 105-33, enacted on August 5, 1997) (BBA) delayed implementation of the resource-based PE RVU system until January 1, 1999. In addition, section 4505(b) of the BBA provided for a 4-year transition period from the charge-based PE RVUs to the resource-based PE RVUs.

We established the resource-based PE RVUs for each physicians' service in the November 2, 1998 final rule (63 FR 58814), effective for services furnished in CY 1999. Based on the requirement to transition to a resource-based system for PE over a 4-year period, payment rates were not fully based upon resource-based PE RVUs until CY 2002. This resource-based system was based on two significant sources of actual PE data: The Clinical Practice Expert Panel (CPEP) data; and the AMA's Socioeconomic Monitoring System (SMS) data. These data sources are described in greater detail in the CY 2012 PFS final rule with comment period (76 FR 73033).

Separate PE RVUs are established for services furnished in facility settings, such as a hospital outpatient department (HOPD) or an ambulatory surgical center (ASC), and in nonfacility settings, such as a physician's office. The nonfacility RVUs reflect all of the direct and indirect PEs involved in furnishing a service described by a particular HCPCS code. The difference, if any, in these PE RVUs generally results in a higher payment in the nonfacility setting because in the facility settings some costs are borne by the facility. Medicare's payment to the facility (such as the outpatient prospective payment system (OPPS) payment to the HOPD) would reflect costs typically incurred by the facility. Thus, payment associated with those facility resources is not made under the PFS.

Section 212 of the Balanced Budget Refinement Act of 1999 (Pub. L. 106-113, enacted on November 29, 1999) (BBRA) directed the Secretary of Health and Human Services (the Secretary) to establish a process under which we accept and use, to the maximum extent practicable and consistent with sound data practices, data collected or developed by entities and organizations to supplement the data we normally collect in determining the PE component. On May 3, 2000, we published the interim final rule (65 FR 25664) that set forth the criteria for the submission of these supplemental PE survey data. The criteria were modified in response to comments received, and published in the Federal Register (65 FR 65376) as part of a November 1, 2000 final rule. The PFS final rules published in 2001 and 2003, respectively, (66 FR 55246 and 68 FR 63196) extended the period during which we would accept these supplemental data through March 1, 2005.

In the CY 2007 PFS final rule with comment period (71 FR 69624), we revised the methodology for calculating direct PE RVUs from the top-down to the bottom-up methodology beginning in CY 2007. We adopted a 4-year transition to the new PE RVUs. This transition was completed for CY 2010. In the CY 2010 PFS final rule with comment period, we updated the practice expense per hour (PE/HR) data that are used in the calculation of PE RVUs for most specialties (74 FR 61749). In CY 2010, we began a 4-year transition to the new PE RVUs using the updated PE/HR data, which was completed for CY 2013.

c. Malpractice RVUs

Section 4505(f) of the BBA amended section 1848(c) of the Act to require that we implement resource-based MP RVUs for services furnished on or after CY 2000. The resource-based MP RVUs were implemented in the PFS final rule with comment period published November 2, 1999 (64 FR 59380). The MP RVUs are based on commercial and physician-owned insurers' MP insurance premium data from all the states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. For more information on MP RVUs, see section II.C. of this proposed rule.

d. Refinements to the RVUs

Section 1848(c)(2)(B)(i) of the Act requires that we review RVUs no less often than every 5 years. Prior to CY 2013, we conducted periodic reviews of work RVUs and PE RVUs independently. We completed 5-year reviews of work RVUs that were effective for calendar years 1997, 2002, 2007, and 2012.

Although refinements to the direct PE inputs initially relied heavily on input from the RUC Practice Expense Advisory Committee (PEAC), the shifts to the bottom-up PE methodology in CY 2007 and to the use of the updated PE/HR data in CY 2010 have resulted in significant refinements to the PE RVUs in recent years.

In the CY 2012 PFS final rule with comment period (76 FR 73057), we finalized a proposal to consolidate reviews of work and PE RVUs under section 1848(c)(2)(B) of the Act and reviews of potentially misvalued codes under section 1848(c)(2)(K) of the Act into one annual process.

In addition to the 5-year reviews, beginning for CY 2009, CMS and the RUC identified and reviewed a number of potentially misvalued codes on an annual basis based on various identification screens. This annual review of work and PE RVUs for potentially misvalued codes was supplemented by the amendments to section 1848 of the Act, as enacted by section 3134 of the Affordable Care Act, that require the agency to periodically identify, review and adjust values for potentially misvalued codes.

e. Application of Budget Neutrality to Adjustments of RVUs

As described in section VII. of this proposed rule, in accordance with section 1848(c)(2)(B)(ii)(II) of the Act, if revisions to the RVUs cause expenditures for the year to change by more than $20 million, we make adjustments to ensure that expenditures do not increase or decrease by more than $20 million.

2. Calculation of Payments Based on RVUs

To calculate the payment for each service, the components of the fee schedule (work, PE, and MP RVUs) are adjusted by geographic practice cost indices (GPCIs) to reflect the variations in the costs of furnishing the services. The GPCIs reflect the relative costs of work, PE, and MP in an area compared to the national average costs for each Start Printed Page 35707component. Please refer to the CY 2017 PFS final rule with comment period for a discussion of the last GPCI update (81 FR 80261 through 80270).

RVUs are converted to dollar amounts through the application of a CF, which is calculated based on a statutory formula by CMS's Office of the Actuary (OACT). The formula for calculating the Medicare PFS payment amount for a given service and fee schedule area can be expressed as:

Payment = [(RVU work × GPCI work) + (RVU PE × GPCI PE) + (RVU MP × GPCI MP)] × CF

3. Separate Fee Schedule Methodology for Anesthesia Services

Section 1848(b)(2)(B) of the Act specifies that the fee schedule amounts for anesthesia services are to be based on a uniform relative value guide, with appropriate adjustment of an anesthesia CF, in a manner to ensure that fee schedule amounts for anesthesia services are consistent with those for other services of comparable value. Therefore, there is a separate fee schedule methodology for anesthesia services. Specifically, we establish a separate CF for anesthesia services and we utilize the uniform relative value guide, or base units, as well as time units, to calculate the fee schedule amounts for anesthesia services. Since anesthesia services are not valued using RVUs, a separate methodology for locality adjustments is also necessary. This involves an adjustment to the national anesthesia CF for each payment locality.

B. Determination of Practice Expense (PE) Relative Value Units (RVUs)

1. Overview

Practice expense (PE) is the portion of the resources used in furnishing a service that reflects the general categories of physician and practitioner expenses, such as office rent and personnel wages, but excluding MP expenses, as specified in section 1848(c)(1)(B) of the Act. As required by section 1848(c)(2)(C)(ii) of the Act, we use a resource-based system for determining PE RVUs for each physicians' service. We develop PE RVUs by considering the direct and indirect practice resources involved in furnishing each service. Direct expense categories include clinical labor, medical supplies, and medical equipment. Indirect expenses include administrative labor, office expense, and all other expenses. The sections that follow provide more detailed information about the methodology for translating the resources involved in furnishing each service into service-specific PE RVUs. We refer readers to the CY 2010 PFS final rule with comment period (74 FR 61743 through 61748) for a more detailed explanation of the PE methodology.

2. Practice Expense Methodology

a. Direct Practice Expense

We determine the direct PE for a specific service by adding the costs of the direct resources (that is, the clinical staff, medical supplies, and medical equipment) typically involved with furnishing that service. The costs of the resources are calculated using the refined direct PE inputs assigned to each CPT code in our PE database, which are generally based on our review of recommendations received from the RUC and those provided in response to public comment periods. For a detailed explanation of the direct PE methodology, including examples, we refer readers to the Five-Year Review of Work Relative Value Units under the PFS and Proposed Changes to the Practice Expense Methodology CY 2007 PFS proposed notice (71 FR 37242) and the CY 2007 PFS final rule with comment period (71 FR 69629).

b. Indirect Practice Expense per Hour Data

We use survey data on indirect PEs incurred per hour worked in developing the indirect portion of the PE RVUs. Prior to CY 2010, we primarily used the PE/HR by specialty that was obtained from the AMA's SMS. The AMA administered a new survey in CY 2007 and CY 2008, the Physician Practice Expense Information Survey (PPIS). The PPIS is a multispecialty, nationally representative, PE survey of both physicians and NPPs paid under the PFS using a survey instrument and methods highly consistent with those used for the SMS and the supplemental surveys. The PPIS gathered information from 3,656 respondents across 51 physician specialty and health care professional groups. We believe the PPIS is the most comprehensive source of PE survey information available. We used the PPIS data to update the PE/HR data for the CY 2010 PFS for almost all of the Medicare-recognized specialties that participated in the survey.

When we began using the PPIS data in CY 2010, we did not change the PE RVU methodology itself or the manner in which the PE/HR data are used in that methodology. We only updated the PE/HR data based on the new survey. Furthermore, as we explained in the CY 2010 PFS final rule with comment period (74 FR 61751), because of the magnitude of payment reductions for some specialties resulting from the use of the PPIS data, we transitioned its use over a 4-year period from the previous PE RVUs to the PE RVUs developed using the new PPIS data. As provided in the CY 2010 PFS final rule with comment period (74 FR 61751), the transition to the PPIS data was complete for CY 2013. Therefore, PE RVUs from CY 2013 forward are developed based entirely on the PPIS data, except as noted in this section.

Section 1848(c)(2)(H)(i) of the Act requires us to use the medical oncology supplemental survey data submitted in 2003 for oncology drug administration services. Therefore, the PE/HR for medical oncology, hematology, and hematology/oncology reflects the continued use of these supplemental survey data.

Supplemental survey data on independent labs from the College of American Pathologists were implemented for payments beginning in CY 2005. Supplemental survey data from the National Coalition of Quality Diagnostic Imaging Services (NCQDIS), representing independent diagnostic testing facilities (IDTFs), were blended with supplementary survey data from the American College of Radiology (ACR) and implemented for payments beginning in CY 2007. Neither IDTFs, nor independent labs, participated in the PPIS. Therefore, we continue to use the PE/HR that was developed from their supplemental survey data.

Consistent with our past practice, the previous indirect PE/HR values from the supplemental surveys for these specialties were updated to CY 2006 using the Medicare Economic Index (MEI) to put them on a comparable basis with the PPIS data.

We also do not use the PPIS data for reproductive endocrinology and spine surgery since these specialties currently are not separately recognized by Medicare, nor do we have a method to blend the PPIS data with Medicare-recognized specialty data.

Previously, we established PE/HR values for various specialties without SMS or supplemental survey data by crosswalking them to other similar specialties to estimate a proxy PE/HR. For specialties that were part of the PPIS for which we previously used a crosswalked PE/HR, we instead used the PPIS-based PE/HR. We use crosswalks for specialties that did not participate in the PPIS. These crosswalks have been generally established through notice and comment rulemaking and are available in the file called “CY 2019 PFS Proposed Rule PE/HR” on the CMS website under downloads for the CY Start Printed Page 357082019 PFS proposed rule at http://www.cms.gov/​Medicare/​Medicare-Fee-for-Service-Payment/​PhysicianFeeSched/​PFS-Federal-Regulation-Notices.html.

For CY 2019, we have incorporated the available utilization data for two new specialties, each of which became a recognized Medicare specialty during 2017. These specialties are Hospitalists and Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant Cardiology. We are proposing to use proxy PE/HR values for these new specialties, as there are no PPIS data for these specialties, by crosswalking the PE/HR as follows from specialties that furnish similar services in the Medicare claims data:

  • Hospitalists from Emergency Medicine.
  • Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant Cardiology from Cardiology.

The proposal is reflected in the “CY 2019 PFS Proposed Rule PE/HR” file available on the CMS website under the supporting data files for the CY 2019 PFS proposed rule at http://www.cms.gov/​Medicare/​Medicare-Fee-for-Service-Payment/​PhysicianFeeSched/​PFS-Federal-Regulation-Notices.html.

c. Allocation of PE to Services

To establish PE RVUs for specific services, it is necessary to establish the direct and indirect PE associated with each service.

(1) Direct Costs

The relative relationship between the direct cost portions of the PE RVUs for any two services is determined by the relative relationship between the sum of the direct cost resources (that is, the clinical staff, medical supplies, and medical equipment) typically involved with furnishing each of the services. The costs of these resources are calculated from the refined direct PE inputs in our PE database. For example, if one service has a direct cost sum of $400 from our PE database and another service has a direct cost sum of $200, the direct portion of the PE RVUs of the first service would be twice as much as the direct portion of the PE RVUs for the second service.

(2) Indirect Costs

We allocate the indirect costs to the code level on the basis of the direct costs specifically associated with a code and the greater of either the clinical labor costs or the work RVUs. We also incorporate the survey data described earlier in the PE/HR discussion (see section II.B.2.b of this proposed rule). The general approach to developing the indirect portion of the PE RVUs is as follows:

  • For a given service, we use the direct portion of the PE RVUs calculated as previously described and the average percentage that direct costs represent of total costs (based on survey data) across the specialties that furnish the service to determine an initial indirect allocator. That is, the initial indirect allocator is calculated so that the direct costs equal the average percentage of direct costs of those specialties furnishing the service. For example, if the direct portion of the PE RVUs for a given service is 2.00 and direct costs, on average, represent 25 percent of total costs for the specialties that furnish the service, the initial indirect allocator would be calculated so that it equals 75 percent of the total PE RVUs. Thus, in this example, the initial indirect allocator would equal 6.00, resulting in a total PE RVU of 8.00 (2.00 is 25 percent of 8.00 and 6.00 is 75 percent of 8.00).
  • Next, we add the greater of the work RVUs or clinical labor portion of the direct portion of the PE RVUs to this initial indirect allocator. In our example, if this service had a work RVU of 4.00 and the clinical labor portion of the direct PE RVU was 1.50, we would add 4.00 (since the 4.00 work RVUs are greater than the 1.50 clinical labor portion) to the initial indirect allocator of 6.00 to get an indirect allocator of 10.00. In the absence of any further use of the survey data, the relative relationship between the indirect cost portions of the PE RVUs for any two services would be determined by the relative relationship between these indirect cost allocators. For example, if one service had an indirect cost allocator of 10.00 and another service had an indirect cost allocator of 5.00, the indirect portion of the PE RVUs of the first service would be twice as great as the indirect portion of the PE RVUs for the second service.
  • Next, we incorporated the specialty-specific indirect PE/HR data into the calculation. In our example, if, based on the survey data, the average indirect cost of the specialties furnishing the first service with an allocator of 10.00 was half of the average indirect cost of the specialties furnishing the second service with an indirect allocator of 5.00, the indirect portion of the PE RVUs of the first service would be equal to that of the second service.

(3) Facility and Nonfacility Costs

For procedures that can be furnished in a physician's office, as well as in a facility setting, where Medicare makes a separate payment to the facility for its costs in furnishing a service, we establish two PE RVUs: facility and nonfacility. The methodology for calculating PE RVUs is the same for both the facility and nonfacility RVUs, but is applied independently to yield two separate PE RVUs. In calculating the PE RVUs for services furnished in a facility, we do not include resources that would generally not be provided by physicians when furnishing the service. For this reason, the facility PE RVUs are generally lower than the nonfacility PE RVUs.

(4) Services With Technical Components and Professional Components

Diagnostic services are generally comprised of two components: A professional component (PC); and a technical component (TC). The PC and TC may be furnished independently or by different providers, or they may be furnished together as a global service. When services have separately billable PC and TC components, the payment for the global service equals the sum of the payment for the TC and PC. To achieve this, we use a weighted average of the ratio of indirect to direct costs across all the specialties that furnish the global service, TCs, and PCs; that is, we apply the same weighted average indirect percentage factor to allocate indirect expenses to the global service, PCs, and TCs for a service. (The direct PE RVUs for the TC and PC sum to the global.)

(5) PE RVU Methodology

For a more detailed description of the PE RVU methodology, we refer readers to the CY 2010 PFS final rule with comment period (74 FR 61745 through 61746). We also direct readers to the file called “Calculation of PE RVUs under Methodology for Selected Codes” which is available on our website under downloads for the CY 2019 PFS proposed rule at http://www.cms.gov/​Medicare/​Medicare-Fee-for-Service-Payment/​PhysicianFeeSched/​PFS-Federal-Regulation-Notices.html. This file contains a table that illustrates the calculation of PE RVUs as described in this proposed rule for individual codes.

(a) Setup File

First, we create a setup file for the PE methodology. The setup file contains the direct cost inputs, the utilization for each procedure code at the specialty and facility/nonfacility place of service level, and the specialty-specific PE/HR data calculated from the surveys.

(b) Calculate the Direct Cost PE RVUs

Sum the costs of each direct input.

Step 1: Sum the direct costs of the inputs for each service.Start Printed Page 35709

Step 2: Calculate the aggregate pool of direct PE costs for the current year. We set the aggregate pool of PE costs equal to the product of the ratio of the current aggregate PE RVUs to current aggregate work RVUs and the proposed aggregate work RVUs.

Step 3: Calculate the aggregate pool of direct PE costs for use in ratesetting. This is the product of the aggregate direct costs for all services from Step 1 and the utilization data for that service.

Step 4: Using the results of Step 2 and Step 3, use the CF to calculate a direct PE scaling adjustment to ensure that the aggregate pool of direct PE costs calculated in Step 3 does not vary from the aggregate pool of direct PE costs for the current year. Apply the scaling adjustment to the direct costs for each service (as calculated in Step 1).

Step 5: Convert the results of Step 4 to a RVU scale for each service. To do this, divide the results of Step 4 by the CF. Note that the actual value of the CF used in this calculation does not influence the final direct cost PE RVUs as long as the same CF is used in Step 4 and Step 5. Different CFs would result in different direct PE scaling adjustments, but this has no effect on the final direct cost PE RVUs since changes in the CFs and changes in the associated direct scaling adjustments offset one another.

(c) Create the Indirect Cost PE RVUs

Create indirect allocators.

Step 6: Based on the survey data, calculate direct and indirect PE percentages for each physician specialty.

Step 7: Calculate direct and indirect PE percentages at the service level by taking a weighted average of the results of Step 6 for the specialties that furnish the service. Note that for services with TCs and PCs, the direct and indirect percentages for a given service do not vary by the PC, TC, and global service.

We generally use an average of the 3 most recent years of available Medicare claims data to determine the specialty mix assigned to each code. Codes with low Medicare service volume require special attention since billing or enrollment irregularities for a given year can result in significant changes in specialty mix assignment. We finalized a proposal in the CY 2018 PFS final rule (82 FR 52982 through 59283) to use the most recent year of claims data to determine which codes are low volume for the coming year (those that have fewer than 100 allowed services in the Medicare claims data). For codes that fall into this category, instead of assigning specialty mix based on the specialties of the practitioners reporting the services in the claims data, we instead use the expected specialty that we identify on a list developed based on medical review and input from expert stakeholders. We display this list of expected specialty assignments as part of the annual set of data files we make available as part of notice and comment rulemaking and consider recommendations from the RUC and other stakeholders on changes to this list on an annual basis. Services for which the specialty is automatically assigned based on previously finalized policies under our established methodology (for example, “always therapy” services) are unaffected by the list of expected specialty assignments. We also finalized in the CY 2018 PFS final rule (82 FR 52982 through 59283) a proposal to apply these service-level overrides for both PE and MP, rather than one or the other category.

For CY 2019, we are proposing to add 28 additional codes that we have identified as low volume services to the list of codes for which we assign the expected specialty. Based on our own medical review and input from the RUC and from specialty societies, we are proposing to assign the expected specialty for each code as indicated in Table 1. For each of these codes, only the professional component (reported with the -26 modifier) is nationally priced. The global and technical components are priced by the Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) which establish RVUs and payment amounts for these services. The list of codes that we are proposing to add is displayed in Table 1.

Table 1—New Additions to Expected Specialty List for Low Volume Services

CPT codeModShort descriptorExpected specialty2017 Utilization
7055726Mri brain w/o dyeDiagnostic Radiology126
7055826Mri brain w/dyeDiagnostic Radiology32
7423526Remove esophagus obstructionGastroenterology10
7430126X-rays at surgery add-onDiagnostic Radiology73
7435526X-ray guide intestinal tubeDiagnostic Radiology11
7444526X-ray exam of penisUrology26
7474226X-ray fallopian tubeDiagnostic Radiology5
7477526X-ray exam of perineumDiagnostic Radiology80
7580126Lymph vessel x-ray arm/legDiagnostic Radiology114
7580326Lymph vessel x-ray arms/legDiagnostic Radiology41
7580526Lymph vessel x-ray trunkDiagnostic Radiology50
7581026Vein x-ray spleen/liverDiagnostic Radiology46
7694126Echo guide for transfusionObstetrics/Gynecology15
7694526Echo guide villus samplingObstetrics/Gynecology31
7697526Gi endoscopic ultrasoundGastroenterology49
7828226Gi protein loss examDiagnostic Radiology8
7930026Nuclr rx interstit colloidDiagnostic Radiology2
8632726Immunoelectrophoresis assayPathology24
8716426Dark field examinationPathology30
8837126Protein western blot tissuePathology2
9353226R & l heart cath congenitalCardiology28
9353326R & l heart cath congenitalCardiology36
9356126Cardiac output measurementCardiology28
9356226Card output measure subsqCardiology38
9361626Esophageal recordingCardiology38
9362426Electrophysiologic studyCardiology51
9596626Meg evoked singleNeurology72
9596726Meg evoked each addlNeurology61
Start Printed Page 35710

The complete list of expected specialty assignments for individual low volume services, including the proposed assignments for the codes identified in Table 1, is available on our website under downloads for the CY 2019 PFS proposed rule at http://www.cms.gov/​Medicare/​Medicare-Fee-for-Service-Payment/​PhysicianFeeSched/​PFS-Federal-Regulation-Notices.html.

Step 8: Calculate the service level allocators for the indirect PEs based on the percentages calculated in Step 7. The indirect PEs are allocated based on the three components: The direct PE RVUs; the clinical labor PE RVUs; and the work RVUs.

For most services the indirect allocator is: indirect PE percentage * (direct PE RVUs/direct percentage) + work RVUs.

There are two situations where this formula is modified:

  • If the service is a global service (that is, a service with global, professional, and technical components), then the indirect PE allocator is: indirect percentage (direct PE RVUs/direct percentage) + clinical labor PE RVUs + work RVUs.
  • If the clinical labor PE RVUs exceed the work RVUs (and the service is not a global service), then the indirect allocator is: indirect PE percentage (direct PE RVUs/direct percentage) + clinical labor PE RVUs.

(Note: For global services, the indirect PE allocator is based on both the work RVUs and the clinical labor PE RVUs. We do this to recognize that, for the PC service, indirect PEs would be allocated using the work RVUs, and for the TC service, indirect PEs would be allocated using the direct PE RVUs and the clinical labor PE RVUs. This also allows the global component RVUs to equal the sum of the PC and TC RVUs.)

For presentation purposes, in the examples in the download file called “Calculation of PE RVUs under Methodology for Selected Codes”, the formulas were divided into two parts for each service.

  • The first part does not vary by service and is the indirect percentage (direct PE RVUs/direct percentage).
  • The second part is either the work RVU, clinical labor PE RVU, or both depending on whether the service is a global service and whether the clinical PE RVUs exceed the work RVUs (as described earlier in this step).

Apply a scaling adjustment to the indirect allocators.

Step 9: Calculate the current aggregate pool of indirect PE RVUs by multiplying the result of step 8 by the average indirect PE percentage from the survey data.

Step 10: Calculate an aggregate pool of indirect PE RVUs for all PFS services by adding the product of the indirect PE allocators for a service from Step 8 and the utilization data for that service.

Step 11: Using the results of Step 9 and Step 10, calculate an indirect PE adjustment so that the aggregate indirect allocation does not exceed the available aggregate indirect PE RVUs and apply it to indirect allocators calculated in Step 8.

Calculate the indirect practice cost index.

Step 12: Using the results of Step 11, calculate aggregate pools of specialty-specific adjusted indirect PE allocators for all PFS services for a specialty by adding the product of the adjusted indirect PE allocator for each service and the utilization data for that service.

Step 13: Using the specialty-specific indirect PE/HR data, calculate specialty-specific aggregate pools of indirect PE for all PFS services for that specialty by adding the product of the indirect PE/HR for the specialty, the work time for the service, and the specialty's utilization for the service across all services furnished by the specialty.

Step 14: Using the results of Step 12 and Step 13, calculate the specialty-specific indirect PE scaling factors.

Step 15: Using the results of Step 14, calculate an indirect practice cost index at the specialty level by dividing each specialty-specific indirect scaling factor by the average indirect scaling factor for the entire PFS.

Step 16: Calculate the indirect practice cost index at the service level to ensure the capture of all indirect costs. Calculate a weighted average of the practice cost index values for the specialties that furnish the service. (Note: For services with TCs and PCs, we calculate the indirect practice cost index across the global service, PCs, and TCs. Under this method, the indirect practice cost index for a given service (for example, echocardiogram) does not vary by the PC, TC, and global service.)

Step 17: Apply the service level indirect practice cost index calculated in Step 16 to the service level adjusted indirect allocators calculated in Step 11 to get the indirect PE RVUs.

(d) Calculate the Final PE RVUs

Step 18: Add the direct PE RVUs from Step 5 to the indirect PE RVUs from Step 17 and apply the final PE budget neutrality (BN) adjustment. The final PE BN adjustment is calculated by comparing the sum of steps 5 and 17 to the proposed aggregate work RVUs scaled by the ratio of current aggregate PE and work RVUs. This adjustment ensures that all PE RVUs in the PFS account for the fact that certain specialties are excluded from the calculation of PE RVUs but included in maintaining overall PFS budget neutrality. (See “Specialties excluded from ratesetting calculation” later in this final rule.)

Step 19: Apply the phase-in of significant RVU reductions and its associated adjustment. Section 1848(c)(7) of the Act specifies that for services that are not new or revised codes, if the total RVUs for a service for a year would otherwise be decreased by an estimated 20 percent or more as compared to the total RVUs for the previous year, the applicable adjustments in work, PE, and MP RVUs shall be phased in over a 2-year period. In implementing the phase-in, we consider a 19 percent reduction as the maximum 1-year reduction for any service not described by a new or revised code. This approach limits the year one reduction for the service to the maximum allowed amount (that is, 19 percent), and then phases in the remainder of the reduction. To comply with section 1848(c)(7) of the Act, we adjust the PE RVUs to ensure that the total RVUs for all services that are not new or revised codes decrease by no more than 19 percent, and then apply a relativity adjustment to ensure that the total pool of aggregate PE RVUs remains relative to the pool of work and MP RVUs. For a more detailed description of the methodology for the phase-in of significant RVU changes, we refer readers to the CY 2016 PFS final rule with comment period (80 FR 70927 through 70931).

(e) Setup File Information

  • Specialties excluded from ratesetting calculation: For the purposes of calculating the PE RVUs, we exclude certain specialties, such as certain NPPs paid at a percentage of the PFS and low-volume specialties, from the calculation. These specialties are included for the purposes of calculating the BN adjustment. They are displayed in Table 2.Start Printed Page 35711

Table 2—Specialties Excluded From Ratesetting Calculation

Specialty codeSpecialty description
49Ambulatory surgical center.
50Nurse practitioner.
51Medical supply company with certified orthotist.
52Medical supply company with certified prosthetist.
53Medical supply company with certified prosthetist-orthotist.
54Medical supply company not included in 51, 52, or 53.
55Individual certified orthotist.
56Individual certified prosthetist.
57Individual certified prosthetist-orthotist.
58Medical supply company with registered pharmacist.
59Ambulance service supplier, e.g., private ambulance companies, funeral homes, etc.
60Public health or welfare agencies.
61Voluntary health or charitable agencies.
73Mass immunization roster biller.
74Radiation therapy centers.
87All other suppliers (e.g., drug and department stores).
88Unknown supplier/provider specialty.
89Certified clinical nurse specialist.
96Optician.
97Physician assistant.
A0Hospital.
A1SNF.
A2Intermediate care nursing facility.
A3Nursing facility, other.
A4HHA.
A5Pharmacy.
A6Medical supply company with respiratory therapist.
A7Department store.
B2Pedorthic personnel.
B3Medical supply company with pedorthic personnel.
  • Crosswalk certain low volume physician specialties: Crosswalk the utilization of certain specialties with relatively low PFS utilization to the associated specialties.
  • Physical therapy utilization: Crosswalk the utilization associated with all physical therapy services to the specialty of physical therapy.
  • Identify professional and technical services not identified under the usual TC and 26 modifiers: Flag the services that are PC and TC services but do not use TC and 26 modifiers (for example, electrocardiograms). This flag associates the PC and TC with the associated global code for use in creating the indirect PE RVUs. For example, the professional service, CPT code 93010 (Electrocardiogram, routine ECG with at least 12 leads; interpretation and report only), is associated with the global service, CPT code 93000 (Electrocardiogram, routine ECG with at least 12 leads; with interpretation and report).
  • Payment modifiers: Payment modifiers are accounted for in the creation of the file consistent with current payment policy as implemented in claims processing. For example, services billed with the assistant at surgery modifier are paid 16 percent of the PFS amount for that service; therefore, the utilization file is modified to only account for 16 percent of any service that contains the assistant at surgery modifier. Similarly, for those services to which volume adjustments are made to account for the payment modifiers, time adjustments are applied as well. For time adjustments to surgical services, the intraoperative portion in the work time file is used; where it is not present, the intraoperative percentage from the payment files used by contractors to process Medicare claims is used instead. Where neither is available, we use the payment adjustment ratio to adjust the time accordingly. Table 3 details the manner in which the modifiers are applied.

Table 3—Application of Payment Modifiers to Utilization Files

ModifierDescriptionVolume adjustmentTime adjustment
80, 81, 82Assistant at Surgery16%Intraoperative portion.
ASAssistant at Surgery—Physician Assistant14% (85% * 16%)Intraoperative portion.
50 or LT and RTBilateral Surgery150%150% of work time.
51Multiple Procedure50%Intraoperative portion.
52Reduced Services50%50%.
53Discontinued Procedure50%50%.
54Intraoperative Care onlyPreoperative + Intraoperative Percentages on the payment files used by Medicare contractors to process Medicare claimsPreoperative + Intraoperative portion.
55Postoperative Care onlyPostoperative Percentage on the payment files used by Medicare contractors to process Medicare claimsPostoperative portion.
Start Printed Page 35712
62Co-surgeons62.5%50%.
66Team Surgeons33%33%.

We also make adjustments to volume and time that correspond to other payment rules, including special multiple procedure endoscopy rules and multiple procedure payment reductions (MPPRs). We note that section 1848(c)(2)(B)(v) of the Act exempts certain reduced payments for multiple imaging procedures and multiple therapy services from the BN calculation under section 1848(c)(2)(B)(ii)(II) of the Act. These MPPRs are not included in the development of the RVUs.

For anesthesia services, we do not apply adjustments to volume since we use the average allowed charge when simulating RVUs; therefore, the RVUs as calculated already reflect the payments as adjusted by modifiers, and no volume adjustments are necessary. However, a time adjustment of 33 percent is made only for medical direction of two to four cases since that is the only situation where a single practitioner is involved with multiple beneficiaries concurrently, so that counting each service without regard to the overlap with other services would overstate the amount of time spent by the practitioner furnishing these services.

  • Work RVUs: The setup file contains the work RVUs from this proposed rule.

(6) Equipment Cost per Minute

The equipment cost per minute is calculated as:

(1/(minutes per year * usage)) * price * ((interest rate/(1−(1/((1 + interest rate)⁁ life of equipment)))) + maintenance)

Where:

minutes per year = maximum minutes per year if usage were continuous (that is, usage = 1); generally 150,000 minutes.

usage = variable, see discussion in this proposed rule.

price = price of the particular piece of equipment.

life of equipment = useful life of the particular piece of equipment.

maintenance = factor for maintenance; 0.05.

interest rate = variable, see discussion in this proposed rule.

Usage: We currently use an equipment utilization rate assumption of 50 percent for most equipment, with the exception of expensive diagnostic imaging equipment, for which we use a 90 percent assumption as required by section 1848(b)(4)(C) of the Act.

Stakeholders have often suggested that particular equipment items are used less frequently than 50 percent of the time in the typical setting and that CMS should reduce the equipment utilization rate based on these recommendations. We appreciate and share stakeholders' interest in using the most accurate assumption regarding the equipment utilization rate for particular equipment items. However, we believe that absent robust, objective, auditable data regarding the use of particular items, the 50 percent assumption is the most appropriate within the relative value system. We welcome the submission of data that illustrates an alternative rate.

Maintenance: This factor for maintenance was finalized in the CY 1998 PFS final rule with comment period (62 FR 33164). As we previously stated in the CY 2016 final rule with comment period (80 FR 70897), we do not believe the annual maintenance factor for all equipment is precisely 5 percent, and we concur that the current rate likely understates the true cost of maintaining some equipment. We also believe it likely overstates the maintenance costs for other equipment. When we solicited comments regarding sources of data containing equipment maintenance rates, commenters were unable to identify an auditable, robust data source that could be used by CMS on a wide scale. We do not believe that voluntary submissions regarding the maintenance costs of individual equipment items would be an appropriate methodology for determining costs. As a result, in the absence of publicly available datasets regarding equipment maintenance costs or another systematic data collection methodology for determining maintenance factor, we do not believe that we have sufficient information at present to propose a variable maintenance factor for equipment cost per minute pricing. We continue to investigate potential avenues for determining equipment maintenance costs across a broad range of equipment items.

Interest Rate: In the CY 2013 PFS final rule with comment period (77 FR 68902), we updated the interest rates used in developing an equipment cost per minute calculation (see 77 FR 68902 for a thorough discussion of this issue). The interest rate was based on the Small Business Administration (SBA) maximum interest rates for different categories of loan size (equipment cost) and maturity (useful life). We are not proposing any changes to these interest rates for CY 2019. The interest rates are listed in Table 4.

Table 4—SBA Maximum Interest Rates

PriceUseful lifeInterest rate (%)
<$25K<7 Years7.50
$25K to $50K<7 Years6.50
>$50K<7 Years5.50
<$25K7+ Years8.00
$25K to $50K7+ Years7.00
>$50K7+ Years6.00

3. Changes to Direct PE Inputs for Specific Services

This section focuses on specific PE inputs. The direct PE inputs are included in the CY 2019 direct PE input database, which is available on the CMS website under downloads for the CY 2019 PFS proposed rule at http://www.cms.gov/​Medicare/​Medicare-Fee-for-Service-Payment/​PhysicianFeeSched/​PFS-Federal-Regulation-Notices.html.

a. Standardization of Clinical Labor Tasks

As we noted in the CY 2015 PFS final rule with comment period (79 FR 67640-67641), we continue to make improvements to the direct PE input database to provide the number of clinical labor minutes assigned for each task for every code in the database instead of only including the number of clinical labor minutes for the preservice, service, and postservice periods for each code. In addition to increasing the transparency of the information used to set PE RVUs, this level of detail would allow us to compare clinical labor times for activities associated with services across the PFS, which we believe is important to maintaining the relativity of the direct PE inputs. This information would facilitate the identification of the usual numbers of minutes for clinical labor tasks and the identification of exceptions to the usual values. It would also allow for greater transparency and consistency in the assignment of Start Printed Page 35713equipment minutes based on clinical labor times. Finally, we believe that the detailed information can be useful in maintaining standard times for particular clinical labor tasks that can be applied consistently to many codes as they are valued over several years, similar in principle to the use of physician preservice time packages. We believe that setting and maintaining such standards would provide greater consistency among codes that share the same clinical labor tasks and could improve relativity of values among codes. For example, as medical practice and technologies change over time, changes in the standards could be updated simultaneously for all codes with the applicable clinical labor tasks, instead of waiting for individual codes to be reviewed.

In the CY 2016 PFS final rule with comment period (80 FR 70901), we solicited comments on the appropriate standard minutes for the clinical labor tasks associated with services that use digital technology. After consideration of comments received, we finalized standard times for clinical labor tasks associated with digital imaging at 2 minutes for “Availability of prior images confirmed”, 2 minutes for “Patient clinical information and questionnaire reviewed by technologist, order from physician confirmed and exam protocoled by radiologist”, 2 minutes for “Review examination with interpreting MD”, and 1 minute for “Exam documents scanned into PACS. Exam completed in RIS system to generate billing process and to populate images into Radiologist work queue.” In the CY 2017 PFS final rule (81 FR 80184 through 80186), we finalized a proposal to establish a range of appropriate standard minutes for the clinical labor activity, “Technologist QCs images in PACS, checking for all images, reformats, and dose page.” These standard minutes will be applied to new and revised codes that make use of this clinical labor activity when they are reviewed by us for valuation. We finalized a proposal to establish 2 minutes as the standard for the simple case, 3 minutes as the standard for the intermediate case, 4 minutes as the standard for the complex case, and 5 minutes as the standard for the highly complex case. These values were based upon a review of the existing minutes assigned for this clinical labor activity; we determined that 2 minutes is the duration for most services and a small number of codes with more complex forms of digital imaging have higher values.

We also finalized standard times for clinical labor tasks associated with pathology services in the CY 2016 PFS final rule with comment period (80 FR 70902) at 4 minutes for “Accession specimen/prepare for examination”, 0.5 minutes for “Assemble and deliver slides with paperwork to pathologists”, 0.5 minutes for “Assemble other light microscopy slides, open nerve biopsy slides, and clinical history, and present to pathologist to prepare clinical pathologic interpretation”, 1 minute for “Clean room/equipment following procedure”, 1 minute for “Dispose of remaining specimens, spent chemicals/other consumables, and hazardous waste”, and 1 minute for “Prepare, pack and transport specimens and records for in-house storage and external storage (where applicable).” We do not believe these activities would be dependent on number of blocks or batch size, and we believe that these values accurately reflect the typical time it takes to perform these clinical labor tasks.

Historically, the RUC has submitted a “PE worksheet” that details the recommended direct PE inputs for our use in developing PE RVUs. The format of the PE worksheet has varied over time and among the medical specialties developing the recommendations. These variations have made it difficult for both the RUC's development and our review of code values for individual codes. Beginning with its recommendations for CY 2019, the RUC has mandated the use of a new PE worksheet for purposes of their recommendation development process that standardizes the clinical labor tasks and assigns them a clinical labor activity code. We believe the RUC's use of the new PE worksheet in developing and submitting recommendations will help us to simplify and standardize the hundreds of different clinical labor tasks currently listed in our direct PE database. As we did for CY 2018, to facilitate rulemaking for CY 2019, we are continuing to display two versions of the Labor Task Detail public use file: One version with the old listing of clinical labor tasks, and one with the same tasks cross-walked to the new listing of clinical labor activity codes. These lists are available on the CMS website under downloads for the CY 2019 PFS proposed rule at http://www.cms.gov/​Medicare/​Medicare-Fee-for-Service-Payment/​PhysicianFeeSched/​PFS-Federal-Regulation-Notices.html.

In reviewing the RUC-recommended direct PE inputs for CY 2019, we noticed that the 3 minutes of clinical labor time traditionally assigned to the “Prepare room, equipment and supplies” (CA013) clinical labor activity were split into 2 minutes for the “Prepare room, equipment and supplies” activity and 1 minute for the “Confirm order, protocol exam” (CA014) activity. These RUC-reviewed codes do not currently have clinical labor time assigned for the “Confirm order, protocol exam” clinical labor task, and we do not have any reason to believe that the services being furnished by the clinical staff have changed, only the way in which this clinical labor time has been presented on the PE worksheets.

As a result, we are proposing to maintain the 3 minutes of clinical labor time for the “Prepare room, equipment and supplies” activity and remove the clinical labor time for the “Confirm order, protocol exam” activity wherever we observed this pattern in the RUC- recommended direct PE inputs. If we had received RUC recommendations for codes that currently include clinical labor time for the “Confirm order, protocol exam” clinical labor task, we would have left the recommended clinical labor times unchanged, but there were no such codes reviewed for CY 2019. We note that there is no effect on the total clinical labor direct costs in these situations, since the same 3 minutes of clinical labor time is still being used in the calculation of PE RVUs.

b. Equipment Recommendations for Scope Systems

During our routine reviews of direct PE input recommendations, we have regularly found unexplained inconsistencies involving the use of scopes and the video systems associated with them. Some of the scopes include video systems bundled into the equipment item, some of them include scope accessories as part of their price, and some of them are standalone scopes with no other equipment included. It is not always clear which equipment items related to scopes fall into which of these categories. We have also frequently found anomalies in the equipment recommendations, with equipment items that consist of a scope and video system bundle recommended, along with a separate scope video system. Based on our review, the variations do not appear to be consistent with the different code descriptions.

To promote appropriate relativity among the services and facilitate the transparency of our review process, during the review of the recommended direct PE inputs for the CY 2017 PFS proposed rule, we developed a structure that separates the scope, the associated video system, and any scope accessories that might be typical as distinct equipment items for each code. Under this approach, we proposed standalone Start Printed Page 35714prices for each scope, and separate prices for the video systems and accessories that are used with scopes.

(1) Scope Equipment

Beginning in the CY 2017 proposed rule (81 FR 46176 through 46177), we proposed standardizing refinements to the way scopes have been defined in the direct PE input database. We believe that there are four general types of scopes: Non-video scopes; flexible scopes; semi-rigid scopes, and rigid scopes. Flexible scopes, semi-rigid scopes, and rigid scopes would typically be paired with one of the scope video systems, while the non-video scopes would not. The flexible scopes can be further divided into diagnostic (or non-channeled) and therapeutic (or channeled) scopes. We proposed to identify for each anatomical application: (1) A rigid scope; (2) a semi-rigid scope; (3) a non-video flexible scope; (4) a non-channeled flexible video scope; and (5) a channeled flexible video scope. We proposed to classify the existing scopes in our direct PE database under this classification system, to improve the transparency of our review process and improve appropriate relativity among the services. We planned to propose input prices for these equipment items through future rulemaking.

We proposed these changes only for the reviewed codes for CY 2017 that made use of scopes, along with updated prices for the equipment items related to scopes utilized by these services. But, we did not propose to apply these policies to codes with inputs reviewed prior to CY 2017. We also solicited comment on this separate pricing structure for scopes, scope video systems, and scope accessories, which we could consider proposing to apply to other codes in future rulemaking. We did not finalize price increases for a series of other scopes and scope accessories, as the invoices submitted for these components indicated that they are different forms of equipment with different product IDs and different prices. We did not receive any data to indicate that the equipment on the newly submitted invoices was more typical in its use than the equipment that we were currently using for pricing.

We did not make further changes to existing scope equipment in CY 2017 to allow the RUC's PE Subcommittee the opportunity to provide feedback. However, we believed there was some miscommunication on this point, as the RUC's PE Subcommittee workgroup that was created to address scope systems stated that no further action was required following the finalization of our proposal. Therefore, we made further proposals in CY 2018 (82 FR 33961 through 33962) to continue clarifying scope equipment inputs, and sought comments regarding the new set of scope proposals. We considered creating a single scope equipment code for each of the five categories detailed in this rule: (1) A rigid scope; (2) a semi-rigid scope; (3) a non-video flexible scope; (4) a non-channeled flexible video scope; and (5) a channeled flexible video scope. Under the current classification system, there are many different scopes in each category depending on the medical specialty furnishing the service and the part of the body affected. We stated our belief that the variation between these scopes was not significant enough to warrant maintaining these distinctions, and we believed that creating and pricing a single scope equipment code for each category would help provide additional clarity. We sought public comment on the merits of this potential scope organization, as well as any pricing information regarding these five new scope categories.

After considering the comments on the CY 2018 proposed rule, we did not finalize our proposal to create and price a single scope equipment code for each of the five categories previously identified. Instead, we supported the recommendation from the commenters to create scope equipment codes on a per-specialty basis for six categories of scopes as applicable, including the addition of a new sixth category of multi-channeled flexible video scopes. Our goal is to create an administratively simple scheme that will be easier to maintain and help to reduce administrative burden. We look forward to receiving detailed recommendations from expert stakeholders regarding the scope equipment items that would be typically required for each scope category, as well as the proper pricing for each scope.

(2) Scope Video System

We proposed in the CY 2017 PFS proposed rule (81 FR 46176 through 46177) to define the scope video system as including: (1) A monitor; (2) a processor; (3) a form of digital capture; (4) a cart; and (5) a printer. We believe that these equipment components represent the typical case for a scope video system. Our model for this system was the “video system, endoscopy (processor, digital capture, monitor, printer, cart)” equipment item (ES031), which we proposed to re-price as part of this separate pricing approach. We obtained current pricing invoices for the endoscopy video system as part of our investigation of these issues involving scopes, which we proposed to use for this re-pricing. In response to comments, we finalized the addition of a digital capture device to the endoscopy video system (ES031) in the CY 2017 PFS final rule (81 FR 80188). We finalized our proposal to price the system at $33,391, based on component prices of $9,000 for the processor, $18,346 for the digital capture device, $2,000 for the monitor, $2,295 for the printer, and $1,750 for the cart. In the CY 2018 PFS final rule (82 FR 52991 through 52993), we outlined, but did not finalize, a proposal to add an LED light source into the cost of the scope video system (ES031), which would remove the need for a separate light source in these procedures. We also described a proposal to increase the price of the scope video system by $1,000 to cover the expense of miscellaneous small equipment associated with the system that falls below the threshold of individual equipment pricing as scope accessories (such as cables, microphones, foot pedals, etc.). With the addition of the LED light (equipment code EQ382 at a price of $1,915), the updated total price of the scope video system would be set at $36,306. We did not finalize this updated pricing to the scope video system in CY 2018, and indicated our intention to address these changes in CY 2019 to incorporate feedback from expert stakeholders.

(3) Scope Accessories

We understand that there may be other accessories associated with the use of scopes. We finalized a proposal in the CY 2017 PFS final rule (81 FR 80188) to separately price any scope accessories outside the use of the scope video system, and individually evaluate their inclusion or exclusion as direct PE inputs for particular codes as usual under our current policy based on whether they are typically used in furnishing the services described by the particular codes.

(4) Scope Proposals for CY 2019

We understand that the RUC has convened a Scope Equipment Reorganization Workgroup that will be incorporating feedback from expert stakeholders with the intention of making recommendations to us on scope organization and scope pricing. Since the workgroup was not convened in time to submit recommendations for the CY 2019 PFS rulemaking cycle, we are proposing to delay proposals for any further changes to scope equipment until CY 2020 so that we can incorporate the feedback from the aforementioned workgroup. However, Start Printed Page 35715we are proposing to update the price of the scope video system (ES031) from its current price of $33,391 to a price of $36,306 to reflect the addition of the LED light and miscellaneous small equipment associated with the system that falls below the threshold of individual equipment pricing as scope accessories, as we explained in detail in the CY 2018 PFS final rule (82 FR 52992 through 52993). We are also proposing to update the name of the ES031 equipment item from “video system, endoscopy (processor, digital capture, monitor, printer, cart)” to “scope video system (monitor, processor, digital capture, cart, printer, LED light)” to reflect the fact that the use of the ES031 scope video system is not limited to endoscopy procedures.

c. Balloon Sinus Surgery Kit (SA106) Comment Solicitation

Several stakeholders contacted CMS with regard to the use of the kit, sinus surgery, balloon (maxillary, frontal, or sphenoid) (SA106) supply in CPT codes 31295 (Nasal/sinus endoscopy, surgical; with dilation of maxillary sinus ostium (e.g., balloon dilation)), transnasal or via canine fossa), 31296 (Nasal/sinus endoscopy, surgical; with dilation of frontal sinus ostium (e.g., balloon dilation)), and 31297 (Nasal/sinus endoscopy, surgical; with dilation of sphenoid sinus ostium (e.g., balloon dilation)). The stakeholders stated that the price of the SA106 supply (currently $2,599.86) had decreased significantly since it was priced through rulemaking for CY 2011 (75 FR 73351 through 75532), and that the Medicare payment for these three CPT codes using the supply no longer seemed to be in proportion to what the kits cost. They also indicated that the same catheter could be used to treat multiple sinuses rather than being a disposable one-time use supply. The stakeholders stated that marketing firms and sales representatives are advertising these CPT codes as a method for generating additional profits due to the payment for the procedures exceeding the resources typically needed to furnish the services, and requested that CMS investigate the use of the SA106 supply in these codes.

We appreciate the information supplied by the stakeholders regarding the use of the balloon sinus surgery kit. When CPT codes 31295-31297 were initially reviewed during the CY 2011 and CY 2012 PFS rulemaking cycles (75 FR 73251, and 76 FR 73184 through 73186, respectively), we expressed our reservations about the pricing and the typical quantity of this supply item used in furnishing these services. The RUC recommended for the CY 2012 rulemaking cycle that CMS remove the balloon sinus surgery kit from each of these codes and implement separately billable alpha-numeric HCPCS codes to allow practitioners to be paid the cost of the disposable kits per patient encounter instead of per CPT code. We stated at the time, and we continue to believe, that this option presents a series of potential problems that we have addressed previously in the context of the broader challenges regarding our ability to price high cost disposable supply items. (For a discussion of this issue, we direct the reader to our discussion in the CY 2011 PFS final rule with comment period (75 FR 73251)). We stated at the time that since the balloon sinus surgery kits can be used when furnishing more than one service to the same beneficiary on the same day, we believed that it would be appropriate to include 0.5 balloon sinus surgery kits for each of the three codes, and we have maintained this 0.5 supply quantity when CPT codes 31295-31297 were recently reviewed again in CY 2018.

In light of the additional information supplied by the stakeholders, we are soliciting comments on two aspects of the use of the balloon sinus surgery kit (SA106) supply. First, we are soliciting comments on whether the 0.5 supply quantity of the balloon sinus surgery kit in CPT codes 31295-31297 would be typical for these procedures. We are concerned that the same kit can be used when furnishing more than one service to the same beneficiary on the same day, and that even the 0.5 supply quantity may be overstating the resources typically needed to furnish each service. Second, we are soliciting comments on the pricing of the balloon sinus surgery kit, given that we have received letters stating that the price has decreased since the initial pricing in the CY 2011 final rule. See Table 5 for the current component pricing of the balloon sinus surgery kit.

Table 5—Balloon Sinus Surgery Kit (SA106) Price

Supply componentsQuantityUnitPrice
kit, sinus surgery, balloon (maxillary, frontal, or sphenoid)kit$2599.86
Sinus Guide Catheter1item444.00
Sinus Balloon Catheter1item820.80
Sinus Illumination System (100 cm lighted guidewire)1item454.80
Light Guide Cable (8 ft)1item514.80
ACMI/Stryker Adaptor1item42.00
Sinus Guide Catheter Handle1item66.00
Sinus Irrigation Catheter (22 cm)1item150.00
Sinus Balloon Catheter Inflation Device1item89.46
Extension Tubing (High Pressure) (20 in)1item18.00

We are interested in any information regarding possible changes in the pricing for this kit or its individual components since the initial pricing we adopted in CY 2011.

d. Technical Corrections to Direct PE Input Database and Supporting Files

Subsequent to the publication of the CY 2018 PFS final rule, stakeholders alerted us to several clerical inconsistencies in the direct PE database. We are proposing to correct these inconsistencies as described in this proposed rule and reflected in the CY 2019 proposed direct PE input database displayed on the CMS website under downloads for the CY 2019 PFS proposed rule at http://www.cms.gov/​Medicare/​Medicare-Fee-for-Service-Payment/​PhysicianFeeSched/​PFS-Federal-Regulation-Notices.html.

For CY 2019, we are proposing to address the following inconsistencies:

  • The RUC alerted us that there are 165 CPT codes billed with an office E/M code more than 50 percent of the time in the nonfacility setting that have more minimum multi-specialty visit supply packs (SA048) than post-operative visits included in the code's global period. This indicates that either the inclusion of office E/M services was not accounted for in the code's global period when these codes were initially reviewed by the PE Subcommittee, or Start Printed Page 35716that the PE Subcommittee initially approved a minimum multi-specialty visit supply pack for these codes without considering the resulting overlap of supplies between SA048 and the E/M supply pack (SA047). The RUC regarded these overlapping supply packs as a duplication, due to the fact that the quantity of the SA048 supply exceeded the number of postoperative visits, and requested that CMS remove the appropriate number of supply item SA048 from 165 codes. After reviewing the quantity of the SA048 supply pack included for the codes in question, we are proposing to refine the quantity of minimum multi-specialty visit packs as displayed in Table 6.

Table 6—Proposed Refinements—Minimum Multispecialty Visit Pack (SA048)

CPT codeNumber of post-op office visitsCY 2018 nonfacility quantity of minimum visit pack (SA048)Proposed CY 2019 nonfacility quantity of minimum visit pack (SA048)
10040121
10060121
10061232
10080121
10120121
10121121
10180121
11200121
11300010
11301010
11302010
11303010
11306010
11307010
11310010
11311010
11312010
11400121
11750121
11900010
11901010
12001010
12002010
12004010
12011010
12013010
16020010
17000121
17004121
17110121
17111121
17260121
17270121
17280121
19100010
20005121
20520121
21215676
21550121
21920121
223101.52.51.5
235002.53.52.5
235702.53.52.5
23620343
24500454
24530454
24650343
24670343
25530343
25600565
25605565
256223.54.53.5
25630343
26600454
26720232
267402.53.52.5
26750232
27508454
275203.54.53.5
Start Printed Page 35717
27530454
27613121
277503.54.53.5
27760454
277803.54.53.5
277863.54.53.5
27808454
28190121
28400343
284502.53.52.5
284901.52.51.5
285101.52.51.5
30901010
30903010
30905010
31000121
31231010
31233010
31235010
31238010
31525010
31622010
32554010
36600010
38220010
40490010
42800121
43200010
45330010
46040343
46050121
46083121
463200.51.50.5
46600010
46604010
46900121
51102020
51701010
51702010
51703010
51710010
51725010
51736010
51741010
51792010
51798010
52000010
52001010
52214010
52265010
52281010
52285010
53601010
53621010
53660010
53661010
54050121
54056121
54100010
54235010
54450010
55000010
56405121
56605010
56820010
57061121
57100010
Start Printed Page 35718
57420010
57500010
57505121
62252010
62367010
62368010
62370010
64413010
64420010
64450010
64611121
69000121
69100010
691451.52.51.5
69210010
69420121
69433121
69610121
93292010
93303010
94667010
9504400.0280
95870010
95921010
95922010
95924010
95972011
96904011

In general, we are proposing to align the number of minimum multi-specialty visit packs with the number of post-operative office visits included in these codes. We are not proposing any supply pack quantity refinements for CPT codes 11100, 95974, or 95978 since they are being deleted for CY 2019. We are also not proposing any supply pack quantity refinements for CPT codes 45300, 46500, 57150, 57160, 58100, 64405, 95970, or HCPCS code G0268 since these codes were reviewed by the RUC this year and their previous direct PE inputs will be superseded by the new direct PE inputs we establish through this rulemaking process for CY 2019.

  • A stakeholder notified us regarding a potential rank order anomaly in the direct PE inputs established for the Shaving of Epidermal or Dermal Lesions code family through PFS rulemaking for CY 2013. Three of these CPT codes describe benign shave removal of increasing lesion sizes: CPT code 11310 (Shaving of epidermal or dermal lesion, single lesion, face, ears, eyelids, nose, lips, mucous membrane; lesion diameter 0.5 cm or less), CPT code 11311 (Shaving of epidermal or dermal lesion, single lesion, face, ears, eyelids, nose, lips, mucous membrane; lesion diameter 0.6 to 1.0 cm), and CPT code 11312 (Shaving of epidermal or dermal lesion, single lesion, face, ears, eyelids, nose, lips, mucous membrane; lesion diameter 1.1 to 2.0 cm). Each of these codes has a progressively higher work RVU corresponding to the increasing lesion diameter, and the recommended direct PE inputs also increase progressively from CPT codes 11310 to 11311 to 11312. However, the nonfacility PE RVU we established for CPT code 11311 is lower than the nonfacility PE RVU for CPT code 11310, which the stakeholder suggested may represent a rank order anomaly.

We reviewed the direct PE inputs for CPT code 11311 and found that there were clerical inconsistencies in the data entry that resulted in the assignment of the lower nonfacility PE RVU for CPT code 11311. We propose to revise the direct PE inputs to reflect the ones previously finalized through rulemaking for CPT code 11311.

  • In CY 2018, we inadvertently assigned too many minutes of clinical labor time for the “Obtain vital signs” task to three therapy codes, given that these codes are typically billed in multiple units and in conjunction with other therapy codes for the same patient on the same day, and we do not believe that it would be typical for clinical staff to obtain vital signs for each time a code is reported. The codes are: CPT code 97124 (Therapeutic procedure, 1 or more areas, each 15 minutes; massage, including effleurage, petrissage and/or tapotement (stroking, compression, percussion)); CPT code 97750 (Physical performance test or measurement (e.g., musculoskeletal, functional capacity), with written report, each 15 minutes); and CPT code 97755 (Assistive technology assessment (e.g., to restore, augment or compensate for existing function, optimize functional tasks and/or maximize environmental accessibility), direct one-on-one contact, with written report, each 15 minutes).

Therefore, we are proposing to refine the “Obtain vital signs” clinical labor task for these three codes back to their previous times of 1 minute for CPT codes 97124 and 97750 and to 3 minutes for CPT code 97755. We are also proposing to refine the equipment time for the table, mat, hi-lo, 6 x 8 platform (EF028) for CPT code 97124 to reflect the change in the clinical labor time.

  • We received a letter from a stakeholder alerting us to an anomaly in Start Printed Page 35719the direct PE inputs for CPT code 52000 (Cystourethroscopy (separate procedure)). The stakeholder stated that the inclusion of an endoscope disinfector, rigid or fiberoptic, w-cart equipment item (ES005) was inadvertently overlooked in the recommendations for CPT code 52000 when it was reviewed during PFS rulemaking for CY 2017, and that the equipment would be necessary for endoscope sterilization. The stakeholder requested that this essential piece of equipment should be added to the direct PE inputs for CPT code 52000.

After reviewing the direct PE inputs for this code, we agree with the stakeholder and we are proposing to add the endoscope disinfector (ES005) to CPT code 52000, and to add 22 minutes of equipment time for that item to match the equipment time of the other non-scope items included in this code.

e. Updates to Prices for Existing Direct PE Inputs

In the CY 2011 PFS final rule with comment period (75 FR 73205), we finalized a process to act on public requests to update equipment and supply price and equipment useful life inputs through annual rulemaking, beginning with the CY 2012 PFS proposed rule. For CY 2019, we are proposing the following price updates for existing direct PE inputs.

We are proposing to update the price of four supplies and one equipment item in response to the public submission of invoices. As these pricing updates were each part of the formal review for a code family, we are proposing that the new pricing take effect for CY 2019 for these items instead of being phased in over 4 years. For the details of these proposed price updates, please refer to section II.H of this proposed rule Table 16: Invoices Received for Existing Direct PE Inputs.

(1) Market-Based Supply and Equipment Pricing Update

Section 220(a) of the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014 (PAMA) provides that the Secretary may collect or obtain information from any eligible professional or any other source on the resources directly or indirectly related to furnishing services for which payment is made under the PFS, and that such information may be used in the determination of relative values for services under the PFS. Such information may include the time involved in furnishing services; the amounts, types and prices of PE inputs; overhead and accounting information for practices of physicians and other suppliers, and any other elements that would improve the valuation of services under the PFS.

As part of our authority under section 1848(c)(2)(M) of the Act, as added by the PAMA, we initiated a market research contract with StrategyGen to conduct an in-depth and robust market research study to update the PFS direct PE inputs (DPEI) for supply and equipment pricing for CY 2019. These supply and equipment prices were last systematically developed in 2004-2005. StrategyGen has submitted a report with updated pricing recommendations for approximately 1300 supplies and 750 equipment items currently used as direct PE inputs. This report is available as a public use file displayed on the CMS website under downloads for the CY 2019 PFS proposed rule at http://www.cms.gov/​Medicare/​Medicare-Fee-for-Service-Payment/​PhysicianFeeSched/​PFS-Federal-Regulation-Notices.html.

The StrategyGen team of researchers, attorneys, physicians, and health policy experts conducted a market research study of the supply and equipment items currently used in the PFS direct PE input database. Resources and methodologies included field surveys, aggregate databases, vendor resources, market scans, market analysis, physician substantiation, and statistical analysis to estimate and validate current prices for medical equipment and medical supplies. StrategyGen conducted secondary market research on each of the 2,072 DPEI medical equipment and supply items that CMS identified from the current DPEI. The primary and secondary resources StrategyGen used to gather price data and other information were:

  • Telephone surveys with vendors for top priority items (Vendor Survey).
  • Physician panel validation of market research results, prioritized by total spending (Physician Panel).
  • The General Services Administration system (GSA).
  • An aggregate health system buyers database with discounted prices (Buyers).
  • Publicly available vendor resources, that is, Amazon Business, Cardinal Health (Vendors).
  • Federal Register, current DPEI data, historical proposed and final rules prior to FY 2018, and other resources; that is, AMA RUC reports (References).

StrategyGen prioritized the equipment and supply research based on current share of PE RVUs attributable by item provided by CMS. StrategyGen developed the preliminary Recommended Price (RP) methodology based on the following rules in hierarchical order considering both data representativeness and reliability:

1. If the market share, as well as the sample size, for the top three commercial products were available, the weighted average price (weighted by percent market share) was the reported RP. Commercial price, as a weighted average of market share, represents a more robust estimate for each piece of equipment and a more precise reference for the RP.

2. If StrategyGen did not have market share for commercial products, then they used a weighted average (weighted by sample size) of the commercial price and GSA price for the RP. The impact of the GSA price may be nominal in some of these cases since it is proportionate to the commercial samples sizes.

3. Otherwise, if single price points existed from alternate supplier sites, the RP was the weighted average of the commercial price and the GSA price.

4. Finally, if no data were available for commercial products, the GSA average price was used as the RP; and when StrategyGen could find no market research for a particular piece of equipment or supply item, the current CMS prices were used as the RP.

StrategyGen found that despite technological advancements, the average commercial price for medical equipment and supplies has remained relatively consistent with the current CMS price. Specifically, preliminary data indicate that there was no statistically significant difference between the estimated commercial prices and the current CMS prices for both equipment and supplies. This cumulative stable pricing for medical equipment and supplies appears similar to the pricing impacts of non-medical technology advancements where some historically high-priced equipment (that is, desktop PCs) has been increasingly substituted with current technology (that is, laptops and tablets) at similar or lower price points. However, while there were no statistically significant differences in pricing at the aggregate level, medical specialties will experience increases or decreases in their Medicare payments if CMS were to adopt the pricing updates recommended by StrategyGen. At the service level, there may be large shifts in PE RVUs for individual codes that happened to contain supplies and/or equipment with major changes in pricing, although we note that codes with a sizable PE RVU decrease would be limited by the requirement to phase in significant reductions in RVUs, as required by section 1848(c)(7) of the Act. The phase-in requirement limits the maximum Start Printed Page 35720RVU reduction for codes that are not new or revised to 19 percent in any individual calendar year.

After reviewing the StrategyGen report, we are proposing to adopt the updated direct PE input prices for supplies and equipment as recommended by StrategyGen. We believe that it is important to make use of the most current information available for supply and equipment pricing instead of continuing to rely on pricing information that is more than a decade old. Given the potentially significant changes in payment that would occur, both for specific services and more broadly at the specialty level, we are proposing to phase in our use of the new direct PE input pricing over a 4-year period using a 25/75 percent (CY 2019), 50/50 percent (CY 2020), 75/25 percent (CY 2021), and 100/0 percent (CY 2022) split between new and old pricing. This approach is consistent with how we have previously incorporated significant new data into the calculation of PE RVUs, such as the 4-year transition period finalized in CY 2007 PFS final rule with comment period when changing to the “bottom-up” PE methodology (71 FR 69641). This transition period will not only ease the shift to the updated supply and equipment pricing, but will also allow interested parties an opportunity to review and respond to the new pricing information associated with their services.

We are proposing to implement this phase-in over 4 years so that supply and equipment values transition smoothly from the prices we currently include to the final updated prices in CY 2022. We are proposing to implement this pricing transition such that one quarter of the difference between the current price and the fully phased in price is implemented for CY 2019, one third of the difference between the CY 2019 price and the final price is implemented for CY 2020, and one half of the difference between the CY 2020 price and the final price is implemented for CY 2021, with the new direct PE prices fully implemented for CY 2022. An example of the proposed transition from the current to the fully-implemented new pricing is provided in Table 7.

Table 7—Example of Direct PE Pricing Transition

Current Price$100
Final Price200
Year 1 (CY 2019) Price1251/4 difference between $100 and $200.
Year 2 (CY 2020) Price1501/3 difference between $125 and $200.
Year 3 (CY 2021) Price1751/2 difference between $150 and $200.
Final (CY 2022) Price200

For new supply and equipment codes for which we establish prices during the transition years (CYs 2019, 2020 and 2021) based on the public submission of invoices, we are proposing to fully implement those prices with no transition since there are no current prices for these supply and equipment items. These new supply and equipment codes would immediately be priced at their newly established values. We are also proposing that, for existing supply and equipment codes, when we establish prices based on invoices that are submitted as part of a revaluation or comprehensive review of a code or code family, they will be fully implemented for the year they are adopted without being phased in over the 4-year pricing transition. The formal review process for a HCPCS code includes a review of pricing of the supplies and equipment included in the code. When we find that the price on the submitted invoice is typical for the item in question, we believe it would be appropriate to finalize the new pricing immediately along with any other revisions we adopt for the code valuation.

For existing supply and equipment codes that are not part of a comprehensive review and valuation of a code family and for which we establish prices based on invoices submitted by the public, we are proposing to implement the established invoice price as the updated price and to phase in the new price over the remaining years of the proposed 4-year pricing transition. During the proposed transition period, where price changes for supplies and equipment are adopted without a formal review of the HCPCS codes that include them (as is the case for the many updated prices we are proposing to phase in over the 4-year transition period), we believe it is important to include them in the remaining transition toward the updated price. We are also proposing to phase in any updated pricing we establish during 4-year transition period for very commonly used supplies and equipment that are included in 100 or more codes, such as sterile gloves (SB024) or exam tables (EF023), even if invoices are provided as part of the formal review of a code family. We would implement the new prices for any such supplies and equipment over the remaining years of the proposed 4-year transition period. Our proposal is intended to minimize any potential disruptive effects during the proposed transition period that could be caused by other sudden shifts in RVUs due to the high number of services that make use of these very common supply and equipment items (meaning that these items are included in 100 or more codes).

We believe that implementing the proposed updated prices with a 4-year phase-in will improve payment accuracy, while maintaining stability and allowing stakeholders the opportunity to address potential concerns about changes in payment for particular items. Updating the pricing of direct PE inputs for supplies and equipment over a longer time frame will allow more opportunities for public comment and submission of additional, applicable data. We welcome feedback from stakeholders on the proposed updated supply and equipment pricing, including the submission of additional invoices for consideration. We are particularly interested in comments regarding the supply and equipment pricing for CPT codes 95165 and 95004 that are frequently used by the Allergy/Immunology specialty. The Allergy/Immunology specialty was disproportionately affected by the updated pricing, even with a 4-year phase-in. The direct PE costs for CPT code 95165 would go down from $8.43 to $8.17 as a result of the updated supply and equipment pricing information. This would result in the PE RVU for CPT code 96165 to decrease from 0.30 to 0.26. We are seeking feedback on the supply and equipment pricing for the affected codes typically performed by this specialty and whether the direct PE inputs should be reviewed along with the pricing. The full report from the contractor, including the updated supply and equipment pricing as it is proposed to be implemented over the proposed 4-year transition period, will be made available as a public use file displayed on the CMS website Start Printed Page 35721under downloads for the CY 2019 PFS proposed rule at http://www.cms.gov/​Medicare/​Medicare-Fee-for-Service-Payment/​PhysicianFeeSched/​PFS-Federal-Regulation-Notices.html.

To maintain relativity between the clinical labor, supplies, and equipment portions of the PE methodology, we believe that the rates for the clinical labor staff should also be updated along with the updated pricing for supplies and equipment. We seek public comment regarding whether to update the clinical labor wages used in developing PE RVUs in future calendar years during the 4-year pricing transition for supplies and equipment, or whether it would be more appropriate to update the clinical labor wages at a later date following the conclusion of the transition for supplies and equipment, for example, to avoid other potentially large shifts in PE RVUs during the 4-year pricing transition period.

(2) Breast Biopsy Software (EQ370)

Following the publication of the CY 2018 PFS final rule, a stakeholder contacted us and requested that we update the price for the Breast Biopsy software (EQ370) equipment. This equipment item currently lacks a price in the direct PE database, and when an invoice for the Breast Biopsy software was first submitted during the CY 2014 PFS rule, we stated that this item served clinical functions similar to other items already included in the Magnetic Resonance (MR) room equipment package (EL008) included in the same CPT codes under review. Therefore, we did not create new direct PE inputs for this equipment item (78 FR 74344 through 74345). The stakeholder suggested that this software is used to subtract the imaging raw data series from the MRI Scanner, reformat the images in multiple planes to allow accurate targeting of the lesion to be biopsied, identify the location of a fiducial marker on the patient's skin, and then target the location of the enhancing lesion to be biopsied. The stakeholder requested that EQ370 be renamed as “Breast MRI computer aided detection and biopsy guidance software” and added to existing CPT codes 19085 (Biopsy, breast, with placement of breast localization device(s) (e.g., clip, metallic pellet), when performed, and imaging of the biopsy specimen, when performed, percutaneous; first lesion, including magnetic resonance guidance), 19086 (Biopsy, breast, with placement of breast localization device(s) (e.g., clip, metallic pellet), when performed, and imaging of the biopsy specimen, when performed, percutaneous; each additional lesion, including magnetic resonance guidance), 19287 (Placement of breast localization device(s) (e.g., clip, metallic pellet, wire/needle, radioactive seeds), percutaneous; first lesion, including magnetic resonance guidance), and 19288 (Placement of breast localization device(s) (e.g., clip, metallic pellet, wire/needle, radioactive seeds), percutaneous; each additional lesion, including magnetic resonance guidance), as well as adding the equipment to two newly created MR breast codes with CAD, CPT codes 77X51 (Magnetic resonance imaging, breast, without and with contrast material(s), including computer-aided detection (CAD-real time lesion detection, characterization and pharmacokinetic analysis) when performed; unilateral) and 77X52 (Magnetic resonance imaging, breast, without and with contrast material(s), including computer-aided detection (CAD-real time lesion detection, characterization and pharmacokinetic analysis) when performed; bilateral). The stakeholder supplied an invoice with a purchase price of $52,275 for the equipment.

After reviewing the use of the Breast Biopsy software (EQ370) equipment in these six codes, we are not proposing to update the price or add the software to these procedures. As we stated in the CY 2014 PFS final rule with comment period (78 FR 74345), we continue to believe that equipment item EQ370 serves clinical functions similar to other items already included in the MR room equipment package (EL008), and that it would be duplicative to include this Breast Biopsy software as a separate direct PE input. We also note that the RUC recommendations for the new CPT codes 77X51 and 77X52 do not include EQ370 in the recommended equipment for these procedures, and we do not have any reason to believe that the inclusion of additional Breast Biopsy software beyond what is already contained in the MR room equipment package would be typical. However, we will update the name of the EQ370 equipment item from “Breast Biopsy software” to the requested “Breast MRI computer aided detection and biopsy guidance software” to help better describe the equipment in question.

(3) Invoice Submission

We routinely accept public submission of invoices as part of our process for developing payment rates for new, revised, and potentially misvalued codes. Often these invoices are submitted in conjunction with the RUC-recommended values for the codes. For CY 2019, we note that some stakeholders have submitted invoices for new, revised, or potentially misvalued codes after the February 10th deadline established for code valuation recommendations. To be included in a given year's proposed rule, we generally need to receive invoices by the same February 10th deadline we noted for consideration of RUC recommendations. However, we would consider invoices submitted as public comments during the comment period following the publication of this proposed rule, and would consider any invoices received after February 10 or outside of the public comment process as part of our established annual process for requests to update supply and equipment prices.

4. Adjustment to Allocation of Indirect PE for Some Office-Based Services

In the CY 2018 PFS final rule (82 FR 52999 through 53000), we established criteria for identifying the services most affected by the indirect PE allocation anomaly that does not allow for a site of service differential that accurately reflects the relative indirect costs involved in furnishing services in nonfacility settings. We also finalized a modification in the PE methodology for allocating indirect PE RVUS to better reflect the relative indirect PE resources involved in furnishing these services. The methodology, as described, is based on the difference between the ratio of indirect PE to work RVUs for each of the codes meeting eligibility criteria and the ratio of indirect PE to work RVU for the most commonly reported visit code. We refer readers to the CY 2018 PFS final rule (82 FR 52999 through 53000) for a discussion of our process for selecting services subject to the revised methodology, as well as a description of the methodology, which we began implementing for CY 2018 as the first year of a 4-year transition. For CY 2019, we are proposing to continue with the second year of the transition of this adjustment to the standard process for allocating indirect PE.

C. Determination of Malpractice Relative Value Units (RVUs)

1. Overview

Section 1848(c) of the Act requires that the payment amount for each service paid under the PFS be composed of three components: Work; PE; and malpractice (MP) expense. As required by section 1848(c)(2)(C)(iii) of the Act, beginning in CY 2000, MP RVUs are resource-based. Section 1848(c)(2)(B)(i) of the Act also requires that we review, and if necessary adjust, RVUs no less often than every 5 years. In the CY 2015 Start Printed Page 35722PFS final rule with comment period, we implemented the third review and update of MP RVUs. For a comprehensive discussion of the third review and update of MP RVUs see the CY 2015 proposed rule (79 FR 40349 through 40355) and final rule with comment period (79 FR 67591 through 67596).

To determine MP RVUs for individual PFS services, our MP methodology is composed of three factors: (1) Specialty-level risk factors derived from data on specialty-specific MP premiums incurred by practitioners; (2) service level risk factors derived from Medicare claims data of the weighted average risk factors of the specialties that furnish each service; and (3) an intensity/complexity of service adjustment to the service level risk factor based on either the higher of the work RVU or clinical labor RVU. Prior to CY 2016, MP RVUs were only updated once every 5 years, except in the case of new and revised codes.

In the CY 2016 PFS final rule with comment period (80 FR 70906 through 70910), we finalized a policy to begin conducting annual MP RVU updates to reflect changes in the mix of practitioners providing services (using Medicare claims data), and to adjust MP RVUs for risk, intensity and complexity (using the work RVU or clinical labor RVU). We also finalized a policy to modify the specialty mix assignment methodology (for both MP and PE RVU calculations) to use an average of the 3 most recent years of data instead of a single year of data. Under this approach, for new and revised codes, we generally assign a specialty risk factor to individual codes based on the same utilization assumptions we make regarding the specialty mix we use for calculating PE RVUs and for PFS budget neutrality. We continue to use the work RVU or clinical labor RVU to adjust the MP RVU for each code for intensity and complexity. In finalizing this policy, we stated that the specialty-specific risk factors would continue to be updated through notice and comment rulemaking every 5 years using updated premium data, but would remain unchanged between the 5-year reviews.

In CY 2017, we finalized the 8th GPCI update, which reflected updated MP premium data. We did not propose to use the updated MP premium data to propose updates for CY 2017 to the specialty risk factors used in the calculation of MP RVUs because it was inconsistent with the policy we previously finalized in the CY 2016 PFS final rule with comment period. That is, we indicated that the specialty-specific risk factors would continue to be updated through notice and comment rulemaking every 5 years using updated premium data, but would remain unchanged between the 5-year reviews. However, we solicited comment on whether we should consider doing so, perhaps as early as for CY 2018, prior to the fourth review and update of MP RVUs that must occur no later than CY 2020. After consideration of the comments received, we stated in the CY 2017 PFS final rule that we would consider the possibility of using the updated MP data to update the specialty risk factors used in the calculation of the MP RVUs prior to the next 5-year update in future rulemaking (81 FR 80191 through 80192).

In the CY 2018 PFS proposed rule, we proposed to use the updated MP data to update the specialty risk factors used in calculation of the MP RVUs prior to the next 5-year update (CY 2020). However, in the CY 2018 PFS final rule (82 FR 53000 through 53006), after consideration of the comments received and some differences we observed in the descriptions on the raw rate filings as compared to how those data were categorized to conform with the CMS specialties, we did not finalize our proposal to use the updated MP data. We are required to review, and if necessary, adjust the MP RVUs by CY 2020. We appreciate the feedback provided by commenters in response to the CY 2018 PFS proposed rule, and we are seeking additional comment regarding the next MP RVU update which must occur by CY 2020. Specifically, we are seeking comment on how we might improve the way that specialties in the state-level raw rate filings data are crosswalked for categorization into CMS specialty codes which are used to develop the specialty-level risk factors and the MP RVUs.

D. Modernizing Medicare Physician Payment by Recognizing Communication Technology-Based Services

The health care community uses the term “telehealth” broadly to refer to medical services furnished via communication technology. Under current PFS payment rules, Medicare routinely pays for many of these kinds of services. This includes some kinds of remote patient monitoring (either as separate services or as parts of bundled services), interpretations of diagnostic tests when furnished remotely, and, under conditions specified in section 1834(m) of the Act, services that would otherwise be furnished in person but are instead furnished via real-time, interactive communication technology. Over the past several years, CMS has also established several PFS policies to explicitly pay for non-face-to-face services included as part of ongoing care management.

While all of the kinds of services stated above might be called “telehealth” by patients, other payers and health care providers, we have generally used the term “Medicare telehealth services to refer to the subset of services defined in section 1834(m) of the Act. Section 1834(m) of the Act defines Medicare telehealth services and specifies the payment amounts and circumstances under which Medicare makes payment for a discrete set of services, all of which must ordinarily be furnished in-person, when they are instead furnished using interactive, real-time telecommunication technology. Section 1834(m)(4)(F)(i) of the Act enumerates certain Medicare telehealth services and section 1834(m)(4)(F)(ii) of the Act allows the Secretary to specify additional Medicare telehealth services using an annual process to add or delete services from the Medicare telehealth list. Section 1834(m)(4)(C) of the Act limits the scope of Medicare telehealth services for which payment may be made to those furnished to a beneficiary who is located in certain types of originating sites in certain, mostly rural, areas. Section 1834(m)(1) of the Act permits only physicians and certain other types of practitioners to furnish and be paid for Medicare telehealth services. Although section 1834(m)(4)(F)(ii) of the Act grants the Secretary the authority to add services to, and delete services from, the list of telehealth services based on the established annual process, it does not provide any authority to change the limitations relating to geography, patient setting, or type of furnishing practitioner because these requirements are specified in statute. However, we note that sections 50302, 50324, and 50325 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (BBA 18) have modified or removed the limitations relating to geography and patient setting for certain telehealth services, including for certain home dialysis end-stage renal disease-related services, services furnished by practitioners in certain Accountable Care Organizations, and acute stroke-related services, respectively.

In the CY 2018 PFS proposed rule, we sought information from the public regarding ways that we might further expand access to telehealth services within the current statutory authority and pay appropriately for services that take full advantage of communication technologies. Commenters were very supportive of CMS expanding access to these kinds of services. Many Start Printed Page 35723commenters noted that Medicare payment for telehealth services is restricted by statute, but encouraged CMS to recognize and support technological developments in healthcare.

We believe that the provisions in section 1834(m) of the Act apply particularly to the kinds of professional services explicitly enumerated in the statutory provisions, like professional consultations, office visits, and office psychiatry services. Generally, the services we have added to the telehealth list are similar to these kinds of services. As has long been the case, certain other kinds of services that are furnished remotely using communications technology are not considered “Medicare telehealth services” and are not subject to the restrictions articulated in section 1834(m) of the Act. This is true for services that were routinely paid separately prior to the enactment of the provisions in section 1834(m) of the Act and do not usually include patient interaction (such as remote interpretation of diagnostic imaging tests), and for services that were not discretely defined or separately paid for at the time of enactment and that do include patient interaction (such as chronic care management services).

As we considered the concerns expressed by commenters about the statutory restrictions on Medicare telehealth services, we recognized that the concerns were not limited to the barriers to payment for remotely furnished services like those described by the office visit codes. The commenters also expressed concerns pertaining to the limitations on appropriate payment for evolving physicians' services that are inherently furnished via communication technology, especially as technology and its uses have evolved in the decades since the Medicare telehealth services statutory provision was enacted.

In recent years, we have sought to recognize significant changes in health care practice, especially innovations in the active management and ongoing care of chronically ill patients, and have relied on the medical community to identify and define discrete physicians' services through the CPT Editorial Panel (82 FR 53163). In response to our comment solicitation on Medicare telehealth services in the CY 2018 PFS proposed rule (82 FR 53012), commenters provided many suggestions for how CMS could expand access to telehealth services within the current statutory authority and pay appropriately for services that take full advantage of communication technologies, such as waiving portions of the statutory restrictions using demonstration authority. After considering those comments we recognize that concerns regarding the provisions in section 1834(m) of the Act may have been limiting the degree to which the medical community developed coding for new kinds of services that inherently utilize communication technology. We have come to believe that section 1834(m) of the Act does not apply to all kinds of physicians' services whereby a medical professional interacts with a patient via remote communication technology. Instead, we believe that section 1834(m) of the Act applies to a discrete set of physicians' services that ordinarily involve, and are defined, coded, and paid for as if they were furnished during an in-person encounter between a patient and a health care professional.

For CY 2019, we are aiming to increase access for Medicare beneficiaries to physicians' services that are routinely furnished via communication technology by clearly recognizing a discrete set of services that are defined by and inherently involve the use of communication technology. Accordingly, we have several proposals for modernizing Medicare physician payment for communication technology-based services, described below. These services would not be subject to the limitations on Medicare telehealth services in section 1834(m) of the Act because, as we have explained, we do not consider them to be Medicare telehealth services; instead, they would be paid under the PFS like other physicians' services. Additionally, we note that in furnishing these proposed services, practitioners would need to comply with any applicable privacy and security laws, including the HIPAA Privacy Rule.

1. Brief Communication Technology-Based Service, e.g., Virtual Check-In (HCPCS Code GVCI1)

The traditional office visit codes describe a broad range of physicians' services. Historically, we have considered any routine non-face-to-face communication that takes place before or after an in-person visit to be bundled into the payment for the visit itself. In recent years, we have recognized payment disparities that arise when the amount of non-face-to-face work for certain kinds of patients is disproportionately higher than for others, and created coding and separate payment to recognize care management services such as chronic care management and behavioral health integration services (81 FR 80226). We now recognize that advances in communication technology have changed patients' and practitioners' expectations regarding the quantity and quality of information that can be conveyed via communication technology. From the ubiquity of synchronous, audio/video applications to the increased use of patient-facing health portals, a broader range of services can be furnished by health care professionals via communication technology as compared to 20 years ago.

Among these services are the kinds of brief check-in services furnished using communication technology that are used to evaluate whether or not an office visit or other service is warranted. When these kinds of check-in services are furnished prior to an office visit, then we would currently consider them to be bundled into the payment for the resulting visit, such as through an evaluation and management (E/M) visit code. However, in cases where the check-in service does not lead to an office visit, then there is no office visit with which the check-in service can be bundled. To the extent that these kinds of check-ins become more effective at addressing patient concerns and needs using evolving technology, we believe that the overall payment implications of considering the services to be broadly bundled becomes more problematic. This is especially true in a resource-based relative value payment system. Effectively, the better practitioners are in leveraging technology to furnish effective check-ins that mitigate the need for potentially unnecessary office visits, the fewer billable services they furnish. Given the evolving technological landscape, we believe this creates incentives that are inconsistent with current trends in medical practice and potentially undermines payment accuracy.

Therefore, we are proposing to pay separately, beginning January 1, 2019, for a newly defined type of physicians' service furnished using communication technology. This service would be billable when a physician or other qualified health care professional has a brief non-face-to-face check-in with a patient via communication technology, to assess whether the patient's condition necessitates an office visit. We understand that the kinds of communication technology used to furnish these kinds of services has broadened over time and has enhanced the capacity for medical professionals to care for patients. We are seeking comment on what types of communication technology are utilized by physicians or other qualified health care professionals in furnishing these Start Printed Page 35724services, including whether audio-only telephone interactions are sufficient compared to interactions that are enhanced with video or other kinds of data transmission.

The proposed code would be described as GVCI1 (Brief communication technology-based service, e.g., virtual check-in, by a physician or other qualified health care professional who can report evaluation and management services, provided to an established patient, not originating from a related E/M service provided within the previous 7 days nor leading to an E/M service or procedure within the next 24 hours or soonest available appointment; 5-10 minutes of medical discussion). We further propose that in instances when the brief communication technology-based service originates from a related E/M service provided within the previous 7 days by the same physician or other qualified health care professional, that this service would be considered bundled into that previous E/M service and would not be separately billable, which is consistent with code descriptor language for CPT code 99441 (Telephone evaluation and management service by a physician or other qualified health care professional who may report evaluation and management services provided to an established patient, parent, or guardian not originating from a related E/M service provided within the previous 7 days nor leading to an E/M service or procedure within the next 24 hours or soonest available appointment; 5-10 minutes of medical discussion) on which this service is partially modeled. We propose that in instances when the brief communication technology-based service leads to an E/M in-person service with the same physician or other qualified health care professional, this service would be considered bundled into the pre- or post-visit time of the associated E/M service, and therefore, would not be separately billable. We also note that this service could be used as part of a treatment regimen for opioid use disorders and other substance use disorders, since there are several components of Medication Assisted Therapy (MAT) that could be done virtually, or to assess whether the patient's condition requires an office visit.

We propose pricing this distinct service at a rate lower than existing E/M in-person visits to reflect the low work time and intensity and to account for the resource costs and efficiencies associated with the use of communication technology. We expect that these services would be initiated by the patient, especially since many beneficiaries would be financially liable for sharing in the cost of these services. For the same reason, we believe it is important for patients to consent to receiving these services, and we are specifically seeking comment on whether we should require, for example, verbal consent that would be noted in the medical record for each service. We are also proposing that this service can only be furnished for established patients because we believe that the practitioner needs to have an existing relationship with the patient, and therefore, basic knowledge of the patient's medical condition and needs, in order to perform this service. We are not proposing to apply a frequency limit on the use of this code by the same practitioner with the same patient, but we want to ensure that this code is appropriately utilized for circumstances when a patient needs a brief non-face-to-face check-in to assess whether an office visit is necessary. We are seeking comment on whether it would be clinically appropriate to apply a frequency limitation on the use of this code by the same practitioner with the same patient, and on what would be a reasonable frequency limitation. We are also seeking comment on the timeframes under which this service would be separately billable compared to when it would be bundled. We believe the general construct of bundling the services that lead directly to a billable visit is important, but we are concerned that establishing strict timeframes may create unintended consequences regarding scheduling of care. For example, we do not want to bundle only the services that occur within 24 hours of a visit only to see a significant number of visits occurring at 25 hours after the initial service. In order to mitigate these incentives, we are seeking comment on whether we should consider broadening the window of time and/or circumstances in which this service should be bundled into the subsequent related visit. We note that these services, like any other physicians' service, would need to be medically reasonable and necessary in order to be paid by Medicare. We are seeking comment on how clinicians could best document the medical necessity of this service, consistent with documentation requirements necessary to demonstrate the medical necessity of any service under the PFS. For details related to developing utilization estimates for these services, see section VII. Regulatory Impact Analysis, of this proposed rule. For additional details related to valuation of these services, see section II.H. Valuation of Specific Codes, of this proposed rule. We are seeking comment on our proposed definition and valuation of this code.

2. Remote Evaluation of Pre-Recorded Patient Information (HCPCS Code GRAS1)

Stakeholders have requested that CMS make separate Medicare payment when a physician uses recorded video and/or images captured by a patient in order to evaluate a patient's condition. These services involve what is referred to under section 1834(m) of the Act as “store-and-forward” communication technology that provides for the “asynchronous transmission of health care information.” We note that we believe these services involve pre-recorded patient-generated still or video images. Other types of patient-generated information, such as information from heart rate monitors or other devices that collect patient health marker data, could potentially be reported with CPT codes that describe remote patient monitoring. Under section 1834(m) of the Act, payment for telehealth services furnished using such store-and-forward technology is permitted only under Federal telemedicine demonstration programs conducted in Alaska or Hawaii, and these telehealth services remain subject to the other statutory restrictions governing Medicare telehealth services. Much like the virtual check-in described above, these services are not meant to substitute for an in-person service currently separately payable under the PFS, and therefore, are distinct from the telehealth services described under section 1834(m) of the Act. Effective January 1, 2019, we are proposing to create specific coding that describes the remote professional evaluation of patient-transmitted information conducted via pre-recorded “store and forward” video or image technology. These services would not be subject to the Medicare telehealth restrictions in section 1834(m) of the Act, and the valuation would reflect the resource costs associated with furnishing services utilizing communication technology.

Much like the brief communication technology-based services discussed above, these services may be used to determine whether or not an office visit or other service is warranted. When the review of the patient-submitted image and/or video results in an in-person E/M office visit with the same physician or qualified health care professional, we propose that this remote service would be considered bundled into that office visit and therefore would not be separately billable. We further propose Start Printed Page 35725that in instances when the remote service originates from a related E/M service provided within the previous 7 days by the same physician or qualified health care professional, that this service would be considered bundled into that previous E/M service and also would not be separately billable. In summary, we propose this service to be a stand-alone service that could be separately billed to the extent that there is no resulting E/M office visit and there is no related E/M office visit within the previous 7 days of the remote service being furnished. The proposed coding and separate payment for this service is consistent with the progression of technology and its impact on the practice of medicine in recent years, and would result in increased access to services for Medicare beneficiaries. The proposed code for this service would be described as GRAS1 (Remote evaluation of recorded video and/or images submitted by the patient (e.g., store and forward), including interpretation with verbal follow-up with the patient within 24 business hours, not originating from a related E/M service provided within the previous 7 days nor leading to an E/M service or procedure within the next 24 hours or soonest available appointment). We are seeking comment as to whether these services should be limited to established patients; or whether there are certain cases, like dermatological or ophthalmological services, where it might be appropriate for a new patient to receive these services. For example, when a patient seeks care for a specific skin condition from a dermatologist with whom she does not have a prior relationship, and part of the inquiry is an assessment of whether the patient needs an in-person visit, the patient could share, and the dermatologist could remotely evaluate, pre-recorded information. We also note that this service is distinct from the brief communication technology-based service described above in that this service involves the practitioner's evaluation of a patient-generated still or video image, and the subsequent communication of the resulting response to the patient, while the brief communication technology-based service describes a service that occurs in real time and does not involve the transmission of any recorded image.

For details related to developing utilization estimates for these services, see section VII. Regulatory Impact Analysis, of this proposed rule. For further discussion related to valuation of this service, please see the section II.H. Valuation of Specific Codes, of this proposed rule. We are seeking public comment on our proposed definition and valuation of the code.

3. Interprofessional Internet Consultation (CPT Codes 994X6, 994X0, 99446, 99447, 99448, and 99449)

As part of our standard rulemaking process, we received recommendations from the RUC to assist in establishing values for six CPT codes that describe interprofessional consultations. In 2013, CMS received recommendations from the RUC for CPT codes 99446 (Interprofessional telephone/internet assessment and management service provided by a consultative physician including a verbal and written report to the patient's treating/requesting physician or other qualified health care professional; 5-10 minutes of medical consultative discussion and review), 99447 (Interprofessional telephone/internet assessment and management service provided by a consultative physician including a verbal and written report to the patient's treating/requesting physician or other qualified health care professional; 11-20 minutes of medical consultative discussion and review), 99448 (Interprofessional telephone/internet assessment and management service provided by a consultative physician including a verbal and written report to the patient's treating/requesting physician or other qualified health care professional; 21-30 minutes of medical consultative discussion and review), and 99449 (Interprofessional telephone/internet assessment and management service provided by a consultative physician including a verbal and written report to the patient's treating/requesting physician or other qualified health care professional; 31 minutes or more of medical consultative discussion and review). CMS declined to make separate payment, stating in the CY 2014 PFS final rule with comment period that these kinds of services are considered bundled (78 FR 74343). For CY 2019, the CPT Editorial Panel created two new codes to describe additional consultative services, including a code describing the work of the treating physician when initiating a consult, and the RUC recommended valuation for new codes, CPT codes 994X0 (Interprofessional telephone/internet/electronic health record referral service(s) provided by a treating/requesting physician or qualified health care professional, 30 minutes) and 994X6 (Interprofessional telephone/internet/electronic health record assessment and management service provided by a consultative physician including a written report to the patient's treating/requesting physician or other qualified health care professional, 5 or more minutes of medical consultative time). The RUC also reaffirmed their prior recommendations for the existing CPT codes. The six codes describe assessment and management services conducted through telephone, internet, or electronic health record consultations furnished when a patient's treating physician or other qualified healthcare professional requests the opinion and/or treatment advice of a consulting physician or qualified healthcare professional with specific specialty expertise to assist with the diagnosis and/or management of the patient's problem without the need for the patient's face-to-face contact with the consulting physician or qualified healthcare professional. Currently, the resource costs associated with seeking or providing such a consultation are considered bundled, which in practical terms means that specialist input is often sought through scheduling a separate visit for the patient when a phone or internet-based interaction between the treating practitioner and the consulting practitioner would have been sufficient. We believe that proposing payment for these interprofessional consultations performed via communications technology such as telephone or internet is consistent with our ongoing efforts to recognize and reflect medical practice trends in primary care and patient-centered care management within the PFS.

Beginning in the CY 2012 PFS proposed rule (76 FR 42793), we have recognized the changing focus in medical practice toward managing patients' chronic conditions, many of which particularly challenge the Medicare population, including heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease, breast cancer, allergies, Alzheimer's disease, and factors associated with obesity. We have expressed concerns that the current E/M coding does not adequately reflect the changes that have occurred in medical practice, and the activities and resource costs associated with the treatment of these complex patients in the primary care setting. In the years since 2012, we have acknowledged the shift in medical practice away from an episodic treatment-based approach to one that involves comprehensive patient-centered care management, and have taken steps through rulemaking to better reflect that approach in payment under the PFS. In CY 2013, we established new codes to pay separately for transitional care management (TCM) Start Printed Page 35726services. Next, we finalized new coding and separate payment beginning in CY 2015 for chronic care management (CCM) services provided by clinical staff (81 FR 80226). In the CY 2017 PFS final rule, we established separate payment for complex CCM services, an add-on code to the visit during which CCM is initiated to reflect the work of the billing practitioner in assessing the beneficiary and establishing the CCM care plan, and established separate payment for Behavioral Health Integration (BHI) services (81 FR 80226 through 80227).

As part of this shift in medical practice, and with the proliferation of team-based approaches to care that are often facilitated by electronic medical record technology, we believe that making separate payment for interprofessional consultations undertaken for the benefit of treating a patient will contribute to payment accuracy for primary care and care management services. We are proposing separate payment for these services, discussed in section II.H. Valuation of Specific Codes, of this proposed rule.

While we are proposing to make separate payment for these services because we believe they describe resource costs directly associated with seeking a consultation for the benefit of the beneficiary, we do have concerns about how these services can be distinguished from activities undertaken for the benefit of the practitioner, such as information shared as a professional courtesy or as continuing education. We do not believe that those examples would constitute a service directly attributable to a single Medicare beneficiary, and therefore neither the Medicare program nor the beneficiary should be responsible for those costs. We are therefore seeking comment on our assumption that these are separately identifiable services, and the extent to which they can be distinguished from similar services that are nonetheless primarily for the benefit of the practitioner. We note that there are program integrity concerns around making separate payment for these interprofessional consultation services, including around CMS' or its contractors' ability to evaluate whether an interprofessional consultation is reasonable and necessary under the particular circumstances. We are seeking comment on how best to minimize potential program integrity issues, and are particularly interested in information on whether these types of services are paid separately by private payers and if so, what controls or limitations private payers have put in place to ensure these services are billed appropriately.

Additionally, since these codes describe services that are furnished without the beneficiary being present, we are proposing to require the treating practitioner to obtain verbal beneficiary consent in advance of these services, which would be documented by the treating practitioner in the medical record, similar to the conditions of payment associated with the care management services under the PFS. Obtaining advance consent includes ensuring that the patient is aware of applicable cost sharing. We welcome comments on this proposal.

4. Medicare Telehealth Services Under Section 1834(m) of the Act

a. Billing and Payment for Medicare Telehealth Services Under Section 1834(m) of the Act

As discussed in prior rulemaking, several conditions must be met for Medicare to make payment for telehealth services under the PFS. For further details, see the full discussion of the scope of Medicare telehealth services in the CY 2018 PFS final rule (82 FR 53006).

b. Adding Services to the List of Medicare Telehealth Services

In the CY 2003 PFS final rule with comment period (67 FR 79988), we established a process for adding services to or deleting services from the list of Medicare telehealth services in accordance with section 1834(m)(4)(F)(ii) of the Act. This process provides the public with an ongoing opportunity to submit requests for adding services, which are then reviewed by us. Under this process, we assign any submitted request to add to the list of telehealth services to one of the following two categories:

  • Category 1: Services that are similar to professional consultations, office visits, and office psychiatry services that are currently on the list of telehealth services. In reviewing these requests, we look for similarities between the requested and existing telehealth services for the roles of, and interactions among, the beneficiary, the physician (or other practitioner) at the distant site and, if necessary, the telepresenter, a practitioner who is present with the beneficiary in the originating site. We also look for similarities in the telecommunications system used to deliver the service; for example, the use of interactive audio and video equipment.
  • Category 2: Services that are not similar to those on the current list of telehealth services. Our review of these requests includes an assessment of whether the service is accurately described by the corresponding code when furnished via telehealth and whether the use of a telecommunications system to furnish the service produces demonstrated clinical benefit to the patient. Submitted evidence should include both a description of relevant clinical studies that demonstrate the service furnished by telehealth to a Medicare beneficiary improves the diagnosis or treatment of an illness or injury or improves the functioning of a malformed body part, including dates and findings, and a list and copies of published peer reviewed articles relevant to the service when furnished via telehealth. Our evidentiary standard of clinical benefit does not include minor or incidental benefits.

Some examples of clinical benefit include the following:

  • Ability to diagnose a medical condition in a patient population without access to clinically appropriate in-person diagnostic services.
  • Treatment option for a patient population without access to clinically appropriate in-person treatment options.
  • Reduced rate of complications.
  • Decreased rate of subsequent diagnostic or therapeutic interventions (for example, due to reduced rate of recurrence of the disease process).
  • Decreased number of future hospitalizations or physician visits.
  • More rapid beneficial resolution of the disease process treatment.
  • Decreased pain, bleeding, or other quantifiable symptom.
  • Reduced recovery time.

The list of telehealth services, including the proposed additions described below, is included in the Downloads section to this proposed rule at https://www.cms.gov/​Medicare/​Medicare-Fee-for-Service-Payment/​PhysicianFeeSched/​PFS-Federal-Regulation-Notices.html.

Historically, requests to add services to the list of Medicare telehealth services had to be submitted and received no later than December 31 of each calendar year to be considered for the next rulemaking cycle. However, for CY 2019 and onward, we intend to accept requests through February 10, consistent with the deadline for our receipt of code valuation recommendations from the RUC. To be considered during PFS rulemaking for CY 2020, requests to add services to the list of Medicare telehealth services must be submitted and received by February 10, 2019. Each request to add a service to the list of Medicare telehealth Start Printed Page 35727services must include any supporting documentation the requester wishes us to consider as we review the request. Because we use the annual PFS rulemaking process as the vehicle to make changes to the list of Medicare telehealth services, requesters should be advised that any information submitted as part of a request is subject to public disclosure for this purpose. For more information on submitting a request to add services to the list of Medicare telehealth services, including where to mail these requests, see our website at https://www.cms.gov/​Medicare/​Medicare-General-Information/​Telehealth/​index.html.

c. Submitted Requests To Add Services to the List of Telehealth Services for CY 2019

Under our current policy, we add services to the telehealth list on a Category 1 basis when we determine that they are similar to services on the existing telehealth list for the roles of, and interactions among, the beneficiary, physician (or other practitioner) at the distant site and, if necessary, the telepresenter. As we stated in the CY 2012 PFS final rule with comment period (76 FR 73098), we believe that the Category 1 criteria not only streamline our review process for publicly requested services that fall into this category, but also expedite our ability to identify codes for the telehealth list that resemble those services already on this list.

We received several requests in CY 2017 to add various services as Medicare telehealth services effective for CY 2019. The following presents a discussion of these requests, and our proposals for additions to the CY 2019 telehealth list. Of the requests received, we found that two services were sufficiently similar to services currently on the telehealth list to be added on a Category 1 basis. Therefore, we are proposing to add the following services to the telehealth list on a Category 1 basis for CY 2019:

  • HCPCS codes G0513 and G0514 (Prolonged preventive service(s) (beyond the typical service time of the primary procedure), in the office or other outpatient setting requiring direct patient contact beyond the usual service; first 30 minutes (list separately in addition to code for preventive service) and (Prolonged preventive service(s) (beyond the typical service time of the primary procedure), in the office or other outpatient setting requiring direct patient contact beyond the usual service; each additional 30 minutes (list separately in addition to code G0513 for additional 30 minutes of preventive service).

We found that the services described by HCPCS codes G0513 and G0514 are sufficiently similar to office visits currently on the telehealth list. We believe that all the components of this service can be furnished via interactive telecommunications technology. Additionally, we believe that adding these services to the telehealth list would make it administratively easier for practitioners who report these services in connection with a preventive service that is furnished via telehealth, as both the base code and the add-on code would be reported with the telehealth place of service.

We also received requests to add services to the telehealth list that do not meet our criteria for Medicare telehealth services. We are not proposing to add to the Medicare telehealth services list the following procedures for chronic care remote physiologic monitoring, interprofessional internet consultation, and initial hospital care; or to change the requirements for subsequent hospital care or subsequent nursing facility care, for the reasons noted in the paragraphs that follow.

(1) Chronic Care Remote Physiologic Monitoring: CPT Codes

  • CPT code 990X0 (Remote monitoring of physiologic parameter(s) (e.g., weight, blood pressure, pulse oximetry, respiratory flow rate), initial; set-up and patient education on use of equipment).
  • CPT code 990X1 (Remote monitoring of physiologic parameter(s) (e.g., weight, blood pressure, pulse oximetry, respiratory flow rate), initial; device(s) supply with daily recording(s) or programmed alert(s) transmission, each 30 days).
  • CPT code 994X9 (Remote physiologic monitoring treatment management services, 20 minutes or more of clinical staff/physician/other qualified healthcare professional time in a calendar month requiring interactive communication with the patient/caregiver during the month).

In the CY 2016 PFS final rule with comment period (80 FR 71064), we responded to a request to add CPT code 99490 (Chronic care management services, at least 20 minutes of clinical staff time directed by a physician or other qualified health care professional, per calendar month, with the following required elements: Multiple (two or more) chronic conditions expected to last at least 12 months, or until the death of the patient; chronic conditions place the patient at significant risk of death, acute exacerbation/decompensation, or functional decline; comprehensive care plan established, implemented, revised, or monitored) to the Medicare telehealth list. We discussed that the services described by CPT code 99490 can be furnished without the beneficiary's face-to-face presence and using any number of non-face-to-face means of communication. We stated that it was therefore unnecessary to add that service to the list of Medicare telehealth services. Similarly, CPT codes 990X0, 990X1, and 994X9 describe services that are inherently non face-to-face. As discussed in section II.H. Valuation of Specific Codes, we instead are proposing to adopt CPT codes 990X0, 990X1, and 994X9 for payment under the PFS. Because these codes describe services that are inherently non face-to-face, we do not consider them Medicare telehealth services under section 1834(m) of the Act; therefore, we are not proposing to add them to the list of Medicare telehealth services.

(2) Interprofessional Internet Consultation: CPT Codes

  • CPT code 994X0 (Interprofessional telephone/internet/electronic health record referral service(s) provided by a treating/requesting physician or qualified health care professional, 30 minutes).
  • CPT code 994X6 (Interprofessional telephone/internet/electronic health record assessment and management service provided by a consultative physician including a written report to the patient's treating/requesting physician or other qualified health care professional, 5 or more minutes of medical consultative time).

As discussed in section II.H. Valuation of Specific Codes, we are proposing to adopt CPT codes 994X0 and 994X6 for payment under the PFS as these are distinct services furnished via communication technology. Because these codes describe services that are inherently non face-to-face, we do not consider them as Medicare telehealth services under section 1834(m) of the Act; therefore we are not proposing to add them to the list of Medicare telehealth services for CY 2019.

(3) Initial Hospital Care Services: CPT Codes

  • CPT code 99221 (Initial hospital care, per day, for the evaluation and management of a patient, which requires these 3 key components: A detailed or comprehensive history; A detailed or comprehensive examination; and Medical decision making that is straightforward or of low complexity. Counseling and/or coordination of care Start Printed Page 35728with other physicians, other qualified health care professionals, or agencies are provided consistent with the nature of the problem(s) and the patient's and/or family's needs. Usually, the problem(s) requiring admission are of low severity.)
  • CPT code 99222 (Initial hospital care, per day, for the evaluation and management of a patient, which requires these 3 key components: A comprehensive history; A comprehensive examination; and Medical decision making of moderate complexity. Counseling and/or coordination of care with other physicians, other qualified health care professionals, or agencies are provided consistent with the nature of the problem(s) and the patient's and/or family's needs. Usually, the problem(s) requiring admission are of moderate severity.)
  • CPT code 99223 (Initial hospital care, per day, for the evaluation and management of a patient, which requires these 3 key components: A comprehensive history; A comprehensive examination; and Medical decision making of high complexity. Counseling and/or coordination of care with other physicians, other qualified health care professionals, or agencies are provided consistent with the nature of the problem(s) and the patient's and/or family's needs. Usually, the problem(s) requiring admission are of high severity.)

We have previously considered requests to add these codes to the telehealth list. As we stated in the CY 2011 PFS final rule with comment period (75 FR 73315), while initial inpatient consultation services are currently on the list of approved telehealth services, there are no services on the current list of telehealth services that resemble initial hospital care for an acutely ill patient by the admitting practitioner who has ongoing responsibility for the patient's treatment during the course of the hospital stay. Therefore, consistent with prior rulemaking, we do not propose that initial hospital care services be added to the Medicare telehealth services list on a category 1 basis.

The initial hospital care codes describe the first visit of the hospitalized patient by the admitting practitioner who may or may not have seen the patient in the decision-making phase regarding hospitalization. Based on the description of the services for these codes, we believed it is critical that the initial hospital visit by the admitting practitioner be conducted in person to ensure that the practitioner with ongoing treatment responsibility comprehensively assesses the patient's condition upon admission to the hospital through a thorough in-person examination. Additionally, the requester submitted no additional research or evidence that the use of a telecommunications system to furnish the service produces demonstrated clinical benefit to the patient; therefore, we also do not propose adding initial hospital care services to the Medicare telehealth services list on a Category 2 basis.

We note that Medicare beneficiaries who are being treated in the hospital setting can receive reasonable and necessary E/M services using other HCPCS codes that are currently on the Medicare telehealth list, including those for subsequent hospital care, initial and follow-up telehealth inpatient and emergency department consultations, as well as initial and follow-up critical care telehealth consultations.

Therefore, we are not proposing to add the initial hospital care services to the list of Medicare telehealth services for CY 2019.

(4) Subsequent Hospital Care Services: CPT Codes

  • CPT code 99231 (Subsequent hospital care, per day, for the evaluation and management of a patient, which requires at least 2 of these 3 key components: A problem focused interval history; A problem focused examination; Medical decision making that is straightforward or of low complexity. Counseling and/or coordination of care with other physicians, other qualified health care professionals, or agencies are provided consistent with the nature of the problem(s) and the patient's and/or family's needs. Usually, the patient is stable, recovering or improving. Typically, 15 minutes are spent at the bedside and on the patient's hospital floor or unit.)
  • CPT code 99232 (Subsequent hospital care, per day, for the evaluation and management of a patient, which requires at least 2 of these 3 key components: An expanded problem focused interval history; an expanded problem focused examination; medical decision making of moderate complexity. Counseling and/or coordination of care with other physicians, other qualified health care professionals, or agencies are provided consistent with the nature of the problem(s) and the patient's and/or family's needs. Usually, the patient is responding inadequately to therapy or has developed a minor complication. Typically, 25 minutes are spent at the bedside and on the patient's hospital floor or unit.)
  • CPT code 99233 (Subsequent hospital care, per day, for the evaluation and management of a patient, which requires at least 2 of these 3 key components: A detailed interval history; a detailed examination; Medical decision making of high complexity. Counseling and/or coordination of care with other physicians, other qualified health care professionals, or agencies are provided consistent with the nature of the problem(s) and the patient's and/or family's needs. Usually, the patient is unstable or has developed a significant complication or a significant new problem. Typically, 35 minutes are spent at the bedside and on the patient's hospital floor or unit.)

CPT codes 99231-99233 are currently on the list of Medicare telehealth services, but can only be billed via telehealth once every 3 days. The requester asked that we remove the frequency limitation. We stated in the CY 2011 PFS final rule with comment period (75 FR 73316) that, while we still believed the potential acuity of hospital inpatients is greater than those patients likely to receive Medicare telehealth services that were on the list at that time, we also believed that it would be appropriate to permit some subsequent hospital care services to be furnished through telehealth in order to ensure that hospitalized patients have frequent encounters with their admitting practitioner. We also noted that we continue to believe that the majority of these visits should be in-person to facilitate the comprehensive, coordinated, and personal care that medically volatile, acutely ill patients require on an ongoing basis. Because of our concerns regarding the potential acuity of hospital inpatients, we finalized the addition of CPT codes 99231-99233 to the list of Medicare telehealth services, but limited the provision of these subsequent hospital care services through telehealth to once every 3 days. We continue to believe that admitting practitioners should continue to make appropriate in-person visits to all patients who need such care during their hospitalization. Our concerns and position on the provision of subsequent hospital care services via telehealth have not changed. Therefore, we are not proposing to remove the frequency limitation on these codes.

(5) Subsequent Nursing Facility Care Services: CPT Codes

  • CPT code 99307 (Subsequent nursing facility care, per day, for the evaluation and management of a patient, which requires at least 2 of these 3 key Start Printed Page 35729components: A problem focused interval history; A problem focused examination; Straightforward medical decision making. Counseling and/or coordination of care with other physicians, other qualified health care professionals, or agencies are provided consistent with the nature of the problem(s) and the patient's and/or family's needs. Usually, the patient is stable, recovering, or improving. Typically, 10 minutes are spent at the bedside and on the patient's facility floor or unit.)
  • CPT code 99308 (Subsequent nursing facility care, per day, for the evaluation and management of a patient, which requires at least 2 of these 3 key components: An expanded problem focused interval history; an expanded problem focused examination; Medical decision making of low complexity. Counseling and/or coordination of care with other physicians, other qualified health care professionals, or agencies are provided consistent with the nature of the problem(s) and the patient's and/or family's needs. Usually, the patient is responding inadequately to therapy or has developed a minor complication. Typically, 15 minutes are spent at the bedside and on the patient's facility floor or unit.)
  • CPT code 99309 (Subsequent nursing facility care, per day, for the evaluation and management of a patient, which requires at least 2 of these 3 key components: A detailed interval history; a detailed examination; Medical decision making of moderate complexity. Counseling and/or coordination of care with other physicians, other qualified health care professionals, or agencies are provided consistent with the nature of the problem(s) and the patient's and/or family's needs. Usually, the patient has developed a significant complication or a significant new problem. Typically, 25 minutes are spent at the bedside and on the patient's facility floor or unit.)
  • CPT code 99310 (Subsequent nursing facility care, per day, for the evaluation and management of a patient, which requires at least 2 of these 3 key components: A comprehensive interval history; a comprehensive examination; Medical decision making of high complexity. Counseling and/or coordination of care with other physicians, other qualified health care professionals, or agencies are provided consistent with the nature of the problem(s) and the patient's and/or family's needs. The patient may be unstable or may have developed a significant new problem requiring immediate physician attention. Typically, 35 minutes are spent at the bedside and on the patient's facility floor or unit.)

CPT codes 99307-99310 are currently on the list of Medicare telehealth services, but can only be billed via telehealth once every 30 days. The requester asked that we remove the frequency limitation when these services are provided for psychiatric care. We stated in the CY 2011 PFS final rule with comment period (75 FR 73317) that we believed it would be appropriate to permit some subsequent nursing facility care services to be furnished through telehealth to ensure that complex nursing facility patients have frequent encounters with their admitting practitioner, but because of our concerns regarding the potential acuity and complexity of SNF inpatients, we limited the provision of subsequent nursing facility care services furnished through telehealth to once every 30 days. Since these codes are used to report care for patients with a variety of diagnoses, including psychiatric diagnoses, we do not think it would be appropriate to remove the frequency limitation only for certain diagnoses. The services described by these CPT codes are essentially the same service, regardless of the patient's diagnosis. We also continue to have concerns regarding the potential acuity and complexity of SNF inpatients, and therefore, we are not proposing to remove the frequency limitation for subsequent nursing facility care services in CY 2019.

In summary, we are proposing to add the following codes to the list of Medicare telehealth services beginning in CY 2019 on a category 1 basis:

  • HCPCS code G0513 (Prolonged preventive service(s) (beyond the typical service time of the primary procedure), in the office or other outpatient setting requiring direct patient contact beyond the usual service; first 30 minutes (list separately in addition to code for preventive service).
  • HCPCS code G0514 (Prolonged preventive service(s) (beyond the typical service time of the primary procedure), in the office or other outpatient setting requiring direct patient contact beyond the usual service; each additional 30 minutes (list separately in addition to code G0513 for additional 30 minutes of preventive service).

5. Expanding the Use of Telehealth Under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018

a. Expanding Access to Home Dialysis Therapy Under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018

Section 50302 of the BBA of 2018 amended sections 1881(b)(3) and 1834(m) of the Act to allow an individual determined to have end-stage renal disease receiving home dialysis to choose to receive certain monthly end-stage renal disease-related (ESRD-related) clinical assessments via telehealth on or after January 1, 2019. The new section 1881(b)(3)(B)(ii) of the Act requires that such an individual must receive a face-to-face visit, without the use of telehealth, at least monthly in the case of the initial 3 months of home dialysis and at least once every 3 consecutive months after the initial 3 months.

As added by section 50302(b)(1) of the BBA of 2018, subclauses (IX) and (X) of section 1834(m)(4)(C)(ii) of the Act include a renal dialysis facility and the home of an individual as telehealth originating sites but only for the purposes of the monthly ESRD-related clinical assessments furnished through telehealth provided under section 1881(b)(3)(B) of the Act. Section 50302(b)(1) also added a new section 1834(m)(5) of the Act which provides that the geographic requirements for telehealth services under section 1834(m)(4)(C)(i) of the Act do not apply to telehealth services furnished on or after January 1, 2019 for purposes of the monthly ESRD-related clinical assessments where the originating site is a hospital-based or critical access hospital-based renal dialysis center, a renal dialysis facility, or the home of an individual. Section 50302(b)(2) of the BBA of 2018 amended section 1834(m)(2)(B)(ii) of the Act to require that no originating site facility fee is to be paid if the home of the individual is the originating site.

Our current regulation at § 410.78 specifies the conditions that must be met in order for Medicare Part B to pay for covered telehealth services included on the telehealth list when furnished by an interactive telecommunications system. In accordance with the new subclauses (IX) and (X) of section 1834(m)(4)(C)(ii) of the Act, we are proposing to revise our regulation at § 410.78(b)(3) to add a renal dialysis facility and the home of an individual as Medicare telehealth originating sites, but only for purposes of the home dialysis monthly ESRD-related clinical assessment in section 1881(b)(3)(B) of the Act. We propose to amend § 414.65(b)(3) to reflect the requirement in section 1834(m)(2)(B)(ii) of the Act that there is no originating site facility fee paid when the originating site for these services is the patient's home. Additionally, we are proposing to add new § 410.78(b)(4)(iv)(A), to reflect the provision in section 1834(m)(5) of the Act, added by section 50302 of the BBA Start Printed Page 35730of 2018, specifying that the geographic requirements described in section 1834(m)(4)(C)(i) of the Act do not apply with respect to telehealth services furnished on or after January 1, 2019, in originating sites that are hospital-based or critical access hospital-based renal dialysis centers, renal dialysis facilities, or the patient's home, respectively under sections 1834(m)(4)(C)(ii)(VI), (IX) and (X) of the Act, for purposes of section 1881(b)(3)(B) of the Act.

b. Expanding the Use of Telehealth for Individuals With Stroke Under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018

Section 50325 of the BBA of 2018 amended section 1834(m) of the Act by adding a new paragraph (6) that provides special rules for telehealth services furnished on or after January 1, 2019, for purposes of diagnosis, evaluation, or treatment of symptoms of an acute stroke (acute stroke telehealth services), as determined by the Secretary. Specifically, section 1834(m)(6)(A) of the Act removes the restrictions on the geographic locations and the types of originating sites where acute stroke telehealth services can be furnished. Section 1834(m)(6)(B) of the Act specifies that acute stroke telehealth services can be furnished in any hospital, critical access hospital, mobile stroke units (as defined by the Secretary), or any other site determined appropriate by the Secretary, in addition to the current eligible telehealth originating sites. Section 1834(m)(6)(C) of the Act limits payment of an originating site facility fee to acute stroke telehealth services furnished in sites that meet the usual telehealth restrictions under section 1834(m)(4)(C) of the Act.

To implement these requirements, we are proposing to create a new modifier that would be used to identify acute stroke telehealth services. The practitioner and, as appropriate, the originating site, would append this modifier when clinically appropriate to the HCPCS code when billing for an acute stroke telehealth service or an originating site facility fee, respectively. We note that section 50325 of the BBA of 2018 did not amend section 1834(m)(4)(F) of the Act, which limits the scope of telehealth services to those on the Medicare telehealth list. Practitioners would be responsible for assessing whether it would be clinically appropriate to use this modifier with codes from the Medicare telehealth list. By billing with this modifier, practitioners would be indicating that the codes billed were used to furnish telehealth services for diagnosis, evaluation, or treatment of symptoms of an acute stroke. We believe that the adoption of a service level modifier is the least administratively burdensome means of implementing this provision for practitioners, while also allowing CMS to easily track and analyze utilization of these services.

In accordance with section 1834(m)(6)(B) of the Act, as added by section 50325 of the BBA of 2018, we are also proposing to revise § 410.78(b)(3) of our regulations to add mobile stroke unit as a permissible originating site for acute stroke telehealth services. We are proposing to define a mobile stroke unit as a mobile unit that furnishes services to diagnose, evaluate, and/or treat symptoms of an acute stroke and are seeking comment on this definition, as well as additional information on how these units are used in current medical practice. We are therefore proposing that mobile stroke units and the current eligible telehealth originating sites, which include hospitals and critical access hospitals as specified in section 1834(m)(6)(B) of the Act, but excluding renal dialysis facilities and patient homes because they are only allowable originating sites for purposes of home dialysis monthly ESRD-related clinical assessments in section 1881(b)(3)(B) of the Act, would be permissible originating sites for acute stroke telehealth services.

We also seek comment on other possible appropriate originating sites for telehealth services furnished for the diagnosis, evaluation, or treatment of symptoms of an acute stroke. Any additional sites would be adopted through future rulemaking. As required under section 1834(m)(6)(C) of the Act, the originating site facility fee would not apply in instances where the originating site does not meet the originating site type and geographic requirements under section 1834(m)(4)(C) of the Act. Additionally, we are proposing to add § 410.78(b)(4)(iv)(B) to specify that the requirements in section 1834(m)(4)(C) of the Act do not apply with respect to telehealth services furnished on or after January 1, 2019, for purposes of diagnosis, evaluation, or treatment of symptoms of an acute stroke.

6. Modifying § 414.65 Regarding List of Telehealth Services

In the CY 2015 PFS final rule with comment period, we finalized a proposal to change our regulation at § 410.78(b) by deleting the description of the individual services for which Medicare payment can be made when furnished via telehealth, noting that we revised § 410.78(f) to indicate that a list of Medicare telehealth codes and descriptors is available on the CMS website (79 FR 67602). In accordance with that change, we are proposing a technical revision to also delete the description of individual services and exceptions for Medicare payment for telehealth services in § 414.65, by amending § 414.65(a) to note that Medicare payment for telehealth services is addressed in § 410.78 and by deleting § 414.65(a)(1).

7. Comment Solicitation on Creating a Bundled Episode of Care for Management and Counseling Treatment for Substance Use Disorders

There is an evidence base that suggests that routine counseling, either associated with medication assisted treatment (MAT) or on its own, can increase the effectiveness of treatment for substance use disorders (SUDs). According to a study in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment,[1] patients treated with a combination of web-based counseling as part of a substance abuse treatment program demonstrated increased treatment adherence and satisfaction. The federal guidelines for opioid treatment programs describe that MAT and wrap-around psychosocial and support services can include the following services: Physical exam and assessment; psychosocial assessment; treatment planning; counseling; medication management; drug administration; comprehensive care management and supportive services; care coordination; management of care transitions; individual and family support services; and health promotion (https://store.samhsa.gov/​shin/​content/​PEP15-FEDGUIDEOTP/​PEP15-FEDGUIDEOTP.pdf). Creating separate payment for a bundled episode of care for components of MAT such as management and counseling treatment for substance use disorders (SUD), including opioid use disorder, treatment planning, and medication management or observing drug dosing for treatment of SUDs under the PFS could provide opportunities to better leverage services furnished with communication technology while expanding access to treatment for SUDs.

We also believe making separate payment for a bundled episode of care for management and counseling for SUDs could be effective in preventing the need for more acute services. For example, according to the Healthcare Start Printed Page 35731Cost and Utilization Project,[2] Medicare pays for one-third of opioid-related hospital stays, and Medicare has seen the largest annual increase in the number of these stays over the past 2 decades. We believe that separate payment for a bundled episode of care could help avoid such hospital admissions by supporting access to management and counseling services that could be important in preventing hospital admissions and other acute care events.

As indicated above, we are considering whether it would be appropriate to develop a separate bundled payment for an episode of care for treatment of SUDs. We are seeking public comment on whether such a bundled episode-based payment would be beneficial to improve access, quality and efficiency for SUD treatment. Further, we are seeking public comment on developing coding and payment for a bundled episode of care for treatment for SUDs that could include overall treatment management, any necessary counseling, and components of a MAT program such as treatment planning, medication management, and observation of drug dosing. Specifically, we are seeking public comments related to what assumptions we might make about the typical number of counseling sessions as well as the duration of the service period, which types of practitioners could furnish these services, and what components of MAT could be included in the bundled episode of care. We are interested in stakeholder feedback regarding how to define and value this bundle and what conditions of payment should be attached. Additionally, we are seeking comment on whether the concept of a global period, similar to the currently existing global periods for surgical procedures, might be applicable to treatment for SUDs.

We also seek comment on whether the counseling portion and other MAT components could also be provided by qualified practitioners “incident to” the services of the billing physician who would administer or prescribe any necessary medications and manage the overall care, as well as supervise any other counselors participating in the treatment, similar to the structure of the Behavioral Health Integration codes which include services provided by other members of the care team under the direction of the billing practitioner on an “incident to” basis (81 FR 80231). We welcome comments on potentially creating a bundled episode of care for management and counseling treatment for SUDs, which we will consider for future rulemaking.

Additionally, we invite public comment and suggestions for regulatory and subregulatory changes to help prevent opioid use disorder and improve access to treatment under the Medicare program. We seek comment on methods for identifying non-opioid alternatives for pain treatment and management, along with identifying barriers that may inhibit access to these non-opioid alternatives including barriers related to payment or coverage. Consistent with our “Patients Over Paperwork” Initiative, we are interested in suggestions to improve existing requirements in order to more effectively address the opioid epidemic.

E. Potentially Misvalued Services Under the PFS

1. Background

Section 1848(c)(2)(B) of the Act directs the Secretary to conduct a periodic review, not less often than every 5 years, of the RVUs established under the PFS. Section 1848(c)(2)(K) of the Act requires the Secretary to periodically identify potentially misvalued services using certain criteria and to review and make appropriate adjustments to the relative values for those services. Section 1848(c)(2)(L) of the Act also requires the Secretary to develop a process to validate the RVUs of certain potentially misvalued codes under the PFS, using the same criteria used to identify potentially misvalued codes, and to make appropriate adjustments.

As discussed in section II.H. of this proposed rule, each year we develop appropriate adjustments to the RVUs taking into account recommendations provided by the RUC, MedPAC, and other stakeholders. For many years, the RUC has provided us with recommendations on the appropriate relative values for new, revised, and potentially misvalued PFS services. We review these recommendations on a code-by-code basis and consider these recommendations in conjunction with analyses of other data, such as claims data, to inform the decision-making process as authorized by law. We may also consider analyses of work time, work RVUs, or direct PE inputs using other data sources, such as Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (NSQIP), the Society for Thoracic Surgeons (STS), and the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) databases. In addition to considering the most recently available data, we assess the results of physician surveys and specialty recommendations submitted to us by the RUC for our review. We also consider information provided by other stakeholders. We conduct a review to assess the appropriate RVUs in the context of contemporary medical practice. We note that section 1848(c)(2)(A)(ii) of the Act authorizes the use of extrapolation and other techniques to determine the RVUs for physicians' services for which specific data are not available and requires us to take into account the results of consultations with organizations representing physicians who provide the services. In accordance with section 1848(c) of the Act, we determine and make appropriate adjustments to the RVUs.

In its March 2006 Report to the Congress (http://www.medpac.gov/​docs/​default-source/​congressional-testimony/​testimony-report-to-the-congress-medicare-payment-policy-march-2006-.pdf?​sfvrsn=​0), MedPAC discussed the importance of appropriately valuing physicians' services, noting that misvalued services can distort the market for physicians' services, as well as for other health care services that physicians order, such as hospital services. In that same report, MedPAC postulated that physicians' services under the PFS can become misvalued over time. MedPAC stated, “When a new service is added to the physician fee schedule, it may be assigned a relatively high value because of the time, technical skill, and psychological stress that are often required to furnish that service. Over time, the work required for certain services would be expected to decline as physicians become more familiar with the service and more efficient in furnishing it.” We believe services can also become overvalued when PE declines. This can happen when the costs of equipment and supplies fall, or when equipment is used more frequently than is estimated in the PE methodology, reducing its cost per use. Likewise, services can become undervalued when physician work increases or PE rises.

As MedPAC noted in its March 2009 Report to Congress (http://www.medpac.gov/​docs/​default-source/​reports/​march-2009-report-to-congress-medicare-payment-policy.pdf), in the intervening years since MedPAC made the initial recommendations, CMS and the RUC have taken several steps to Start Printed Page 35732improve the review process. Also, section 1848(c)(2)(K)(ii) of the Act augments our efforts by directing the Secretary to specifically examine, as determined appropriate, potentially misvalued services in the following categories:

  • Codes that have experienced the fastest growth.
  • Codes that have experienced substantial changes in PE.
  • Codes that describe new technologies or services within an appropriate time period (such as 3 years) after the relative values are initially established for such codes.
  • Codes which are multiple codes that are frequently billed in conjunction with furnishing a single service.
  • Codes with low relative values, particularly those that are often billed multiple times for a single treatment.
  • Codes that have not been subject to review since implementation of the fee schedule.
  • Codes that account for the majority of spending under the PFS.
  • Codes for services that have experienced a substantial change in the hospital length of stay or procedure time.
  • Codes for which there may be a change in the typical site of service since the code was last valued.
  • Codes for which there is a significant difference in payment for the same service between different sites of service.
  • Codes for which there may be anomalies in relative values within a family of codes.
  • Codes for services where there may be efficiencies when a service is furnished at the same time as other services.
  • Codes with high intraservice work per unit of time.
  • Codes with high PE RVUs.
  • Codes with high cost supplies.
  • Codes as determined appropriate by the Secretary.

Section 1848(c)(2)(K)(iii) of the Act also specifies that the Secretary may use existing processes to receive recommendations on the review and appropriate adjustment of potentially misvalued services. In addition, the Secretary may conduct surveys, other data collection activities, studies, or other analyses, as the Secretary determines to be appropriate, to facilitate the review and appropriate adjustment of potentially misvalued services. This section also authorizes the use of analytic contractors to identify and analyze potentially misvalued codes, conduct surveys or collect data, and make recommendations on the review and appropriate adjustment of potentially misvalued services. Additionally, this section provides that the Secretary may coordinate the review and adjustment of any RVU with the periodic review described in section 1848(c)(2)(B) of the Act. Section 1848(c)(2)(K)(iii)(V) of the Act specifies that the Secretary may make appropriate coding revisions (including using existing processes for consideration of coding changes) that may include consolidation of individual services into bundled codes for payment under the PFS.

2. Progress in Identifying and Reviewing Potentially Misvalued Codes

To fulfill our statutory mandate, we have identified and reviewed numerous potentially misvalued codes as specified in section 1848(c)(2)(K)(ii) of the Act, and we intend to continue our work examining potentially misvalued codes in these areas over the upcoming years. As part of our current process, we identify potentially misvalued codes for review, and request recommendations from the RUC and other public commenters on revised work RVUs and direct PE inputs for those codes. The RUC, through its own processes, also identifies potentially misvalued codes for review. Through our public nomination process for potentially misvalued codes established in the CY 2012 PFS final rule with comment period, other individuals and stakeholder groups submit nominations for review of potentially misvalued codes as well.

Since CY 2009, as a part of the annual potentially misvalued code review and Five-Year Review process, we have reviewed approximately 1,700 potentially misvalued codes to refine work RVUs and direct PE inputs. We have assigned appropriate work RVUs and direct PE inputs for these services as a result of these reviews. A more detailed discussion of the extensive prior reviews of potentially misvalued codes is included in the CY 2012 PFS final rule with comment period (76 FR 73052 through 73055). In the CY 2012 PFS final rule with comment period (76 FR 73055 through 73958), we finalized our policy to consolidate the review of physician work and PE at the same time, and established a process for the annual public nomination of potentially misvalued services.

In the CY 2013 PFS final rule with comment period, we built upon the work we began in CY 2009 to review potentially misvalued codes that have not been reviewed since the implementation of the PFS (so-called “Harvard-valued codes”). In CY 2009 (73 FR 38589), we requested recommendations from the RUC to aid in our review of Harvard-valued codes that had not yet been reviewed, focusing first on high-volume, low intensity codes. In the fourth Five-Year Review (76 FR 32410), we requested recommendations from the RUC to aid in our review of Harvard-valued codes with annual utilization of greater than 30,000 services. In the CY 2013 PFS final rule with comment period, we identified specific Harvard-valued services with annual allowed charges that total at least $10,000,000 as potentially misvalued. In addition to the Harvard-valued codes, in the CY 2013 PFS final rule with comment period we finalized for review a list of potentially misvalued codes that have stand-alone PE (codes with physician work and no listed work time and codes with no physician work that have listed work time).

In the CY 2016 PFS final rule with comment period, we finalized for review a list of potentially misvalued services, which included eight codes in the neurostimulators analysis-programming family (CPT codes 95970-95982). We also finalized as potentially misvalued 103 codes identified through our screen of high expenditure services across specialties.

In the CY 2017 PFS final rule, we finalized for review a list of potentially misvalued services, which included eight codes in the end-stage renal disease home dialysis family (CPT codes 90963-90970). We also finalized as potentially misvalued 19 codes identified through our screen for 0-day global services that are typically billed with an evaluation and management (E/M) service with modifier 25.

In the CY 2018 PFS final rule, we finalized arthrodesis of sacroiliac joint (CPT code 27279) as potentially misvalued. Through the use of comment solicitations with regard to specific codes, we also examined the valuations of other services, in addition to, new potentially misvalued code screens (82 FR 53017 through 53018).

3. CY 2019 Identification and Review of Potentially Misvalued Services

In the CY 2012 PFS final rule with comment period (76 FR 73058), we finalized a process for the public to nominate potentially misvalued codes. The public and stakeholders may nominate potentially misvalued codes for review by submitting the code with supporting documentation by February 10 of each year. Supporting documentation for codes nominated for the annual review of potentially misvalued codes may include the following:Start Printed Page 35733

  • Documentation in peer reviewed medical literature or other reliable data that there have been changes in physician work due to one or more of the following: Technique, knowledge and technology, patient population, site-of-service, length of hospital stay, and work time.
  • An anomalous relationship between the code being proposed for review and other codes.
  • Evidence that technology has changed physician work.
  • Analysis of other data on time and effort measures, such as operating room logs or national and other representative databases.
  • Evidence that incorrect assumptions were made in the previous valuation of the service, such as a misleading vignette, survey, or flawed crosswalk assumptions in a previous evaluation.
  • Prices for certain high cost supplies or other direct PE inputs that are used to determine PE RVUs are inaccurate and do not reflect current information.
  • Analyses of work time, work RVU, or direct PE inputs using other data sources (for example, VA, NSQIP, the STS National Database, and the PQRS databases).
  • National surveys of work time and intensity from professional and management societies and organizations, such as hospital associations.

We evaluate the supporting documentation submitted with the nominated codes and assess whether the nominated codes appear to be potentially misvalued codes appropriate for review under the annual process. In the following year's PFS proposed rule, we publish the list of nominated codes and indicate whether we proposed each nominated code as a potentially misvalued code. The public has the opportunity to comment on these and all other proposed potentially misvalued codes. In that year's final rule, we finalize our list of potentially misvalued codes.

a. Public Nominations

We received one submission that nominated several high-volume codes for review under the potentially misvalued code initiative. In their request, the submitter noted a systemic overvaluation of work RVUs in certain procedures and tests based “on a number of Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) reports, media reports regarding time inflation of specific services, and the January 19, 2017 Urban Institute report for CMS.” The submitter suggested that the times CMS assumes in estimating work RVUs are inaccurate for procedures, especially due to substantial overestimates of preservice and postservice time, including follow-up inpatient and outpatient visits that do not take place. According to the submitter, the time estimates for tests and some other procedures are primarily overstated as part of the intraservice time. Furthermore, the submitter stated that previous RUC reviews of these services did not result in reductions in valuation that adequately reflected reductions in surveyed times.

Based on these analyses, the submitter requested that the codes listed in Table 8 be prioritized for reviewed under the potentially misvalued code initiative.

Table 8—Public Nominations Due to Overvaluation

CPT codeShort description
27130Total hip arthroplasty.
27447Total knee arthroplasty.
43239Egd biopsy single/multiple.
45385Colonoscopy w/lesion removal.
70450CT head w/o contrast.
93000Electrocardiogram complete.
93306Tte w/doppler complete.

Another commenter requested that CPT codes 92992 (Atrial septectomy or septostomy; transvenous method, balloon (e.g., Rashkind type) (includes cardiac catheterization)) and 92993 (Atrial septectomy or septostomy; blade method (Park septostomy) (includes cardiac catheterization)) be reviewed under the potentially misvalued code initiative in order to establish national RVU values for these services under the MPFS. These codes are currently priced by the Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs).

b. Update on the Global Surgery Data Collection

CMS currently bundles payment for postoperative care within 10 or 90 days after many surgical procedures. Historically, we have not collected data on how many postoperative visits are actually performed during the global period. Section 523 of the MACRA added a new paragraph 1848(c)(8) to the Act, and section 1848(c)(8)(B) required CMS to use notice and comment rulemaking to implement a process to collect data on the number and level of postoperative visits and use these data to assess the accuracy of global surgical package valuation. In the CY 2017 PFS final rule, we adopted a policy to collect postoperative visit data.

Beginning July 1, 2017, CMS required practitioners in groups with 10 or more practitioners in nine states (Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, and Rhode Island) to use the no-pay CPT code 99024 (Postoperative follow-up visit, normally included in the surgical package, to indicate that an E/M service was performed during a postoperative period for a reason(s) related to the original procedure) to report postoperative visits. Practitioners who only practice in practices with fewer than 10 practitioners are exempted from required reporting, but are encouraged to report if feasible. The 293 procedures for which reporting is required are those furnished by more than 100 practitioners, and either are nationally furnished more than 10,000 times annually or have more than $10 million in annual allowed charges. A list of the procedures for which reporting is required is updated annually to reflect any coding changes and is posted on the CMS website at https://www.cms.gov/​Medicare/​Medicare-Fee-for-Service-Payment/​PhysicianFeeSched/​Global-Surgery-Data-Collection-.html.

In these nine states, from July 1, 2017 through December 31, 2017, there were 990,581 postoperative visits reported using CPT code 99024. Of the 32,573 practitioners who furnished at least one of the 293 procedures during this period and who, based on Tax Identification Numbers in claims data, were likely to meet the practice size threshold, only 45 percent reported one or more visit using CPT code 99024 during this 6-month period. The share of practitioners who reported any CPT code 99024 claims varied by specialty. Among surgical oncology, hand surgery, and orthopedic surgeons, reporting rates were 92, 90, and 87 percent, respectively. In contrast, the reporting rate for emergency medicine physicians was 4 percent. (See Table 9.)Start Printed Page 35734

Table 9—Share of Practitioners Who Reported Any CPT Code 99024 Claims, by Specialty

Practitioner specialtyNumber of practitioners *Number of reporting practitioners **Percent reporting
ALL32,64214,62745
Family practice3,91270718
Emergency medicine3,6121534
Physician Assistant2,75175828
Orthopedic surgery2,7252,36087
General surgery2,3171,87981
Nurse Practitioner2,21743820
Internal medicine1,47616111
Ophthalmology1,3191,06981
Urology1,1861,01485
Dermatology1,02569868
Diagnostic radiology982343
Obstetrics/gynecology96661263
Otolaryngology87265275
Podiatry76150266
Neurosurgery61451283
Cardiology57430753
Neurology525194
Vascular surgery40534284
Pathologic anatomy, clinical pathology35528179
Thoracic surgery32027084
Gastroenterology31562
Plastic and reconstructive surgery30325083
Physical medicine and rehabilitation2756323
Anesthesiology2547329
Optometry24715864
Pain Management2479840
Colorectal surgery22518984
Hand surgery21419390
Interventional radiology201199
Interventional Cardiology19511458
Cardiac surgery17614884
Interventional Pain Management1655533
Surgical oncology15414192
Gynecologist/oncologist14312185
General practice1153732
Peripheral vascular disease, medical or surgical1068479
Nephrology74912
Critical care543463
Pediatric medicine39410
Infectious disease3439
Maxillofacial surgery251872
Oral surgery201155
Osteopathic manipulative therapy18633
Hematology/oncology16531
Geriatric medicine15213
Certified clinical nurse specialist1218
Unknown physician specialty12975
* Limited to practitioners who performed at least one of the 293 relevant global procedures and were affiliated with a tax identification number with 10 or more practitioners.
** Practitioners who submitted one or more CPT code 99024 claims between July 1st, 2017 and December 31st, 2017.

The share of practitioners who reported CPT code 99024 on any claims also varied by state as shown in Table 10.

Table 10—Share of Practitioners Who Reported Any CPT Code 99024 Claims, by State

StatePercentage of practitioners * reporting **
ALL45
North Dakota56
Ohio49
Rhode Island49
Florida48
New Jersey43
Louisiana42
Kentucky41
Oregon35
Nevada30
* Limited to practitioners who performed at least one of the 293 relevant global procedures and were affiliated with a tax identification number with 10 or more practitioners.Start Printed Page 35735
** Practitioners who submitted one or more CPT code 99024 claims between July 1st, 2017 and December 31st, 2017.

Among 10-day global procedures performed from July 1, 2017 through December 31, 2017, where it is possible to clearly match postoperative visits to specific procedures, only 4 percent had one or more matched visit reported with CPT code 99024. The percentage of 10-day global procedures with a matched visit reported with CPT code 99024 varied by specialty. Among procedures with 10-day global periods performed by hand surgeons, critical care, and obstetrics/gynecology 44, 36, and 23 percent, respectively, of procedures had a matched visit reported using CPT code 99024. In contrast, less than 5 percent of 10-day global procedures performed by many other specialties had a matched visit reported using CPT code 99024. (See Table 11.)

Table 11—Share of Procedures With Matched Post-Operative Visits

Provider specialtyNumber of 10-day global procedures *Number of 10-day global procedures with 1 or more matched 99024 claims **Percentage of 10-day global procedures with 1 or more matched 99024 claims **
ALL436,06316,8024
Dermatology205,5946,9203
Physician Assistant57,7499082
Nurse Practitioner31,9375092
Family practice16,7706294
Ophthalmology16,0871,2398
Podiatry12,6395474
General surgery12,1132,09517
Diagnostic radiology11,6502983
Neurology8,075681
Pain Management6,9232103
Emergency medicine6,0122093
Internal medicine5,8832013
Interventional Pain Management5,2101062
Anesthesiology4,6661052
Otolaryngology4,5983838
Interventional radiology4,197892
Physical medicine and rehabilitation3,546531
Vascular surgery3,4472567
Gastroenterology2,26470
Plastic and reconstructive surgery1,93940321
Colorectal surgery1,851834
General practice1,807452
Orthopedic surgery1,68831819
Optometry1,563453
Urology1,27627722
Neurosurgery1,14824121
Nephrology1,008252
Obstetrics/gynecology76017123
Cardiology456143
Surgical oncology440419
Pathology3957619
Pediatric medicine32341
Neuropsychiatry29621
Thoracic surgery2764014
Gynecologist/oncologist2664718
Interventional Cardiology19253
Peripheral vascular disease, medical or surgical16253
Cardiac surgery1442517
Hand surgery1245444
Critical care853035
Infectious disease6734
Osteopathic manipulative therapy5512
Psychiatry4400
Geriatric medicine4300
Hospitalist4200
Maxillofacial surgery37514
Oral surgery3413
Radiation oncology3113
Certified clinical nurse specialist2628
Pulmonary disease20210
Hematology/oncology1900
Peripheral vascular disease1700
Preventive medicine1500
Pathologic anatomy, clinical pathology1218
Start Printed Page 35736
Unknown physician specialty10330
* Limited to the 293 procedures where postoperative visit reporting is required and to those performed by practitioners who work in practices with 10 or more practitioners. Because matching may be unclear in these circumstances, multiple procedures performed on a single day and procedures with overlapping global periods were excluded.
** Matching was based on patient, service dates, and global period duration.

Among 90-day global procedures performed from July 1, 2017 through December 31, 2017, where it is possible to clearly match postoperative visits to specific procedures, 67 percent had one or more matched visit reported using CPT code 99024. Again, this rate varied by specialty as shown in Table 12. Under the PFS, procedures with 90-day global periods have more than one postoperative visit. It should be noted that the rates described in this and prior paragraphs are based on any matched postoperative visit reported using CPT code 99024.

Table 12—Share of Procedures With Matched Post-Operative Visits, for Procedure Codes With 90-Day Global Periods

Provider specialtyNumber of 90-day global procedures*Number of 90-day global procedures with 1 or more matched 99024 claims**Percentage of 90-day global procedures with 1 or more matched 99024 claims**
ALL232,235156,72767
Orthopedic surgery71,99154,87676
Ophthalmology63,33341,70066
General surgery25,59317,55969
Pathologic anatomy, clinical pathology10,1494,37143
Urology8,4814,82857
Dermatology7,6924,16054
Neurosurgery6,9935,25675
Cardiology5,9322,38840
Vascular surgery5,4003,55266
Hand surgery4,7833,71878
Thoracic surgery3,7002,85977
Cardiac surgery2,7642,18379
Plastic and reconstructive surgery2,5001,67067
Podiatry2,3831,39358
Otolaryngology1,6921,01460
Physician Assistant1,49290361
Colorectal surgery1,31686966
Interventional Cardiology1,12350045
Peripheral vascular disease, medical or surgical75352470
Obstetrics/gynecology75246962
Surgical oncology71651171
Optometry40224862
Gynecologist/oncologist32221968
Internal medicine31713342
Emergency medicine2586224
Nurse Practitioner24315363
General practice21712558
Gastroenterology139139
Osteopathic manipulative therapy1319472
Family practice1156557
Critical care987779
Neurology876474
Interventional radiology652234
Unknown physician specialty603457
Diagnostic radiology50612
Nephrology332164
Maxillofacial surgery292379
Physical medicine and rehabilitation261662
Interventional Pain Management14214
Pathology13323
Hematology/oncology1212100
Start Printed Page 35737
Peripheral vascular disease10550
* Limited to the 293 procedures where post-operative visit reporting is required and to those performed by practitioners who work in practices with 10 or more practitioners. Because matching may be unclear in these circumstances, multiple procedures performed on a single day and procedures with overlapping global periods were excluded.
** Matching was based on patient, service dates, and global period duration.

One potential explanation for these findings is that many practitioners are not consistently reporting postoperative visits using CPT code 99024. We are soliciting suggestions as to how to encourage reporting to ensure the validity of the data without imposing undue burden. Specifically, we are soliciting comments on whether we need to do more to make practitioners aware of their obligation and whether we should consider implementing an enforcement mechanism.

Given the very small number of postoperative visits reported using CPT code 99024 during 10-day global periods, we are seeking comment on whether or not it might be reasonable to assume that many visits included in the valuation of 10-day global packages are not being furnished, or whether there are alternative explanations for what could be a significant level of underreporting of postoperative visits. For example, we are soliciting comments on whether it is likely that in many cases the practitioner reporting the procedure code is not performing the postoperative visit, or if the postoperative visit is being furnished by a different practitioner. Alternatively, we are soliciting comments on whether it is possible that some or all of the postoperative visits are occurring after the global period ends and are, therefore, reported and paid separately.

We conducted an analysis to try to assess the extent of underreporting. We identified a set of “robust reporters” who appeared to be regularly reporting post-operative visits using CPT code 99024. They were defined as practitioners who (a) furnished 10 or more procedures with 90-day global periods where it is possible for us to match specific procedures to reported post-operative visits without ambiguity, and (b) reported a post-operative visit using CPT code 99024 for at least half of these 90-day global procedures. Among this subset of practitioners and procedures, we found that 87 percent of procedures with 90-day global periods had one or more associated post-operative visits. However, only 16 percent of procedures with a 10-day global period had an associated postoperative visit reported using CPT code 99024. These findings suggest that post-operative visits following procedures with 10-day global periods are not typically being furnished rather than not being reported.

Under current policy, in cases where practitioners agree on the transfer of care for the postoperative portion of the global period, the surgeon bills only for the surgical care using modifier 54 “for surgical care only” and the practitioner who furnishes the postoperative care bills using modifier 55 “postoperative management only.” The global surgery payment is then split between the two practitioners. However, practitioners are not required to report these modifiers unless there is a formal transfer of postoperative care. We are also soliciting comments on whether we should consider requiring use of the modifiers in cases where the surgeon does not expect to perform the postoperative visits, regardless of whether or not the transfer of care is formalized.

We are also seeking comment on the best approach to 10-day global codes for which the preliminary data suggest that postoperative visits are rarely performed by the practitioner reporting the global code. That is, we are seeking comments on whether we should consider changing the global period and reviewing the code valuation.

Finally, we note that claims-based data collection using CPT code 99024 is intended to collect information on the number of post-operative visits but not the level of post-operative visits. We anticipate beginning, in the near future, a separate survey-based data collection effort on the level of post-operative visits including the time, staff, and activities involved in furnishing post-operative visits and non-face-to-face services. The survey component is intended to address concerns from the physician community that information on the number of visits alone cannot capture differences between specialties, specific procedure codes, and setting in terms of the time and effort spent on post-operative visits and non-face-to-face services included in global periods.

RAND developed a survey that collects information on the time, staff, and activities related to five post-operative visits furnished by sampled practitioners. The CY 2017 PFS final rule (81 FR 80222) described a sampling approach for the survey that would have collected data on post-operative visits related to the full range of procedures with 10-day and 90-day global periods using a stratified random sample of approximately 5,000 practitioners. RAND piloted the post-operative visit survey in a small subsample of practitioners and found a very low response rate. This low response rate raised concerns that the survey would not yield useful or representative information on post-operative visits if the survey were fielded in the full sample.

In an effort to increase response rate and collect sufficient data on the level of visits associated with at least some procedures with 10-day and 90-day global periods, we refocused the survey effort to collect information on post-operative visits and non-face-to-face services associated with a small number of high-volume procedure codes. The survey sampling frame includes practitioners who perform above a threshold volume of the selected high-volume procedure codes. Practitioner participation in the survey-based data collection effort is important to ensure that CMS collects useful and representative data to understand the range of activities, staff, and time involved in furnishing post-operative visits. Future survey-based data collection may cover post-operative visits and non-face-to-face services associated with a broader range of procedures with 10-day and 90-day global periods.Start Printed Page 35738

F. Radiologist Assistants

In accordance with § 410.32(b)(3), except as otherwise provided, all diagnostic X-ray and other diagnostic tests covered under section 1861(s)(3) of the Act and payable under the physician fee schedule must be furnished under at least a general level of physician supervision as defined in paragraph (b)(3)(i) of this regulation. In addition, some of these tests require either direct or personal supervision as defined in paragraph (b)(3)(ii) or (iii) of this regulation, respectively. We list the required minimum physician supervision level for each diagnostic X-ray and other diagnostic test service along with the codes and relative values for these services in the PFS Relative Value File, which is posted on the CMS website at https://www.cms.gov/​Medicare/​Medicare-Fee-for-Service-Payment/​PhysicianFeeSched/​PFS-Relative-Value-Files.html. For most diagnostic imaging procedures, this required physician supervision level applies only to the technical component (TC) of the procedure.

In response to the Request for Information on CMS Flexibilities and Efficiencies (RFI) that was issued in the CY 2018 PFS proposed rule (82 FR 34172 through 34173), many commenters recommended that we revise the physician supervision requirements at § 410.32(b) for diagnostic tests with a focus on those that are typically furnished by a radiologist assistant under the supervision of a physician. Specifically, the commenters stated that all diagnostic tests, when performed by radiologist assistants (RAs), can be furnished under direct supervision rather than personal supervision of a physician, and that we should revise the Medicare supervision requirements so that when RAs conduct diagnostic imaging tests that would otherwise require personal supervision, they only need to do so under direct supervision. In addition to increasing efficiency, stakeholders suggested that the current supervision requirements for certain diagnostic imaging services unduly restrict RAs from conducting tests that they are permitted to do under current law in many states.

After consideration of these comments on the RFI, as well as information provided by stakeholders, we are proposing to revise our regulations to specify that all diagnostic imaging tests may be furnished under the direct supervision of a physician when performed by an RA in accordance with state law and state scope of practice rules. Stakeholders representing the radiology community have provided us with information showing that the RA designation includes registered radiologist assistants (RRAs) who are certified by The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, and radiology practitioner assistants (RPAs) who are certified by the Certification Board for Radiology Practitioner Assistants. We are proposing to revise our regulation at § 410.32 to add a new paragraph (b)(4) to state that diagnostic tests performed by an RRA or an RPA require only a direct level of physician supervision, when permitted by state law and state scope of practice regulations. We note that for diagnostic imaging tests requiring a general level of physician supervision, this proposal would not change the level of physician supervision to direct supervision. Otherwise, the diagnostic imaging tests must be performed as specified elsewhere under § 410.32(b). We based this proposal on recommendations from the practitioner community which included specific recommendations on how to implement the change. We received information submitted by representatives of the practitioner community, including information on the education and clinical experience of RAs, which we took into consideration in determining if this proposal would pose a significant risk to patient safety, and we determined that it would not. In addition, we considered information provided by stakeholders that indicates that 28 states have statutes or regulations that recognize RAs, and these states have general or direct supervision requirements for RAs.

G. Payment Rates Under the Medicare PFS for Nonexcepted Items and Services Furnished by Nonexcepted Off-Campus Provider-Based Departments of a Hospital

1. Background

Sections 1833(t)(1)(B)(v) and (t)(21) of the Act require that certain items and services furnished by certain off-campus provider-based departments (PBDs) (collectively referenced here as nonexcepted items and services furnished by nonexcepted off-campus PBDs) shall not be considered covered outpatient department services for purposes of payment under the Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System (OPPS), and payment for those nonexcepted items and services furnished on or after January 1, 2017 shall be made under the applicable payment system under Medicare Part B if the requirements for such payment are otherwise met. These requirements were enacted in section 603 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (Pub. L. 114-74). In the CY 2017 OPPS/Ambulatory Surgical Center (ASC) final rule with comment period (81 FR 79699 through 79719), we established several policies and provisions to define the scope of nonexcepted items and services in nonexcepted off-campus PBDs. We also finalized the PFS as the applicable payment system for most nonexcepted items and services furnished by nonexcepted off-campus PBDs. At the same time, we issued an interim final rule with comment period (81 FR 79720 through 79729) in which we established payment policies under the PFS for nonexcepted items and services furnished on or after January 1, 2017. In the following paragraphs, we summarize the policies that we adopted for CY 2017 and CY 2018, and we propose payment policies for CY 2019. For issues related to the excepted status of off-campus PBDs or the excepted status of items and services, please see the CY 2019 OPPS/ASC proposed rule.

2. Payment Mechanism

In establishing the PFS as the applicable payment system for most nonexcepted items and services in nonexcepted off-campus PBDs under sections 1833(t)(1)(B)(v) and (t)(21) of the Act, we recognized that there was no technological capability, at least in the near term, to allow off-campus PBDs to bill under the PFS for those nonexcepted items and services. Off-campus PBDs bill under the OPPS for their services on an institutional claim, while physicians and other suppliers bill under the PFS on a practitioner claim. The two systems that process these different types of claims, the Fiscal Intermediary Standard System (“FISS”) and the Multi-Carrier System (“MCS”) system, respectively, were not designed to accept or process claims of a different type. To permit an off-campus PBD to bill directly under a different payment system than the OPPS would have required significant changes to these complex systems as well as other systems involved in the processing of Medicare Part B claims. Consequently, we proposed and finalized a policy for CY 2017 and CY 2018 in which nonexcepted off-campus PBDs continue to bill for nonexcepted items and services on the institutional claim utilizing a new claim line modifier “PN” to indicate that an item or service is a nonexcepted item or service.

We implemented requirements under section 1833(t)(1)(B) of the Act for CY 2017 and CY 2018 by applying an overall downward scaling factor, called Start Printed Page 35739the PFS Relativity Adjuster to payments for nonexcepted items and services furnished in nonexcepted off campus PBDs. The PFS Relativity Adjuster generally reflects the average (weighted by claim line volume times rate) of the site-specific rate under the PFS compared to the rate under the OPPS (weighted by claim line volume times rate) for nonexcepted items and services furnished in nonexcepted off-campus PBDs. As we have discussed extensively in prior rulemaking (81 FR 97920 through 97929 and 82 FR 53021), we established a new set of site-specific payment rates under the PFS that reflect the relative resource cost of furnishing the technical component (TC) of services furnished in nonexcepted off-campus PBDs. For the majority of HCPCS codes, these rates are based on either (1) the difference between the PFS nonfacility payment rate and the PFS facility rate, (2) the technical component, or (3) in instances where payment would have been made only to the facility or to the physician, the full nonfacility rate. The PFS Relativity Adjuster refers to the percentage of the OPPS payment amount paid under the PFS for a nonexcepted item or service to the nonexcepted off-campus PBD.

To operationalize the PFS Relativity Adjuster as a mechanism to pay for nonexcepted items and services furnished by nonexcepted off-campus PBDs, we adopted the packaging payment rates and multiple procedure payment reduction (MPPR) percentage that applies under the OPPS. We also incorporated the claims processing logic that is used for payments under the OPPS for comprehensive APCs (C-APCs), conditionally and unconditionally packaged items and services, and major procedures. As we noted in the CY 2017 interim final rule (82 FR 53024), we believe that this maintains the integrity of the cost-specific relativity of current payments under the OPPS compared with those under the PFS.

In CY 2017, we implemented a PFS Relativity Adjuster of 50 percent of the OPPS rate for nonexcepted items and services furnished in nonexcepted off-campus PBDs. For a detailed explanation of how we developed the PFS Relativity Adjuster of 50 percent for CY 2017, including assumptions and exclusions, we refer readers to the CY 2017 OPPS/ASC interim final rule with comment period (81 FR 79720 through 79729). Beginning for CY 2018, we adopted a PFS Relativity Adjuster of 40 percent of the OPPS rate. For a detailed explanation of how we developed the PFS Relativity Adjuster of 40 percent, we refer readers to the CY 2018 PFS final rule (82 FR 53019 through 53042). A brief overview of the general approach we took for CY 2018 and how it differs from the proposal for CY 2019 appears below.

3. The PFS Relativity Adjuster

The PFS Relativity Adjuster reflects the overall relativity of the applicable payment rate for nonexcepted items and services furnished in nonexcepted off-campus PBDs under the PFS compared with the rate under the OPPS. To develop the PFS Relativity Adjuster for CY 2017, we did not have all of the claims data needed to identify the mix of items and services that would be billed using the “PN” modifier. Instead, we analyzed hospital outpatient claims data from January 1 through August 25, 2016, that contained the “PO” modifier, which was a new mandatory reporting requirement for CY 2016 for claims that were billed by an off-campus department of a hospital. We limited our analysis to those claims billed on the 13X Type of Bill because those claims were used for Medicare Part B billing under the OPPS. We then identified the 25 most frequently billed major codes that were billed by claim line; that is, items and services that were separately payable or conditionally packaged. Specifically, we restricted our analysis to codes with OPPS status indicators (SI) “J1”, “J2”, “Q1”, “Q2”, “Q3”, “S”, “T”, or “V”. The most frequently billed service with the “PO” modifier in CY 2016 was described by HCPCS code G0463 (Hospital outpatient clinic visit for the assessment and management of a patient), which, in CY 2016, was paid under APC 5012 at a rate of $102.12; the total number of claim lines for this service was approximately 6.7 million as of August 2016. Under the PFS, there are ten CPT codes describing different levels of office visits for new and established payments. We compared the payment rate under OPPS for G0463 ($102.12) to the average of the difference between the nonfacility and facility rates for CPT code 99213 (Level III office visit for an established patient) and CPT code 99214 (Level IV office visit for an established patient) in CY 2016 and found that the relative payment difference was approximately 22 percent. We did not include HCPCS code G0463 in our calculation of the PFS Relativity Adjuster for CY 2017 because we were concerned that there was no single, directly comparable code under the PFS. As we stated in the CY 2017 interim final rule (81 FR 79723), we wanted to mitigate the risk of underestimating the overall relativity between the PFS and OPPS rates. From the remaining top 24 most frequently billed codes, we excluded HCPCS code 36591 (Collection of blood specimen from a completely implantable venous access device) because, under PFS policies, the service was only separately payable under the PFS when no other code was on the claim. We also removed HCPCS code G0009 (Administration of Pneumococcal Vaccine) because there was no payment for this code under the PFS. For the remaining top 22 codes furnished with the “PO” modifier in CY 2016, the average (weighted by claim line volume times rate) of the nonfacility payment rate estimate for the PFS compared to the estimate for the OPPS was 45 percent. We indicated that, because of our inability to estimate the effect of the packaging difference between the OPPS and the PFS, we would assume a 5 percentage point adjustment upward from the calculated amount of 45 percent; therefore, we established the PFS Relativity Adjuster of 50 percent for CY 2017.

In establishing the PFS Relativity Adjuster for CY 2018, we still did not have claims data for items and services furnished reported with a “PN” modifier. However, we updated the list of the 25 most frequently billed HCPCS codes using an entire year (CY 2016) of claims data for services submitted with a “PO” modifier and we updated the corresponding utilization weights for the codes used in the analysis. The order and composition of the top 25 separately payable HCPCS codes, based on the full year of claims from CY 2016 submitted with the “PO” modifier, changed minimally from the codes we used in our original analysis for the CY 2017 OPPS/ASC interim final rule with comment period. For a detailed list of the HCPCS codes we used in calculating the CY 2017 PFS Relativity Adjuster and the CY 2018 PFS Relativity Adjuster, we refer readers to the CY 2018 PFS final rule (82 FR 53030 through 53031). As noted earlier, in establishing the PFS Relativity Adjuster of 50 percent for CY 2017, we did not include in the weighted average code comparison, the relative rate for the most frequently billed service furnished in off-campus PBDs, HCPCS code G0463 (Hospital outpatient clinic visit for assessment and management of a patient), in part to ensure that we were not underestimating the overall relativity between the PFS and the OPPS. In contrast, in the CY 2018 PFS final rule, we stated that our objective for CY 2018 was to ensure that we did not overestimate the appropriate overall payment relativity, and that the payment made to nonexcepted off-campus PBDs better aligned with the Start Printed Page 35740services that are most frequently furnished in the setting. Therefore, in addition to using updated claims data, we revised the PFS Relativity Adjuster to incorporate the relative payment rate for HCPCS code G0463 into our analysis. We followed all other exclusions and assumptions that were made in calculating the CY 2017 PFS Relativity Adjuster. Our analysis resulted in a 35 percent relative difference in payment rates. Similar to our stated rationale in the CY 2017 PFS final rule, we increased the PFS Relativity Adjuster to 40 percent, acknowledging the difficulty of estimating the effect of the packaging differences between the OPPS and the PFS.

4. Proposed Payment Policies for CY 2019

In prior rulemaking, we stated our expectation that our general approach of adjusting OPPS payments using a single scaling factor, the PFS Relativity Adjuster, would continue to be an appropriate payment mechanism to implement provisions of section 603 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, and would remain in place until we are able to establish code-specific reductions that represent the technical component of services furnished under the PFS or until we are able to implement system changes needed to enable nonexcepted off-campus PBDs to bill for nonexcepted items and services under the PFS directly (82 FR 53029). As we continue to explore alternative options related to requirements under section 1833(t)(21)(C) of the Act, we believe that this overall approach is still appropriate, and we are proposing to continue to allow nonexcepted off-campus PBDs to bill for nonexcepted items and services on an institutional claim using a “PN” modifier until we identify a workable alternative mechanism that would improve payment accuracy.

We made several adjustments to our methodology for calculating the PFS Relativity Adjuster for CY 2019. Most importantly, we had access to a full year of claims data from CY 2017 for services submitted with the “PN” modifier. Incorporating these data allows us to improve the accuracy of the PFS Relativity Adjuster by accounting for the specific mix of nonexcepted items and services furnished in nonexcepted off-campus PBDs. In analyzing the CY 2017 claims data, we identified just under 2,000 unique OPPS HCPCS/SI pairs reported in CY 2017 with status indicators “J1”, “J2”, “Q1”, “Q2”, “Q3”, “S”, “T”, or “V”. The data reinforce our previous observation that the single most frequently reported service furnished in nonexcepted off-campus PBDs is HCPCS code G0463 (Hospital outpatient clinic visit for assessment and management of a patient). Nearly half (49 percent) of all claim lines for separately payable or conditionally packaged services furnished by nonexcepted off-campus PBDs included HCPCS code G0463 in CY 2017, representing 30 percent of total Medicare payments for separately payable or conditionally packaged services. The top 30 HCPCS/SI combinations accounted for 80 percent of all claim lines and approximately 60 percent of Medicare payments for services that are separately billable. In contrast with prior analyses, we also looked at claims units, which reflects HCPCS/SI combinations that are billed more than once on a claim line. Certain HCPCS codes are much more frequently billed in multiple units than others. For instance, HCPCS code G0463, which appears in nearly half of all claim lines, only represents eight percent of all claims units with a SI for separately payable or conditionally packaged services. The largest differences between the number of claim lines and the number of claims units are for injections and immunizations, which are not typically separately payable or conditionally packaged under the OPPS. For instance, HCPCS code Q9967 (Low osmolar contrast material, 300-399 mg/ml iodine concentration, per ml) was reported in 12,268 claim lines, but 1,168,393 times (claims units) in the aggregate. HCPCS code Q9967 has an OPPS status indicator of “N”, meaning that there is no separate payment under OPPS (items and services are packaged into APC rates).

To calculate the PFS Relativity Adjuster using the full range of claims data submitted with a “PN” modifier in CY 2017, we first established site-specific rates under the PFS that reflect the technical component (TC) of items and services furnished by nonexcepted off-campus PBDs in CY 2017. These HCPCS-level rates reflect our best current estimate of the amount that would have been paid for the service in the office setting under the PFS for practice expenses not associated with the professional component of the service. As discussed in prior rulemaking (81 FR 79720 through 79729), we believe the most appropriate code-level comparison would reflect the technical component (TC) of each HCPCS code under the PFS. However, we do not currently calculate a separate TC rate for all HCPCS codes under the PFS—only for those for which the professional component (PC) and TC of the service are distinct and can be separately billed by two different practitioners or other suppliers under the PFS. For most of the remainder of services that do not have a separately payable TC under the PFS, we estimated the site-specific rate as (1) the difference between the PFS nonfacility rate and the PFS facility rate, or (2) in instances where payment would have been made only to the facility or only to the physician, the full nonfacility rate. As with the PFS rates that we developed when calculating the PFS Relativity Adjuster for CY 2017 and CY 2018, there were large code-level differences between the applicable PFS rate and the OPPS rate.

In calculating the proposed PFS Relativity Adjuster for CY 2019, we employed the same fundamental methodology that we used to calculate the PFS Relativity Adjuster for CY 2017 and CY 2018. We began by limiting our analysis to the items and services billed in CY 2017 with a “PN” modifier that are separately payable or conditionally packaged under the OPPS (SI = “J1”, “J2”, “Q1”, “Q2”, “Q3”, “S”, “T”, or “V”) and compared the rates for these codes under the OPPS with the site-specific rates under the PFS. Next, we imputed PFS rates for a limited number of items and services that are separately payable or conditionally packaged under the OPPS but are contractor priced under the PFS. We also imputed PFS rates for some HCPCS codes that are not separately payable under the OPPS (SI = “N”), but are separately payable under the PFS. This includes items and services with an indicator status of `X' under the PFS, which are statutorily excluded from payment under the PFS, but may be paid under a different fee schedule, such as the Clinical Lab Fee Schedule (CLFS). We summed the HCPCS-level rates under the PFS across all nonexcepted items and services, weighted by the number of HCPCS claims for each service. Next, we calculated the sum of the HCPCS-level OPPS rate for items and services that are separately payable or conditionally packaged, also weighted by the number of HCPCS claims. We compared the weighted sum of the site-specific PFS rate with the weighted sum of the OPPS rate for items and services reported in CY 2017 and we found that our updated analysis supports maintaining a PFS Relativity Adjuster of 40 percent. In view of this analysis, we propose to continue applying a PFS Relativity Adjuster of 40 percent for CY 2019. Moreover, we propose to maintain this PFS Relativity Adjuster for future years Start Printed Page 35741until updated data or other considerations indicate that an alternative adjuster or a change to our approach is warranted, which we would then propose through notice and comment rulemaking. We discuss some of our ongoing data analyses and future plans regarding implementation of section 603 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 below.

5. Policies Related to Supervision, Beneficiary Cost-Sharing, and Geographic Adjustments

In the CY 2018 PFS final rule (81FR 53019 through 53031), we finalized policies related to supervision rules, beneficiary cost sharing, and geographic adjustments. We finalized that supervision rules in nonexcepted off-campus PBDs that furnish nonexcepted items and services are the same as those that apply for hospitals, in general. We also finalized that all beneficiary cost sharing rules that apply under the PFS in accordance with sections 1848(g) and 1866(a)(2)(A) of the Act continue to apply when payment is made under the PFS for nonexcepted items and services furnished by nonexcepted off-campus PBDs, regardless of cost sharing obligations under the OPPS. Lastly, we finalized the policy to apply the same geographic adjustments used under the OPPS to nonexcepted items and services furnished in nonexcepted off-campus PBDs. We note that we are maintaining these policies as finalized in CY 2018 PFS final rule.

6. Partial Hospitalization

a. Partial Hospitalization Services

Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) are intensive outpatient psychiatric day treatment programs furnished to patients as an alternative to inpatient psychiatric hospitalization, or as a stepdown to shorten an inpatient stay and transition a patient to a less intensive level of care. Section 1861(ff)(3)(A) of the Act specifies that a PHP is a program furnished by a hospital, to its outpatients, or by a Community Mental Health Center (CMHC). In the CY 2017 OPPS/ASC proposed rule (81 FR 45690), in the discussion of the proposed implementation of section 603 of Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, we noted that because CMHCs also furnish PHP services and are ineligible to be provider-based to a hospital, a nonexcepted off-campus PBD would be eligible for PHP payment if the entity enrolls and bills as a CMHC for payment under the OPPS. We further noted that a hospital may choose to enroll a nonexcepted off-campus PBD as a CMHC, provided it meets all Medicare requirements and conditions of participation.

Commenters expressed concern that without a clear payment mechanism for PHP services furnished by nonexcepted off-campus PBDs, access to partial hospitalization services would be limited, and pointed out the critical role PHPs play in the continuum of mental health care. Many commenters believed that the Congress did not intend for partial hospitalization services to no longer be paid for by Medicare when such services are furnished by nonexcepted off-campus PBDs. Several commenters disagreed with the notion of enrolling as a CMHC in order to receive payment for PHP services. These commenters stated that hospital-based PHPs and CMHCs are inherently different in structure, operation, and payment, and noted that the conditions of participation for hospital departments and CMHCs are different. Several commenters requested that CMS find a mechanism to pay hospital-based PHPs in nonexcepted off-campus PBDs.

Because we shared the commenters' concerns, in the CY 2017 OPPS/ASC final rule with comment period and interim final rule with comment period (81 FR 79715, 79717, and 79727), we adopted payment for partial hospitalization items and services furnished by nonexcepted off-campus PBDs under the PFS. When billed in accordance with the CY 2017 interim final rule, these partial hospitalization services are paid at the CMHC per diem rate for APC 5853, for providing three or more partial hospitalization services per day (81 FR 79727).

In the CY 2017 OPPS/ASC proposed rule (81 FR 45681), the CY 2017 OPPS/ASC final rule with comment period, and the interim final rule with comment period (81 FR 79717 and 79727), we noted that when a beneficiary receives outpatient services in an off-campus department of a hospital, the total Medicare payment for those services is generally higher than when those same services are provided in a physician's office. Similarly, when partial hospitalization services are provided in a hospital-based PHP, Medicare pays more than when those same services are provided by a CMHC. Our rationale for adopting the CMHC per diem rate for APC 5853 as the PFS payment amount for nonexcepted off-campus PBDs providing PHP services is because CMHCs are freestanding entities that are not part of a hospital, but they provide the same PHP services as hospital-based PHPs (81 FR 79727). This is similar to the differences between freestanding entities paid under the PFS that furnish other services also provided by hospital-based entities. Similar to other entities currently paid for their technical component services under the PFS, we believe CMHCs would typically have lower cost structures than hospital-based PHPs, largely due to lower overhead costs and other indirect costs such as administration, personnel, and security. We believe that paying for nonexcepted hospital-based partial hospitalization services at the lower CMHC per diem rate aligns with section 603 of Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, while also preserving access to PHP services. In addition, nonexcepted off-campus PBDs will not be required to enroll as CMHCs in order to bill and be paid for providing partial hospitalization services. However, a nonexcepted off-campus PBD that wishes to provide PHP services may still enroll as a CMHC if it chooses to do so and meets the relevant requirements. Finally, we recognize that because hospital-based PHPs are providing partial hospitalization services in the hospital outpatient setting, they can offer benefits that CMHCs do not have, such as an easier patient transition to and from inpatient care, and easier sharing of health information between the PHP and the inpatient staff.

In the CY 2018 PFS final rule, we did not require these PHPs to enroll as CMHCs but instead we continued to pay nonexcepted off-campus PBDs providing PHP items and services under the PFS. Further, in that CY 2018 PFS final rule, we continued to adopt the CMHC per diem rate for APC 5853 as the PFS payment amount for nonexcepted off-campus PBDs providing three or more PHP services per day in CY 2018 (82 FR 53025 to 53026).

For CY 2019, we propose to continue to identify the PFS as the applicable payment system for PHP services furnished by nonexcepted off-campus PBDs, and propose to continue to set the PFS payment rate for these PHP services as the per diem rate that would be paid to a CMHC in CY 2019. We further propose to maintain these policies for future years until updated data or other considerations indicate that a change to our approach is warranted, which we would then propose through notice and comment rulemaking.

7. Future Years

We continue to believe the amendments made by section 603 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 were intended to eliminate the Medicare payment incentive for hospitals to purchase physician offices, convert them to off-campus PBDs, and bill Start Printed Page 35742under the OPPS for items and services they furnish there. Therefore, we continue to believe the payment policy under this provision should ultimately equalize payment rates between nonexcepted off-campus PBDs and physician offices to the greatest extent possible, while allowing nonexcepted off-campus PBDs to bill in a straight-forward way for services they furnish.

Under the proposed methodology for CY 2019 as described previously, we use updated claims data for CY 2019, in combination with the expanded number of site specific, technical component rates for nonexcepted items and services furnished in nonexcepted off campus PBDs, in order to ensure that Medicare payment to hospitals billing for nonexcepted items and services furnished by nonexcepted off-campus PBDs reflects the relative resources involved in furnishing the items and services. We recognize that for certain specialties, service lines, and nonexcepted off-campus PBD types, total Medicare payments for the same services might be either higher or lower when furnished by a nonexcepted off-campus PBD rather than in a physician office. We also note that our approach adopts packaging rules and MPPR rules under the OPPS.

As noted above, we intend to continue to examine the claims data in order to assess whether a different PFS Relativity Adjuster is warranted and also to consider whether additional adjustments to the methodology are appropriate. In particular, we are monitoring claims for shifts in the mix of services furnished in nonexcepted off campus PBDs that may affect the relativity between the PFS and OPPS. An increase over time in the share of nonexcepted items and services with lower technical component rates under the PFS compared with APC rates under the OPPS might result in a lower PFS Relativity Adjuster, for example. We will also carefully assess annual payment policy updates to the PFS and OPPS fee schedule rules, respectively, to identify changes in overall relativity resulting from any new or modified policies such as expanded packaging under the OPPS or an increase in the number of HCPCS codes with global periods under the PFS. As part of these ongoing efforts, we are also analyzing PFS claims data to identify patterns of services furnished together on the same day. We anticipate that this will ultimately allow us to make refinements to the PFS Relativity Adjuster to better account for the more extensive packaging of services under the OPPS and the potential underreporting of services that are not separately payable under the OPPS but are paid separately under the PFS.

Another dimension of our ongoing efforts to improve implementation of section 603 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 is the development and refinement of a new set of payment rates under the PFS that reflect the relative resource costs of furnishing the technical component of items and services furnished in nonexcepted off campus PBDs. Although we believe that our site-specific HCPCS-level rates reflect the best available estimate of the amount that would have been paid for the service in the office setting under the PFS for practice expenses not associated with the professional component of the service, for the majority of HCPCS codes there is no established methodology for separately valuing the resource costs incurred by a provider while furnishing a service from those incurred exclusively by the facility in which the service is furnished. We continue to explore alternatives to our current estimates that would better reflect the TC of services furnished in nonexcepted off campus PBDs. We are broadly interested in stakeholder feedback and recommendations for ways in which CMS can improve pricing and transparency with regard to the differences in the payment rates across sites of service.

We expect that our continued analyses of claims data and our ongoing exploration of systems changes that are needed to allow nonexcepted off campus PBDs to bill directly for the TC portion of nonexcepted items and services may lead us to consider a different approach for implementing section 603 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. On the whole, however, we believe that the proposed PFS Relativity Adjuster for CY 2019 of 40 percent would advance the effort to equalize payment rates in the aggregate between physician offices and nonexcepted off-campus PBDs. Maintaining our policy of applying an overall scaling factor to OPPS payments allows hospitals to continue billing through a facility claim form and permits continued use of the packaging rules and cost report-based relative payment rate determinations for nonexcepted services.

H. Valuation of Specific Codes

1. Background: Process for Valuing New, Revised, and Potentially Misvalued Codes

Establishing valuations for newly created and revised CPT codes is a routine part of maintaining the PFS. Since the inception of the PFS, it has also been a priority to revalue services regularly to make sure that the payment rates reflect the changing trends in the practice of medicine and current prices for inputs used in the PE calculations. Initially, this was accomplished primarily through the 5-year review process, which resulted in revised work RVUs for CY 1997, CY 2002, CY 2007, and CY 2012, and revised PE RVUs in CY 2001, CY 2006, and CY 2011, and revised MP RVUs in CY 2010 and CY 2015. Under the 5-year review process, revisions in RVUs were proposed and finalized via rulemaking. In addition to the 5-year reviews, beginning with CY 2009, CMS and the RUC identified a number of potentially misvalued codes each year using various identification screens, as discussed in section II.E. of this proposed rule. Historically, when we received RUC recommendations, our process had been to establish interim final RVUs for the potentially misvalued codes, new codes, and any other codes for which there were coding changes in the final rule with comment period for a year. Then, during the 60-day period following the publication of the final rule with comment period, we accepted public comment about those valuations. For services furnished during the calendar year following the publication of interim final rates, we paid for services based upon the interim final values established in the final rule. In the final rule with comment period for the subsequent year, we considered and responded to public comments received on the interim final values, and typically made any appropriate adjustments and finalized those values.

In the CY 2015 PFS final rule with comment period, we finalized a new process for establishing values for new, revised and potentially misvalued codes. Under the new process, we include proposed values for these services in the proposed rule, rather than establishing them as interim final in the final rule with comment period. Beginning with the CY 2017 PFS proposed rule, the new process was applicable to all codes, except for new codes that describe truly new services. For CY 2017, we proposed new values in the CY 2017 PFS proposed rule for the vast majority of new, revised, and potentially misvalued codes for which we received complete RUC recommendations by February 10, 2016. To complete the transition to this new process, for codes for which we established interim final values in the CY 2016 PFS final rule with comment period, we reviewed the comments received during the 60-day public comment period following release of the Start Printed Page 35743CY 2016 PFS final rule with comment period, and re-proposed values for those codes in the CY 2017 PFS proposed rule.

We considered public comments received during the 60-day public comment period for the proposed rule before establishing final values in the CY 2017 PFS final rule. As part of our established process, we will adopt interim final values only in the case of wholly new services for which there are no predecessor codes or values and for which we do not receive recommendations in time to propose values. For CY 2017, we did not identify any new codes that described such wholly new services. Therefore, we did not establish any code values on an interim final basis.

For CY 2018, we generally proposed the RUC-recommended work RVUs for new, revised, and potentially misvalued codes. We proposed these values based on our understanding that the RUC generally considers the kinds of concerns we historically raised regarding appropriate valuation of work RVUs. However, during our review of these recommended values, we identified some concerns similar to those we recognized in prior years. Given the relative nature of the PFS and our obligation to ensure that the RVUs reflect relative resource use, we included descriptions of potential alternative approaches we might have taken in developing work RVUs that differed from the RUC-recommended values. We sought comment on both the RUC-recommended values, as well as the alternatives considered. Several commenters generally supported the proposed use of the RUC-recommended work RVUs, without refinement. Other commenters expressed concern about the effect of the misvalued code reviews on particular specialties and settings and disappointment with our proposed approach for valuing codes for CY 2018. A detailed summary of the comments and our responses can be found in the CY 2018 PFS final rule (82 FR 53033-53035).

We clarified in response to commenters that we are not relinquishing our obligation to independently establish appropriate RVUs for services paid under the PFS. We will continue to thoroughly review and consider information we receive from the RUC, the Health Care Professionals Advisory Committee (HCPAC), public commenters, medical literature, Medicare claims data, comparative databases, comparison with other codes within the PFS, as well as consultation with other physicians and healthcare professionals within CMS and the federal government as part of our process for establishing valuations. While generally proposing the RUC-recommended work RVUs for new, revised, and potentially misvalued codes was our approach for CY 2018, we note that we also included alternative values where we believed there was a possible opportunity for increased precision. We also clarified that as part of our obligation to establish RVUs for the PFS, we annually make an independent assessment of the available recommendations, supporting documentation, and other available information from the RUC and other commenters to determine the appropriate valuations. Where we concur that the RUC's recommendations, or recommendations from other commenters, are reasonable and appropriate and are consistent with the time and intensity paradigm of physician work, we propose those values as recommended. Additionally, we will continue to engage with stakeholders, including the RUC, with regard to our approach for accurately valuing codes, and as we prioritize our obligation to value new, revised, and potentially misvalued codes. We continue to welcome feedback from all interested parties regarding valuation of services for consideration through our rulemaking process.

2. Methodology for Establishing Work RVUs

For each code identified in this section, we conducted a review that included the current work RVU (if any), RUC-recommended work RVU, intensity, time to furnish the preservice, intraservice, and postservice activities, as well as other components of the service that contribute to the value. Our reviews of recommended work RVUs and time inputs generally included, but had not been limited to, a review of information provided by the RUC, the HCPAC, and other public commenters, medical literature, and comparative databases, as well as a comparison with other codes within the PFS, consultation with other physicians and health care professionals within CMS and the federal government, as well as Medicare claims data. We also assessed the methodology and data used to develop the recommendations submitted to us by the RUC and other public commenters and the rationale for the recommendations. In the CY 2011 PFS final rule with comment period (75 FR 73328 through 73329), we discussed a variety of methodologies and approaches used to develop work RVUs, including survey data, building blocks, crosswalks to key reference or similar codes, and magnitude estimation (see the CY 2011 PFS final rule with comment period (75 FR 73328 through 73329) for more information). When referring to a survey, unless otherwise noted, we mean the surveys conducted by specialty societies as part of the formal RUC process.

Components that we used in the building block approach may have included preservice, intraservice, or postservice time and post-procedure visits. When referring to a bundled CPT code, the building block components could include the CPT codes that make up the bundled code and the inputs associated with those codes. We used the building block methodology to construct, or deconstruct, the work RVU for a CPT code based on component pieces of the code. Magnitude estimation refers to a methodology for valuing work that determines the appropriate work RVU for a service by gauging the total amount of work for that service relative to the work for a similar service across the PFS without explicitly valuing the components of that work. In addition to these methodologies, we frequently utilized an incremental methodology in which we value a code based upon its incremental difference between another code and another family of codes. The statute specifically defines the work component as the resources in time and intensity required in furnishing the service. Also, the published literature on valuing work has recognized the key role of time in overall work. For particular codes, we refined the work RVUs in direct proportion to the changes in the best information regarding the time resources involved in furnishing particular services, either considering the total time or the intraservice time.

Several years ago, to aid in the development of preservice time recommendations for new and revised CPT codes, the RUC created standardized preservice time packages. The packages include preservice evaluation time, preservice positioning time, and preservice scrub, dress and wait time. Currently, there are preservice time packages for services typically furnished in the facility setting (for example, preservice time packages reflecting the different combinations of straightforward or difficult procedure, and straightforward or difficult patient). Currently, there are three preservice time packages for services typically furnished in the nonfacility setting.

We developed several standard building block methodologies to value services appropriately when they have common billing patterns. In cases where Start Printed Page 35744a service is typically furnished to a beneficiary on the same day as an evaluation and management (E/M) service, we believe that there is overlap between the two services in some of the activities furnished during the preservice evaluation and postservice time. Our longstanding adjustments have reflected a broad assumption that at least one-third of the work time in both the preservice evaluation and postservice period is duplicative of work furnished during the E/M visit.

Accordingly, in cases where we believed that the RUC has not adequately accounted for the overlapping activities in the recommended work RVU and/or times, we adjusted the work RVU and/or times to account for the overlap. The work RVU for a service is the product of the time involved in furnishing the service multiplied by the intensity of the work. Preservice evaluation time and postservice time both have a long-established intensity of work per unit of time (IWPUT) of 0.0224, which means that 1 minute of preservice evaluation or postservice time equates to 0.0224 of a work RVU.

Therefore, in many cases when we removed 2 minutes of preservice time and 2 minutes of postservice time from a procedure to account for the overlap with the same day E/M service, we also removed a work RVU of 0.09 (4 minutes × 0.0224 IWPUT) if we did not believe the overlap in time had already been accounted for in the work RVU. The RUC has recognized this valuation policy and, in many cases, now addresses the overlap in time and work when a service is typically furnished on the same day as an E/M service.

The following paragraphs contain a general discussion of our approach to reviewing RUC recommendations and developing proposed values for specific codes. When they exist we also include a summary of stakeholder reactions to our approach. We note that many commenters and stakeholders have expressed concerns over the years with our ongoing adjustment of work RVUs based on changes in the best information we had regarding the time resources involved in furnishing individual services. We have been particularly concerned with the RUC's and various specialty societies' objections to our approach given the significance of their recommendations to our process for valuing services and since much of the information we used to make the adjustments is derived from their survey process. We are obligated under the statute to consider both time and intensity in establishing work RVUs for PFS services. As explained in the CY 2016 PFS final rule with comment period (80 FR 70933), we recognize that adjusting work RVUs for changes in time is not always a straightforward process, so we have applied various methodologies to identify several potential work values for individual codes.

We have observed that for many codes reviewed by the RUC, recommended work RVUs have appeared to be incongruous with recommended assumptions regarding the resource costs in time. This has been the case for a significant portion of codes for which we recently established or proposed work RVUs that are based on refinements to the RUC-recommended values. When we have adjusted work RVUs to account for significant changes in time, we have started by looking at the change in the time in the context of the RUC-recommended work RVU. When the recommended work RVUs do not appear to account for significant changes in time, we have employed the different approaches to identify potential values that reconcile the recommended work RVUs with the recommended time values. Many of these methodologies, such as survey data, building block, crosswalks to key reference or similar codes, and magnitude estimation have long been used in developing work RVUs under the PFS. In addition to these, we sometimes used the relationship between the old time values and the new time values for particular services to identify alternative work RVUs based on changes in time components.

In so doing, rather than ignoring the RUC-recommended value, we have used the recommended values as a starting reference and then applied one of these several methodologies to account for the reductions in time that we believe were not otherwise reflected in the RUC-recommended value. If we believed that such changes in time were already accounted for in the RUC's recommendation, then we did not made such adjustments. Likewise, we did not arbitrarily apply time ratios to current work RVUs to calculate proposed work RVUs. We used the ratios to identify potential work RVUs and considered these work RVUs as potential options relative to the values developed through other options.

We do not imply that the decrease in time as reflected in survey values should always equate to a one-to-one or linear decrease in newly valued work RVUs. Instead, we have believed that, since the two components of work are time and intensity, absent an obvious or explicitly stated rationale for why the relative intensity of a given procedure has increased, significant decreases in time should be reflected in decreases to work RVUs. If the RUC's recommendation has appeared to disregard or dismiss the changes in time, without a persuasive explanation of why such a change should not be accounted for in the overall work of the service, then we have generally used one of the aforementioned methodologies to identify potential work RVUs, including the methodologies intended to account for the changes in the resources involved in furnishing the procedure.

Several stakeholders, including the RUC, have expressed general objections to our use of these methodologies and deemed our actions in adjusting the recommended work RVUs as inappropriate; other stakeholders have also expressed general concerns with CMS refinements to RUC recommended values in general. In the CY 2017 PFS final rule (81 FR 80272 through 80277) we responded in detail to several comments that we received regarding this issue. In the CY 2017 PFS proposed rule, we requested comments regarding potential alternatives to making adjustments that would recognize overall estimates of work in the context of changes in the resource of time for particular services; however, we did not receive any specific potential alternatives. As described earlier in this section, crosswalks to key reference or similar codes is one of the many methodological approaches we have employed to identify potential values that reconcile the RUC-recommend work RVUs with the recommended time values when the RUC-recommended work RVUs did not appear to account for significant changes in time.

We look forward to continuing to engage with stakeholders and commenters, including the RUC, as we prioritize our obligation to value new, revised, and potentially misvalued codes, and will continue to welcome feedback from all interested parties regarding valuation of services for consideration through our rulemaking process. We refer readers to section II.H.4 of this proposed rule for a detailed discussion of the proposed valuation, and alternative valuation considered for specific codes. Table 13 contains a list of codes for which we propose work RVUs; this includes all codes for which we received RUC recommendations by February 10, 2018. The proposed work RVUs, work time and other payment information for all proposed CY 2019 payable codes are available on the CMS website under downloads for the CY 2019 PFS proposed rule. Table 13 also contains Start Printed Page 35745the CPT code descriptors for all proposed, new, revised, and potentially misvalued codes discussed in this section.

3. Methodology for the Direct PE Inputs To Develop PE RVUs

a. Background

On an annual basis, the RUC provides us with recommendations regarding PE inputs for new, revised, and potentially misvalued codes. We review the RUC-recommended direct PE inputs on a code by code basis. Like our review of recommended work RVUs, our review of recommended direct PE inputs generally includes, but is not limited to, a review of information provided by the RUC, HCPAC, and other public commenters, medical literature, and comparative databases, as well as a comparison with other codes within the PFS, and consultation with physicians and health care professionals within CMS and the federal government, as well as Medicare claims data. We also assess the methodology and data used to develop the recommendations submitted to us by the RUC and other public commenters and the rationale for the recommendations. When we determine that the RUC's recommendations appropriately estimate the direct PE inputs (clinical labor, disposable supplies, and medical equipment) required for the typical service, are consistent with the principles of relativity, and reflect our payment policies, we use those direct PE inputs to value a service. If not, we refine the recommended PE inputs to better reflect our estimate of the PE resources required for the service. We also confirm whether CPT codes should have facility and/or nonfacility direct PE inputs and refine the inputs accordingly.

Our review and refinement of RUC-recommended direct PE inputs includes many refinements that are common across codes, as well as refinements that are specific to particular services. Table 14 details our refinements of the RUC's direct PE recommendations at the code-specific level. In this proposed rule, we address several refinements that are common across codes, and refinements to particular codes are addressed in the portions of this section that are dedicated to particular codes. We note that for each refinement, we indicate the impact on direct costs for that service. We note that, on average, in any case where the impact on the direct cost for a particular refinement is $0.30 or less, the refinement has no impact on the PE RVUs. This calculation considers both the impact on the direct portion of the PE RVU, as well as the impact on the indirect allocator for the average service. We also note that nearly half of the refinements listed in Table 14 result in changes under the $0.30 threshold and are unlikely to result in a change to the RVUs.

We also note that the proposed direct PE inputs for CY 2019 are displayed in the CY 2019 direct PE input database, available on the CMS website under the downloads for the CY 2019 PFS proposed rule at http://www.cms.gov/​Medicare/​Medicare-Fee-for-Service-Payment/​PhysicianFeeSched/​PFS-Federal-Regulation-Notices.html. The inputs displayed there have been used in developing the proposed CY 2019 PE RVUs as displayed in Addendum B.

b. Common Refinements

(1) Changes in Work Time

Some direct PE inputs are directly affected by revisions in work time. Specifically, changes in the intraservice portions of the work time and changes in the number or level of postoperative visits associated with the global periods result in corresponding changes to direct PE inputs. The direct PE input recommendations generally correspond to the work time values associated with services. We believe that inadvertent discrepancies between work time values and direct PE inputs should be refined or adjusted in the establishment of proposed direct PE inputs to resolve the discrepancies.

(2) Equipment Time

Prior to CY 2010, the RUC did not generally provide CMS with recommendations regarding equipment time inputs. In CY 2010, in the interest of ensuring the greatest possible degree of accuracy in allocating equipment minutes, we requested that the RUC provide equipment times along with the other direct PE recommendations, and we provided the RUC with general guidelines regarding appropriate equipment time inputs. We appreciate the RUC's willingness to provide us with these additional inputs as part of its PE recommendations.

In general, the equipment time inputs correspond to the service period portion of the clinical labor times. We clarified this principle over several years of rulemaking, indicating that we consider equipment time as the time within the intraservice period when a clinician is using the piece of equipment plus any additional time that the piece of equipment is not available for use for another patient due to its use during the designated procedure. For those services for which we allocate cleaning time to portable equipment items, because the portable equipment does not need to be cleaned in the room where the service is furnished, we do not include that cleaning time for the remaining equipment items, as those items and the room are both available for use for other patients during that time. In addition, when a piece of equipment is typically used during follow-up postoperative visits included in the global period for a service, the equipment time would also reflect that use.

We believe that certain highly technical pieces of equipment and equipment rooms are less likely to be used during all of the preservice or postservice tasks performed by clinical labor staff on the day of the procedure (the clinical labor service period) and are typically available for other patients even when one member of the clinical staff may be occupied with a preservice or postservice task related to the procedure. We also note that we believe these same assumptions would apply to inexpensive equipment items that are used in conjunction with and located in a room with non-portable highly technical equipment items since any items in the room in question would be available if the room is not being occupied by a particular patient. For additional information, we refer readers to our discussion of these issues in the CY 2012 PFS final rule with comment period (76 FR 73182) and the CY 2015 PFS final rule with comment period (79 FR 67639).

(3) Standard Tasks and Minutes for Clinical Labor Tasks

In general, the preservice, intraservice, and postservice clinical labor minutes associated with clinical labor inputs in the direct PE input database reflect the sum of particular tasks described in the information that accompanies the RUC-recommended direct PE inputs, commonly called the “PE worksheets.” For most of these described tasks, there is a standardized number of minutes, depending on the type of procedure, its typical setting, its global period, and the other procedures with which it is typically reported. The RUC sometimes recommends a number of minutes either greater than or less than the time typically allotted for certain tasks. In those cases, we review the deviations from the standards and any rationale provided for the deviations. When we do not accept the RUC-recommended exceptions, we refine the proposed direct PE inputs to conform to the standard times for those tasks. In addition, in cases when a service is typically billed with an E/M service, we remove the preservice Start Printed Page 35746clinical labor tasks to avoid duplicative inputs and to reflect the resource costs of furnishing the typical service.

We refer readers to section II.B. of this proposed rule for more information regarding the collaborative work of CMS and the RUC in improvements in standardizing clinical labor tasks.

(4) Recommended Items That Are Not Direct PE Inputs

In some cases, the PE worksheets included with the RUC's recommendations include items that are not clinical labor, disposable supplies, or medical equipment or that cannot be allocated to individual services or patients. We addressed these kinds of recommendations in previous rulemaking (78 FR 74242), and we do not use items included in these recommendations as direct PE inputs in the calculation of PE RVUs.

(5) New Supply and Equipment Items

The RUC generally recommends the use of supply and equipment items that already exist in the direct PE input database for new, revised, and potentially misvalued codes. Some recommendations, however, include supply or equipment items that are not currently in the direct PE input database. In these cases, the RUC has historically recommended that a new item be created and has facilitated our pricing of that item by working with the specialty societies to provide us copies of sales invoices. For CY 2019, we received invoices for several new supply and equipment items. Tables 15 and 16 detail the invoices received for new and existing items in the direct PE database. As discussed in section II.B. of this proposed rule, we encourage stakeholders to review the prices associated with these new and existing items to determine whether these prices appear to be accurate. Where prices appear inaccurate, we encourage stakeholders to submit invoices or other information to improve the accuracy of pricing for these items in the direct PE database during the 60-day public comment period for this proposed rule. We expect that invoices received outside of the public comment period would be submitted by February 10th of the following year for consideration in future rulemaking, similar to our new process for consideration of RUC recommendations.

We remind stakeholders that due to the relativity inherent in the development of RVUs, reductions in existing prices for any items in the direct PE database increase the pool of direct PE RVUs available to all other PFS services. Tables 15 and 16 also include the number of invoices received and the number of nonfacility allowed services for procedures that use these equipment items. We provide the nonfacility allowed services so that stakeholders will note the impact the particular price might have on PE relativity, as well as to identify items that are used frequently, since we believe that stakeholders are more likely to have better pricing information for items used more frequently. A single invoice may not be reflective of typical costs and we encourage stakeholders to provide additional invoices so that we might identify and use accurate prices in the development of PE RVUs.

In some cases, we do not use the price listed on the invoice that accompanies the recommendation because we identify publicly available alternative prices or information that suggests a different price is more accurate. In these cases, we include this in the discussion of these codes. In other cases, we cannot adequately price a newly recommended item due to inadequate information. Sometimes, no supporting information regarding the price of the item has been included in the recommendation. In other cases, the supporting information does not demonstrate that the item has been purchased at the listed price (for example, vendor price quotes instead of paid invoices). In cases where the information provided on the item allows us to identify clinically appropriate proxy items, we might use existing items as proxies for the newly recommended items. In other cases, we included the item in the direct PE input database without any associated price. Although including the item without an associated price means that the item does not contribute to the calculation of the proposed PE RVU for particular services, it facilitates our ability to incorporate a price once we obtain information and are able to do so.

(6) Service Period Clinical Labor Time in the Facility Setting

Generally speaking, our proposed inputs do not include clinical labor minutes assigned to the service period because the cost of clinical labor during the service period for a procedure in the facility setting is not considered a resource cost to the practitioner since Medicare makes separate payment to the facility for these costs. We address proposed code-specific refinements to clinical labor in the individual code sections.

(7) Procedures Subject to the Multiple Procedure Payment Reduction (MPPR) and the OPPS Cap

We note that the public use files for the PFS proposed and final rules for each year display both the services subject to the MPPR lists on diagnostic cardiovascular services, diagnostic imaging services, diagnostic ophthalmology services, and therapy services. We also include a list of procedures that meet the definition of imaging under section 1848(b)(4)(B) of the Act, and therefore, are subject to the OPPS cap for the upcoming calendar year. The public use files for CY 2019 are available on the CMS website under downloads for the CY 2019 PFS proposed rule at http://www.cms.gov/​Medicare/​Medicare-Fee-for-Service-Payment/​PhysicianFeeSched/​PFS-Federal-Regulation-Notices.html. For more information regarding the history of the MPPR policy, we refer readers to the CY 2014 PFS final rule with comment period (78 FR 74261-74263). For more information regarding the history of the OPPS cap, we refer readers to the CY 2007 PFS final rule with comment period (71 FR 69659-69662).

4. Proposed Valuation of Specific Codes for CY 2019

(1) Fine Needle Aspiration (CPT Codes 10021, 10X11, 10X12, 10X13, 10X14, 10X15, 10X16, 10X17, 10X18, 10X19, 76492, 77002 and 77021)

CPT code 10021 was identified as part of the OPPS cap payment proposal in CY 2014 (78 FR 74246-74248), and it was reviewed by the RUC for direct PE inputs only as part of the CY 2016 rule cycle. Afterwards, CPT codes 10021 and 10022 were referred to the CPT Editorial Panel to consider adding additional clarifying language to the code descriptors and to include bundled imaging guidance due to the fact that imaging had become typical with these services. In June 2017, the CPT Editorial Panel deleted CPT code 10022, revised CPT code 10021, and created nine new codes to describe fine needle aspiration procedures with and without imaging guidance. These ten codes were surveyed and reviewed for the October 2017 and January 2018 RUC meetings. Several imaging services were also reviewed along with the rest of the code family, although only CPT code 77021 was subject to a new survey.

For CY 2019, we are proposing the RUC-recommended work RVU for seven of the ten codes in this family. Specifically, we are proposing a work RVU of 0.80 for CPT code 10X11 (Fine needle aspiration biopsy; without Start Printed Page 35747imaging guidance; each additional lesion), a work RVU of 1.00 for CPT code 10X13 (Fine needle aspiration biopsy, including ultrasound guidance; each additional lesion), a work RVU of 1.81 for CPT code 10X14 (Fine needle aspiration biopsy, including fluoroscopic guidance; first lesion), a work RVU of 1.18 for CPT code 10X15 (Fine needle aspiration biopsy, including fluoroscopic guidance; each additional lesion), and a work RVU of 1.65 for CPT code 10X17 (Fine needle aspiration biopsy, including CT guidance; each additional lesion). We are also proposing to assign the recommended contractor-priced status to CPT codes 10X18 (Fine needle aspiration biopsy, including MR guidance; first lesion) and 10X19 (Fine needle aspiration biopsy, including MR guidance; each additional lesion) due to low utilization until these services are more widely utilized. In addition, we are proposing the recommended work RVU of 1.50 for CPT code 77021 (Magnetic resonance guidance for needle placement (e.g., for biopsy, fine needle aspiration biopsy, injection, or placement of localization device) radiological supervision and interpretation), as well as proposing to reaffirm the current work RVUs of 0.67 for CPT code 76942 (Ultrasonic guidance for needle placement (e.g., biopsy, fine needle aspiration biopsy, injection, localization device), imaging supervision and interpretation) and 0.54 for 77002 (Fluoroscopic guidance for needle placement (e.g., biopsy, fine needle aspiration biopsy, injection, localization device)).

We disagree with the RUC-recommended work RVU of 1.20 for CPT code 10021 (Fine needle aspiration biopsy; without imaging guidance; first lesion) and are proposing a work RVU of 1.03 based on a direct crosswalk to CPT code 36440 (Push transfusion, blood, 2 years or younger). CPT code 36440 is a recently reviewed code with the same intraservice time of 15 minutes and 2 additional minutes of total time. In reviewing CPT code 10021, we noted that the recommended intraservice time is decreasing from 17 minutes to 15 minutes (12 percent reduction), and the recommended total time is decreasing from 48 minutes to 33 minutes (32 percent reduction); however, the RUC-recommended work RVU is only decreasing from 1.27 to 1.20, which is a reduction of just over 5 percent. Although we do not imply that the decrease in time as reflected in survey values must equate to a one-to-one or linear decrease in the valuation of work RVUs, we believe that since the two components of work are time and intensity, significant decreases in time should be appropriately reflected in decreases to work RVUs. In the case of CPT code 10021, we believe that it would be more accurate to propose a work RVU of 1.03 based on a crosswalk to CPT code 36440 to account for these decreases in the surveyed work time.

We disagree with the RUC-recommended work RVU of 1.63 for CPT code 10X12 (Fine needle aspiration biopsy, including ultrasound guidance; first lesion) and are proposing a work RVU of 1.46. Although we disagree with the RUC-recommended work RVU, we concur that the relative difference in work between CPT codes 10021 and 10X12 is equivalent to the recommended interval of 0.43 RVUs. Therefore, we are proposing a work RVU of 1.46 for CPT code 10X12, based on the recommended interval of 0.43 additional RVUs above our proposed work RVU of 1.03 for CPT code 10021. The proposed increment of 0.43 RVUs above CPT code 10021 is also based on the use of two crosswalk codes: CPT code 99225 (Subsequent observation care, per day, for the evaluation and management of a patient, which requires at least 2 of 3 key components); and CPT code 99232 (Subsequent hospital care, per day, for the evaluation and management of a patient, which requires at least 2 of 3 key components). Both of these codes have the same intraservice time and 1 additional minute of total time as compared with CPT code 10X12, and both crosswalk codes share a work RVU of 1.39.

We disagree with the RUC-recommended work RVU of 2.43 for CPT code 10X16 (Fine needle aspiration biopsy, including CT guidance; first lesion) and we are proposing a work RVU of 2.26. Although we disagree with the RUC-recommended work RVU, we concur that the relative difference in work between CPT codes 10021 and 10X16 is equivalent to the recommended interval of 1.23 RVUs. Therefore, we are proposing a work RVU of 2.26 for CPT code 10X16, based on the recommended interval of 1.23 additional RVUs above our proposed work RVU of 1.03 for CPT code 10021. The proposed use of the recommended increment from CPT code 10021 is also based on the use of a crosswalk to CPT code 74263 (Computed tomographic (CT) colonography, screening, including image postprocessing), another CT procedure with 38 minutes of intraservice time and 50 minutes of total time at a work RVU of 2.28.

We note that the recommended work pool is increasing by approximately 20 percent for the Fine Needle Aspiration family as a whole, while the recommended work time pool for the same codes is only increasing by about 2 percent. Since time is defined as one of the two components of work, we believe that this indicates a discrepancy in the recommended work values. We do not believe that the recoding of the services in this family has resulted in an increase in their intensity, only a change in the way in which they will be reported, and therefore, we do not believe that it would serve the interests of relativity to propose the recommended work values for all of the codes in this family. We believe that, generally speaking, the recoding of a family of services should maintain the same total work pool, as the services themselves are not changing, only the coding structure under which they are being reported. We also note that through the bundling of some of these frequently reported services, it is reasonable to expect that the new coding system will achieve savings via elimination of duplicative assumptions of the resources involved in furnishing particular servicers. For example, a practitioner would not be carrying out the full preservice work twice for CPT codes 10022 and 76942, but preservice times were assigned to both of the codes under the old coding. We believe the new coding assigns more accurate work times and thus reflects efficiencies in resource costs that existed regardless of how the services were previously reported.

For the direct PE inputs, we are proposing to refine the clinical labor time for the “Prepare room, equipment and supplies” (CA013) activity to 3 minutes and to refine the clinical labor time for the “Confirm order, protocol exam” (CA014) activity to 0 minutes for CPT code 77021. This code did not previously have clinical labor time assigned for the “Confirm order, protocol exam” clinical labor task, and we do not have any reason to believe that the services being furnished by the clinical staff have changed, only the way in which this clinical labor time has been presented on the PE worksheets. We also note that there is no effect on the total clinical labor direct costs in these situations, since the same 3 minutes of clinical labor time is still being furnished. We are also proposing to refine the equipment times in accordance with our standard equipment time formulas.

(2) Biopsy of Nail (CPT Code 11755)

CPT code 11755 (Biopsy of nail unit (e.g., plate, bed, matrix, hyponychium, proximal and lateral nail folds) (separate procedure)) was identified as potentially Start Printed Page 35748misvalued on a screen of 0-day global services reported with an E/M visit 50 percent of the time or more, on the same day of service by the same patient and the same practitioner, that have not been reviewed in the last 5 years with Medicare utilization greater than 20,000. For CY 2019, the HCPAC recommended a work RVU of 1.25 based on the survey median value.

We disagree with the recommended value and are proposing a work RVU of 1.08 for CPT code 11755 based on the survey 25th percentile value. We note that the recommended intraservice time for CPT code 11755 is decreasing from 25 minutes to 15 minutes (40 percent reduction), and the recommended total time for CPT code 11755 is decreasing from 55 minutes to 39 minutes (29 percent reduction); however, the recommended work RVU is only decreasing from 1.31 to 1.25, which is a reduction of less than 5 percent. Although we do not imply that the decrease in time as reflected in survey values must equate to a one-to-one or linear decrease in the valuation of work RVUs, we believe that since the two components of work are time and intensity, significant decreases in time should be reflected in decreases to work RVUs. In the case of CPT code 11755, we believe that it would be more accurate to propose the survey 25th percentile work RVU than the survey median to account for these decreases in the surveyed work time.

The proposed work RVU of 1.08 is also based on a crosswalk to CPT code 11042 (Debridement, subcutaneous tissue (includes epidermis and dermis, if performed); first 20 sq cm or less), which has a work RVU of 1.01, the same intraservice time of 15 minutes, and a similar total time of 36 minutes. We also note that, generally speaking, working with extremities like nails tends to be less intensive in clinical terms than other services, especially as compared to surgical procedures. We believe that this further supports our proposal of a work RVU of 1.08 for CPT code 11755.

We are proposing to refine the equipment times in accordance with our standard equipment time formulas.

(3) Skin Biopsy (CPT Codes 11X02, 11X03, 11X04, 11X05, 11X06, and 11X07)

In CY 2016, CPT codes 11100 (Biopsy of skin, subcutaneous tissue and/or mucous membrane (including simple closure), unless otherwise listed; single lesion) and 11101 (Biopsy of skin, subcutaneous tissue and/or mucous membrane (including simple closure), unless otherwise listed; each separate/additional lesion) were identified as potentially misvalued using a high expenditure services screen across specialties with Medicare allowed charges of $10 million or more. Prior to the January 2016 RUC meeting, the specialty society notified the RUC that its survey data displayed a bimodal distribution of responses with more outliers than usual. The RUC referred CPT codes 11100 and 11101 to the CPT Editorial Panel. In February 2017, the CPT Editorial Panel deleted these two codes and created six new codes for primary and additional biopsy based on the thickness of the sample and the technique utilized.

For CY 2019, we are proposing the RUC-recommended work RVUs for five of the six codes in the family. We are proposing a work RVU of 0.66 for CPT code 11X02 (Tangential biopsy of skin, (e.g., shave, scoop, saucerize, curette), single lesion), a work RVU of 0.83 for CPT code 11X04 (Punch biopsy of skin, (including simple closure when performed), single lesion), a work RVU of 0.45 for CPT code 11X05 (Punch biopsy of skin, (including simple closure when performed), each separate/additional lesion), a work RVU of 1.01 for CPT code 11X06 (Incisional biopsy of skin (e.g., wedge), (including simple closure when performed), single lesion), and a work RVU of 0.54 for CPT code 11X07 (Incisional biopsy of skin (e.g., wedge), (including simple closure when performed), each separate/additional lesion).

For CPT code 11X03 (Tangential biopsy of skin, (e.g., shave, scoop, saucerize, curette), each separate/additional lesion), we disagree with the RUC-recommended work RVU of 0.38 and are proposing a work RVU of 0.29. When we compared the RUC-recommended work RVU of 0.38 to other add-on codes in the RUC database, we found that CPT code 11X03 would have the second-highest work RVU for any code with 7 minutes or less of total time, with the recommended work RVU noticeably higher than other related add-on codes, and we did not agree that the tangential biopsy service being performed should have an anomalously high work value in comparison to other similar add-on codes. Our proposed work RVU of 0.29 is based on a crosswalk to CPT code 11201 (Removal of skin tags, multiple fibrocutaneous tags, any area; each additional 10 lesions, or part thereof), a clinically related add-on procedure with 5 minutes of intraservice and total time as opposed to the surveyed 6 minutes for CPT code 11X03. We also noted that the intraservice time ratio between CPT code 11X03 and the recommended reference code, CPT code 11732 (Avulsion of nail plate, partial or complete, simple; each additional nail plate), was 75 percent (6 minutes divided by 8 minutes). This 75 percent ratio when applied to the work RVU of CPT code 11732 also produced a work RVU of 0.29 (0.38 * 0.75 = 0.29). Finally, we are also supporting the proposed work RVU through a crosswalk to CPT code 33508 (Endoscopy, surgical, including video-assisted harvest of vein(s) for coronary artery bypass procedure), which has a higher intraservice time of 10 minutes but a similar work RVU of 0.31. We believe that our proposed work RVU of 0.29 for CPT code 11X03 better serves the interests of relativity, as well as better fitting with the other recommended work RVUs within this family of codes.

For the direct PE inputs, we are proposing to remove the 2 minutes of clinical labor time for the “Review home care instructions, coordinate visits/prescriptions” (CA035) activity for CPT codes 11X02, 11X04, and 11X06. These codes are typically billed with a same day E/M service, and we believe that it would be duplicative to assign clinical labor time for reviewing home care instructions given that this task would typically be done during the same day E/M service. We are also proposing to refine the equipment times in accordance with our standard equipment time formulas.

We are proposing to refine the quantity of the “gown, staff, impervious” (SB024) and the “mask, surgical, with face shield” (SB034) supplies from 2 to 1 for CPT codes 11X02, 11X04, and 11X06. We are proposing to remove one gown and one surgical mask from these codes as duplicative since these supplies are also included within the surgical instrument cleaning pack (SA043). We are also proposing to remove all of the supplies in the three add-on procedures (CPT codes 11X03, 11X05, and 11X07) that were not contained in the previous add-on procedure for this family, CPT code 11101. We do not believe that the use of these supplies would be typical for the “each additional lesion” add-on codes, as these supplies are all included in the base codes and are not currently utilized in CPT code 11101. We note that the recommended direct PE costs for the three new add-on codes represent an increase of approximately 500 percent from the direct PE costs for CPT code 11101, and believe that this is largely due to the addition of these new supplies.Start Printed Page 35749

(4) Injection Tendon Origin-Insertion (CPT Code 20551)

CPT code 20551 (Injection(s); single tendon origin/insertion) was identified as potentially misvalued on a screen of 0-day global services reported with an E/M visit 50 percent of the time or more, on the same day of service by the same patient and the same practitioner, that have not been reviewed in the last 5 years with Medicare utilization greater than 20,000. For CY 2019, we are proposing the RUC-recommended work RVU of 0.75 for CPT code 20551.

We are proposing to maintain the current work RVU for many of the CPT codes identified as potentially misvalued on the screen of 0-day global services reported with an E/M visit 50 percent of the time or more. We note that regardless of the proposed work valuations for individual codes, which may or may not retain the same work RVU, we continue to have reservations about the valuation of 0-day global services that are typically billed with a separate E/M service with the use of Modifier 25 (indicating that a significant and separately identifiable E/M service was provided on the same day). As we stated in the CY 2017 PFS final rule (81 FR 80204), we continue to believe that the routine billing of separate E/M services in conjunction with a particular code may indicate a possible problem with the valuation of the code bundle, which is intended to include all the routine care associated with the service. We will continue to consider additional ways to address the appropriate valuation for these services.

For the direct PE inputs, we are proposing to remove the clinical labor time for the “Provide education/obtain consent” (CA011) and the “Review home care instructions, coordinate visits/prescriptions” (CA035) activities for CPT code 20551. This code is typically billed with a same day E/M service, and we believe that it would be duplicative to assign clinical labor time for obtaining consent or reviewing home care instructions given that these tasks would typically be done during the same day E/M service. We are also proposing to refine the equipment times in accordance with our standard equipment time formulas.

(5) Structural Allograft (CPT Codes 209X3, 209X4, and 209X5)

In February 2017, the CPT Editorial Panel created three new codes to describe allografts. These codes were designated as add-on codes and revised to more accurately describe the structural allograft procedures they represent. For CY 2019, we are proposing the RUC-recommended work RVUs for all three codes. We are proposing a work RVU of 13.01 for CPT code 209X3 (Allograft, includes templating, cutting, placement and internal fixation when performed; osteoarticular, including articular surface and contiguous bone), a work RVU of 11.94 for CPT code 209X4 (Allograft, includes templating, cutting, placement and internal fixation when performed; hemicortical intercalary, partial (i.e., hemicylindrical)), and a work RVU of 13.00 for CPT code 209X5 (Allograft, includes templating, cutting, placement and internal fixation when performed; intercalary, complete (i.e., cylindrical)).

These three new codes are all facility-only procedures with no recommended direct PE inputs.

(6) Knee Arthrography Injection (CPT Code 27X69)

CPT code 27370 (Injection of contrast for knee arthrography) repeatedly appeared on high volume growth screens between 2008 and 2016, and the RUC expressed concern that the high volume growth for this procedure was likely due to its being reported incorrectly as arthrocentesis or aspiration. In June 2017, the CPT Editorial Panel deleted CPT code 27370 and replaced it with a new code, 27X69, to report injection procedure for knee arthrography or enhanced CT/MRI knee arthrography.

The RUC recommended a work RVU for CPT code 27X69 of 0.96, which is identical to the work RVU for CPT code 27370 (Injection of contrast for knee arthrography). The RUC's recommendation is based on key reference service, CPT code 23350 (Injection procedure for shoulder arthrography or enhanced CT/MRI shoulder arthrography), with identical intraservice time (15 minutes) and total time (28 minutes) as the new CPT code and a work RVU of 1.00. The RUC notes that its recommendation is lower than the 25th percentile from the survey results, but that the work described by the service should be valued identically with the CPT code being replaced. We disagree with the RUC's recommended work RVU for CPT code 27X69. Both the total (28 minutes) and intraservice (15 minutes) times for the new CPT code are considerably lower than the deleted CPT code 27370. Based on the reduced times and the projected work RVU from the reverse building block methodology (0.60 work RVUs), we believe this CPT code should be valued at 0.77 work RVUs, supported by a crosswalk to CPT code 29075 (Application, cast; elbow to finger (short arm)), with total time of 27 minutes and intraservice time of 15 minutes. Therefore, we are proposing a work RVU of 0.77 for CPT code 27X69.

For the direct PE inputs, we are proposing to refine the clinical labor time for the “Prepare room, equipment and supplies” (CA013) activity to 3 minutes and to refine the clinical labor time for the “Confirm order, protocol exam” (CA014) activity to 0 minutes. The predecessor code for 27X69, CPT code 27370, did not previously have clinical labor time assigned for the “Confirm order, protocol exam” clinical labor task, and we do not have any reason to believe that the services being furnished by the clinical staff have changed, only the way in which this clinical labor time has been presented on the PE worksheets. We also note that there is no effect on the total clinical labor direct costs in these situations, since the same 3 minutes of clinical labor time is still being furnished.

We are proposing to remove the clinical labor time for the “Scan exam documents into PACS. Complete exam in RIS system to populate images into work queue” (CA032) activity. CPT code 27X69 does not include a PACS workstation among the recommended equipment, and the predecessor code 27370 did not previously include time for this clinical labor activity. We believe that data entry activities such as this task would be classified as indirect PE, as they are considered administrative activities and are not individually allocable to a particular patient for a particular service. We are also proposing to refine the equipment times in accordance with our standard equipment time formulas.

(7) Application of Long Arm Splint (CPT Code 29105)

CPT code 29105 (Application of long arm splint (shoulder to hand)) was identified as potentially misvalued on a screen of 0-day global services reported with an E/M visit 50 percent of the time or more, on the same day of service by the same patient and the same practitioner, that have not been reviewed in the last 5 years with Medicare utilization greater than 20,000. For CY 2019, we are proposing the RUC-recommended work RVU of 0.80 for CPT code 29105.

For the direct PE inputs, we are proposing to refine the equipment times in accordance with our standard equipment time formulas.

(8) Strapping Lower Extremity (CPT Codes 29540 and 29550)

CPT codes 29540 (Strapping; ankle and/or foot) and 29550 (Strapping; toes) were identified as potentially misvalued Start Printed Page 35750on a screen of 0-day global services reported with an E/M visit 50 percent of the time or more, on the same day of service by the same patient and the same practitioner, that have not been reviewed in the last 5 years with Medicare utilization greater than 20,000. For CY 2019, we are proposing the HCPAC-recommended work RVU of 0.39 for CPT code 29540 and the HCPAC-recommended work RVU of 0.25 for CPT code 29550.

For the direct PE inputs, we are proposing to refine the clinical labor time for the “Provide education/obtain consent” (CA011) activity from 3 minutes to 2 minutes for both codes, as this is the standard clinical labor time assigned for patient education and consent. We are also proposing to remove the 2 minutes of clinical labor time for the “Review home care instructions, coordinate visits/prescriptions” (CA035) activity for both codes. CPT codes 29540 and 29550 are both typically billed with a same day E/M service, and we believe that it would be duplicative to assign clinical labor time for reviewing home care instructions given that this task would typically be done during the same day E/M service. We are also proposing to refine the equipment times in accordance with our standard equipment time formulas.

(9) Bronchoscopy (CPT Codes 31623 and 31624)

CPT code 31623 (Bronchoscopy, rigid or flexible, including fluoroscopic guidance, when performed; with brushing or protected brushings) was identified on a high growth screen of services with total Medicare utilization of 10,000 or more that have increased by at least 100 percent from 2009 through 2014. CPT code 31624 (Bronchoscopy, rigid or flexible, including fluoroscopic guidance, when performed; with bronchial alveolar lavage) was also included for review as part of the same family of codes. For CY 2019, we are proposing the RUC-recommended work RVU of 2.63 for CPT codes 31623 and 31624.

For the direct PE inputs, we are proposing to refine the clinical labor time for the “Complete post-procedure diagnostic forms, lab and x-ray requisitions” (CA027) activity from 4 minutes to 2 minutes for CPT codes 31623 and 31624. Two minutes is the standard time, as well as the current time for this clinical labor activity, and we have no reason to believe that the time to perform this task has increased since the codes were last reviewed. We did not receive any explanation in the recommendations as to why the time for this activity would be doubling over the current values. We are also proposing to refine the equipment times in accordance with our standard equipment time formulas.

(10) Pulmonary Wireless Pressure Sensor Services (CPT Codes 332X0 and 93XX1)

In September 2017, the CPT Editorial Panel created a code to describe pulmonary wireless sensor implantation and another code for remote care management of patients with an implantable, wireless pulmonary artery pressure sensor monitor. For CY 2019, we are proposing the RUC-recommended work RVU of 6.00 for CPT code 332X0 (Transcatheter implantation of wireless pulmonary artery pressure sensor for long term hemodynamic monitoring, including deployment and calibration of the sensor, right heart catheterization, selective pulmonary catheterization, radiological supervision and interpretation, and pulmonary artery angiography, when performed), and the RUC-recommended work RVU of 0.70 for CPT code 93XX1 (Remote monitoring of a wireless pulmonary artery pressure sensor for up to 30 days including at least weekly downloads of pulmonary artery pressure recordings, interpretation(s), trend analysis, and report(s) by a physician or other qualified health care professional).

We are not proposing any direct PE refinements for this code family.

(11) Cardiac Event Recorder Procedures (CPT Codes 332X5 and 332X6)

In February 2017, the CPT Editorial Panel created two new codes replacing cardiac event recorder codes to reflect new technology. For CY 2019, we are proposing the RUC-recommended work RVU of 1.53 for CPT code 332X5 (Insertion, subcutaneous cardiac rhythm monitor, including programming) and the RUC-recommended work RVU of 1.50 for CPT code 332X6 (Removal, subcutaneous cardiac rhythm monitor).

We are not proposing any direct PE refinements for this code family.

(12) Aortoventriculoplasty With Pulmonary Autograft (CPT Code 335X1)

In September 2017, the CPT Editorial Panel created one new code to combine the efforts of aortic valve and root replacement with subvalvular left ventricular outflow tract enlargement to allow for an unobstructed left ventricular outflow tract.

For CY 2019, we are proposing the RUC-recommended work RVU of 64.00 for CPT code 335X1 (Replacement, aortic valve; by translocation of autologous pulmonary valve and transventricular aortic annulus enlargement of the left ventricular outflow tract with valved conduit replacement of pulmonary valve (Ross-Konno procedure)). When this code is re-reviewed in a few years as part of the new technology screen, we look forward to receiving new recommendations on the whole family, including the related Ross and Konno procedures (CPT codes 33413 and 33412 respectively) that were used as references for CPT code 335X1.

For the direct PE inputs, we are proposing to refine the preservice clinical labor times to match our standards for 90-day global procedures. We are proposing to refine the clinical labor time for the “Coordinate pre-surgery services (including test results)” (CA002) activity from 25 minutes to 20 minutes, to refine the clinical labor time for the “Schedule space and equipment in facility” (CA003) activity from 12 minutes to 8 minutes, and to refine the clinical labor time for the “Provide pre-service education/obtain consent” (CA004) activity from 26 minutes to 20 minutes. We are also proposing to add 15 minutes of clinical labor time for the “Perform regulatory mandated quality assurance activity (pre-service)” (CA008) activity. We agree with the recommendation that the total preservice clinical labor time for CPT code 335X1 is unchanged from the two reference codes at 75 minutes. However, we believe that the clinical labor associated with additional coordination between multiple specialties prior to patient arrival is more accurately described through the use of the CA008 activity code than by distributing this 15 minutes amongst the other preservice clinical labor activities. We previously established standard preservice times for 90-day global procedures, and did not want to propose clinical labor times above those standards for CPT code 335X1. We also note that there is no effect on the total clinical labor direct costs in this situation, since the same 15 minutes of preservice clinical labor time is still being furnished.

(13) Hemi-Aortic Arch Replacement (CPT Code 33X01)

At the September 2017 CPT Editorial Panel meeting, the Panel created one new add-on code to report hemi-aortic arch graft replacement. For CY 2019, we are proposing the RUC-recommended work RVU of 19.74 for CPT code 33X01 (Aortic hemiarch graft including isolation and control of the arch vessels, beveled open distal aortic anastomosis extending under one or more of the arch vessels, and total circulatory arrest or isolated cerebral perfusion). CPT code Start Printed Page 3575133X01 is a facility-only procedure with no recommended direct PE inputs.

(14) Leadless Pacemaker Procedures (CPT Codes 33X05 and 33X06)

At the September 2017 CPT Editorial Panel meeting, the Panel replaced the five leadless pacemaker services Category III codes with the addition of two new CPT codes to report transcatheter leadless pacemaker procedures and revised five codes to include evaluation and interrogation services of leadless pacemaker systems.

For CPT code 33X05 (Transcatheter insertion or replacement of permanent leadless pacemaker, right ventricular, including imaging guidance (e.g., fluoroscopy, venous ultrasound, ventriculography, femoral venography) and device evaluation (e.g., interrogation or programming), when performed), we disagree with the recommended work RVU of 8.77 and we are proposing a work RVU of 7.80 based on a direct crosswalk to one of the top reference codes selected by the RUC survey participants, CPT code 33207 (Insertion of new or replacement of permanent pacemaker with transvenous electrode(s); ventricular). This code has the same 60 minutes of intraservice time as CPT code 33X05 and an additional 61 minutes of total time at a work RVU of 7.80. In our review of CPT code 33X05, we noted that this reference code had an additional inpatient hospital visit of CPT code 99232 (Subsequent hospital care, per day, for the evaluation and management of a patient, which requires at least 2 of 3 key components) and a full instead of a half discharge visit of CPT code 99238 (Hospital discharge day management; 30 minutes or less) included in its 90-day global period. The combined work RVU of these two visits would be equal to 2.03. However, the recommended work RVU for CPT code 33X05 was 0.97 work RVUs higher than CPT code 33207, despite having fewer of these visits and significantly less surveyed total time. While we acknowledge that CPT code 33X05 is a more intense procedure than CPT code 33207, we do not believe that it should be valued almost a full RVU higher than the reference code given the fewer visits in the global period and the lower surveyed work time.

Therefore, we are proposing to crosswalk CPT code 33X05 to CPT code 33207 at the same work RVU of 7.80. The proposed work RVU is also supported through a reference crosswalk to CPT code 38542 (Dissection, deep jugular node(s)), which has 60 minutes of intraservice time, 198 minutes of total time, and a work RVU of 7.95. We believe that our proposed work RVU of 7.80 is a more accurate valuation for CPT code 33X05, while still recognizing the greater intensity of this procedure in comparison to its reference code.

For CPT code 33X06 (Transcatheter removal of permanent leadless pacemaker, right ventricular), we disagree with the RUC-recommended work RVU of 9.56 and we are proposing a work RVU of 8.59. Although we disagree with the RUC-recommended work RVU, we concur that the relative difference in work between CPT codes 33X05 and 33X06 is equivalent to the recommended interval of 0.79 RVUs. Therefore, we are proposing a work RVU of 8.59 for CPT code 33X06, based on the recommended interval of 0.79 additional RVUs above our proposed work RVU of 7.80 for CPT code 33X05. We also note that our proposed work RVU for CPT code 33X06 situates it approximately halfway between the two reference codes from the survey, with CPT code 33270 (Insertion or replacement of permanent subcutaneous implantable defibrillator system, with subcutaneous electrode, including defibrillation threshold evaluation, induction of arrhythmia, evaluation of sensing for arrhythmia termination, and programming or reprogramming of sensing or therapeutic parameters, when performed) having an intraservice time of 90 minutes and a work RVU of 9.10, and CPT code 33207 having an intraservice time of 60 minutes and a work RVU of 7.80. CPT code 33X06 has a surveyed intraservice time of 75 minutes and nearly splits the difference between them at our proposed work RVU of 8.59.

We are not proposing any direct PE refinements for this code family.

(15) PICC Line Procedures (CPT Codes 36568, 36569, 36X72, 36X73, and 36584)

In CY 2016, CPT code 36569 (Insertion of peripherally inserted central venous catheter (PICC), without subcutaneous port or pump, without imaging guidance; age 5 years or older) was identified as potentially misvalued using a high expenditure services screen across specialties with Medicare allowed charges of $10 million or more. CPT code 36569 is typically reported with CPT codes 76937 (Ultrasound guidance for vascular access requiring ultrasound evaluation of potential access sites, documentation of selected vessel patency, concurrent realtime ultrasound visualization of vascular needle entry, with permanent recording and reporting) and 77001 (Fluoroscopic guidance for central venous access device placement, replacement (catheter only or complete), or removal) and was referred to the CPT Editorial Panel to have the two common imaging codes bundled into the code. In September 2017, the CPT Editorial Panel revised CPT codes 36568 (Insertion of peripherally inserted central venous catheter (PICC), without subcutaneous port or pump; younger than 5 years of age), 36569 and 36584 (Replacement, complete, of a peripherally inserted central venous catheter (PICC), without subcutaneous port or pump, through same venous access, including all imaging guidance, image documentation, and all associated radiological supervision and interpretation required to perform the replacement) and created two new CPT codes to specify the insertion of peripherally inserted central venous catheter (PICC), without subcutaneous port or pump, including all imaging guidance, image documentation, and all associated radiological supervision and interpretation required to perform the insertion.

For CY 2019, we are proposing the RUC-recommended work RVU for two of the CPT codes in the family. We are proposing the RUC-recommended work RVU of 2.11 for CPT code 36568 and the RUC-recommended work RVU of 1.90 for CPT code 36569.

For CPT code 36X72 (Insertion of peripherally inserted central venous catheter (PICC), without subcutaneous port or pump, including all imaging guidance, image documentation, and all associated radiological supervision and interpretation required to perform the insertion; younger than 5 years of age), we disagree with the RUC-recommended work RVU of 2.00 and are proposing a work RVU of 1.82 based on a direct crosswalk to CPT code 50435 (Exchange nephrostomy catheter, percutaneous, including diagnostic nephrostogram and/or ureterogram when performed, imaging guidance (e.g., ultrasound and/or fluoroscopy) and all associated radiological supervision and interpretation). CPT code 50435 is a recently reviewed code that also includes radiological supervision and interpretation with similar intraservice and total time values. In our review of CPT code 36X72, we were concerned about the possibility that the recommended work RVU of 2.00 could create a rank order anomaly in terms of intensity with the other codes in the family. We noted that the recommended intraservice time for CPT code 36X72 as compared to CPT code 36568, the most similar code in the family, is decreasing from 38 minutes to 22 minutes (42 percent), and the recommended total time is decreasing from 71 minutes to 51 minutes (38 Start Printed Page 35752percent); however, the recommended work RVU is only decreasing from 2.11 to 2.00, which is a reduction of just over 5 percent. We also noted that CPT code 36X72 has a lower recommended intraservice time and total time as compared to CPT code 36569, yet has a higher recommended work RVU. Although we do not imply that the decreases in time as reflected in survey values must equate to a one-to-one or linear decrease in the valuation of work RVUs, we believe that since the two components of work are time and intensity, significant decreases in time should be reflected in decreases to work RVUs.

In the case of CPT code 36X72, we believe that it would be more accurate to propose a work RVU of 1.82 based on a crosswalk to CPT code 50435 to better fit with the recommended work RVUs for CPT codes 36568 and 36569. The proposed work valuation is also based on the use of three additional crosswalk codes: CPT code 32554 (Thoracentesis, needle or catheter, aspiration of the pleural space; without imaging guidance), CPT code 43198 (Esophagoscopy, flexible, transnasal; with biopsy, single or multiple), and CPT code 64644 (Chemodenervation of one extremity; 5 or more muscles). All of these codes were recently reviewed with similar intensity, intraservice time, and total time values, and all three of them also share a work RVU of 1.82.

For CPT code 36X73 (Insertion of peripherally inserted central venous catheter (PICC), without subcutaneous port or pump, including all imaging guidance, image documentation, and all associated radiological supervision and interpretation required to perform the insertion; age 5 years or older), we disagree with the RUC-recommended work RVU of 1.90 and are proposing a work RVU of 1.70 based on maintaining the current work RVU of CPT code 36569. In our review of CPT code 36X73, we were again concerned about the possibility that the recommended work RVU of 1.90 could create a rank order anomaly in terms of intensity with the other codes in the family. We noted that the recommended intraservice time for CPT code 36X73 as compared to CPT code 36569, the most similar code in the family, is decreasing from 27 minutes to 15 minutes (45 percent), and the recommended total time is decreasing from 60 minutes to 40 minutes (33 percent); however, the RUC-recommended work RVU is exactly the same for these two codes at 1.90. Although we do not imply that the decreases in time as reflected in survey values must equate to a one-to-one or linear decrease in the valuation of work RVUs, we believe that since the two components of work are time and intensity, significant decreases in time should be reflected in decreases to work RVUs.

In the case of CPT code 36X73, we believe that it would be more accurate to propose a work RVU of 1.70 based on maintaining the current work RVU of CPT code 36569. These two CPT codes describe the same procedure done with (CPT code 36X73) and without (CPT code 35659) imaging guidance and radiological supervision and interpretation. Because the inclusion of the imaging described by CPT code 36X73 has now become the typical case for this service, we believe that it is more accurate to maintain the current work RVU of 1.70 as opposed to increasing the work RVU to 1.90, especially considering that the new surveyed work time for CPT code 36X73 is lower than the current work time for CPT code 36569. The proposed work RVU of 1.70 is also based on a crosswalk to CPT code 36556 (Insertion of non-tunneled centrally inserted central venous catheter; age 5 years or older). This is a recently reviewed code with the same 15 minutes of intraservice time and the same 40 minutes of total time with a work RVU of 1.75.

For CPT code 36584, we disagree with the RUC-recommended work RVU of 1.47 and are proposing a work RVU of 1.20 based on maintaining the current work RVU. We note that the recommended intraservice time for CPT code 36584 is decreasing from 15 minutes to 12 minutes (20 percent reduction), and the recommended total time is decreasing from 45 minutes to 34 minutes (25 percent reduction); however, the recommended work RVU is increasing from 1.20 to 1.47, an increase of approximately 23 percent. Although we do not imply that the decreases in time as reflected in survey values must equate to a one-to-one or linear decrease in the valuation of work RVUs, we believe that since the two components of work are time and intensity, significant decreases in time should be reflected in decreases to work RVUs. We are especially concerned when the recommended work RVU is increasing despite survey results indicating that the work time is decreasing due to a combination of improving technology and greater efficiencies in practice patterns.

In the case of CPT code 36584, we believe that it would be more accurate to propose a work RVU of 1.20 based on maintaining the current work RVU for the code. Because the inclusion of the imaging has now become the typical case for this service, we believe that it is more accurate to maintain the current work RVU of 1.20 as opposed to increasing the work RVU to 1.47, especially considering that the new surveyed work time for CPT code 36584 is decreasing from the current work time. The proposed work RVU of 1.20 is also based on a crosswalk to CPT code 40490 (Biopsy of lip), which has the same total time of 34 minutes and slightly higher intraservice time at a work RVU of 1.22.

We note that the RUC-recommended work pool is increasing by approximately 68 percent for the PICC Line Procedures family as a whole, while the RUC-recommended work time pool for the same codes is only increasing by about 22 percent. Since time is defined as one of the two components of work, we believe that this indicates a discrepancy in the recommended work values. We do not believe that the recoding of the services in this family has resulted in an increase in their intensity, only a change in the way in which they will be reported, and therefore, we do not believe that it would serve the interests of relativity to propose the RUC-recommended work values for all of the codes in this family. We believe that, generally speaking, the recoding of a family of services should maintain the same total work pool, as the services themselves are not changing, only the coding structure under which they are being reported. We also note that, through the bundling of some of these frequently reported services, it is reasonable to expect that the new coding system will achieve savings via elimination of duplicative assumptions of the resources involved in furnishing particular servicers. For example, a practitioner would not be carrying out the full preservice work three times for CPT codes 36568, 76937, and 77001, but preservice times were assigned to all of the codes under the old coding. We believe the new coding assigns more accurate work times and thus reflects efficiencies in resource costs that existed but were not reflected in the services as they were previously reported.

For the direct PE inputs, we are proposing to refine the clinical labor time for the “Prepare, set-up and start IV, initial positioning and monitoring of patient” (CA016) activity from 4 minutes to 2 minutes for CPT codes 36X72 and 36X73. We note that the two reference codes for the two new codes, CPT codes 36568 and 36569, currently have 2 minutes assigned for this activity, and CPT code 36584 also has a recommended 2 minutes assigned to this same activity. We do not agree that the patient positioning would take twice Start Printed Page 35753as long for CPT codes 36X72 and 36X73 as compared to the rest of the family, and are therefore refining both of them to the same 2 minutes of clinical labor time. We are also proposing to refine the equipment times in accordance with our standard equipment time formulas.

(16) Biopsy or Excision of Inguinofemoral Node(s) (CPT Code 3853X)

In September 2017, the CPT Editorial Panel created a new code to describe biopsy or excision of inguinofemoral node(s). A parenthetical was added to CPT codes 56630 (Vulvectomy, radical, partial) and 56633 (Vulvectomy, radical, complete) to instruct separate reporting of code 3853X with radical vulvectomy. This service was previously reported with unlisted codes.

CPT code 3853X (Biopsy or excision of lymph node(s); open, inguinofemoral node(s)) is a new CPT code describing a lymph node biopsy without complete lymphadenectomy. The RUC recommended a work RVU of 6.74 for CPT code 3853X, with 223 minutes of total time and 65 minutes of intraservice time. We propose the RUC-recommended work RVU of 6.74 for CPT code 3853X. However, we are concerned that this CPT code is described as having a 10-day global period. The two CPT codes that are often reported together with this code, CPT code 56630 (Vulvectomy, radical, partial) and CPT code 56633 (Vulvectomy, radical, complete), are both 90-day global codes. In addition, CPT code 3853X has a discharge visit and two follow up visits in the global period. This is consistent with the number of postoperative visits typically associated with 90-day global codes. Therefore, we propose to assign a 90-day global indicator for CPT code 3853X rather than the 10-day global time period reflected in the RUC recommendation.

We are not proposing any direct PE refinements for this code family.

(17) Radioactive Tracer (CPT Code 38792)

CPT code 38792 (Injection procedure; radioactive tracer for identification of sentinel node) was identified as potentially misvalued on a screen of codes with a negative intraservice work per unit of time (IWPUT), with 2016 estimated Medicare utilization over 10,000 for RUC reviewed codes and over 1,000 for Harvard valued and CMS/Other source codes. For CY 2019, we are proposing the RUC-recommended work RVU of 0.65 for CPT code 38792.

For the direct PE inputs, we are proposing to refine the clinical labor time for the “Prepare room, equipment and supplies” (CA013) activity to 3 minutes and to refine the clinical labor time for the “Confirm order, protocol exam” (CA014) activity to 0 minutes. CPT code 38792, as well as its alternate reference code 78300 (Bone and/or joint imaging; limited area), both did not previously have clinical labor time assigned for the “Confirm order, protocol exam” clinical labor task, and we do not have any reason to believe that the services being furnished by the clinical staff have changed, only the way in which this clinical labor time has been presented on the PE worksheets. We also note that there is no effect on the total clinical labor direct costs in these situations, since the same 3 minutes of clinical labor time is still being furnished. We are also proposing to refine the equipment times in accordance with our standard equipment time formulas.

(18) Percutaneous Change of G-Tube (CPT Code 43760)

CPT code 43760 (Change of gastrostomy tube, percutaneous, without imaging or endoscopic guidance) was identified as potentially misvalued on a screen of 0-day global services reported with an E/M visit 50 percent of the time or more, on the same day of service by the same patient and the same practitioner, that have not been reviewed in the last 5 years with Medicare utilization greater than 20,000. It was surveyed for the April 2017 RUC meeting and recommendations for work and direct PE inputs were submitted to CMS. However, the RUC also noted that because the data for CPT code 43760 were bimodal, it might be appropriate to consider changes in the CPT descriptors to better differentiate physician work. In September 2017, the CPT Editorial Panel deleted CPT code 43760 and will use two new codes (43X63 and 43X64) that describe replacement of gastrostomy tube, with and without revision of gastrostomy tract, respectively. (See below.) Therefore, we are not proposing work or direct PE values for CPT code 43760.

(19) Gastrostomy Tube Replacement (CPT Codes 43X63 and 43X64)

In September 2017, the CPT Editorial Panel created two new codes that describe replacement of gastrostomy tube, with and without revision of gastrostomy tract, respectively. These two new codes were surveyed for the January 2018 RUC meeting and recommendations for work and direct PE inputs were submitted to CMS.

We are proposing a work RVU of 0.75 for CPT code 43X63 (Replacement of gastrostomy tube, percutaneous, includes removal, when performed, without imaging or endoscopic guidance; not requiring revision of gastrostomy tract.) and a work RVU of 1.41 for CPT code 43X64 (Replacement of gastrostomy tube, percutaneous, includes removal, when performed, without imaging or endoscopic guidance; requiring revision of gastrostomy tract.), consistent with the RUC's recommendations for these new CPT codes.

For the direct PE inputs, we are proposing to refine the equipment times in accordance with our standard equipment time formulas.

(20) Diagnostic Proctosigmoidoscopy—Rigid (CPT Code 45300)

CPT code 45300 (Proctosigmoidoscopy, rigid; diagnostic, with or without collection of specimen(s) by brushing or washing (separate procedure)) was identified as potentially misvalued on a screen of 0-day global services reported with an E/M visit 50 percent of the time or more, on the same day of service by the same patient and the same practitioner, that have not been reviewed in the last 5 years with Medicare utilization greater than 20,000. For CY 2019, we are proposing the RUC-recommended work RVU of 0.80 for CPT code 45300.

For the direct PE inputs, we are proposing to refine the equipment times in accordance with our standard equipment time formulas.

(21) Hemorrhoid Injection (CPT Code 46500)

CPT code 46500 (Injection of sclerosing solution, hemorrhoids) was identified as potentially misvalued on a screen of codes with a negative intraservice work per unit of time (IWPUT), with 2016 estimated Medicare utilization over 10,000 for RUC reviewed codes and over 1,000 for Harvard valued and CMS/Other source codes.

For CPT code 46500, we disagree with the RUC-recommended work RVU of 2.00 and we are proposing a work RVU of 1.74 based on a direct crosswalk to CPT code 68811 (Probing of nasolacrimal duct, with or without irrigation; requiring general anesthesia). This is another recently-reviewed 10-day global code with the same 10 minutes of intraservice time and slightly higher total time. When CPT code 46500 was previously reviewed as described in the CY 2016 PFS final rule with comment period (80 FR 70963), we finalized a proposal to reduce the work RVU from 1.69 to 1.42, which reduced the work RVU by the same ratio as the Start Printed Page 35754reduction in the total work time. In light of the additional evidence provided by this new survey, we agree that the work RVU should be increased from the current value of 1.42. However, we believe that our proposed work RVU of 1.74 based on a crosswalk to CPT code 68811 is more accurate than the RUC-recommended work RVU of 2.00.

In the most recent survey of CPT code 46500, the intraservice work time remained unchanged at 10 minutes while the total time increased by only 2 minutes, increasing from 59 minutes to 61 minutes (3 percent). However, the RUC-recommended work RVU is increasing from 1.42 to 2.00, an increase of 41 percent, and also an increase of 19 percent over the historic value of 1.69 for CPT code 46500. Although we do not imply that the increase in time as reflected in survey values must equate to a one-to-one or linear increase in the valuation of work RVUs, we believe that since the two components of work are time and intensity, minimal increases in surveyed work time typically should not be reflected in disproportionately large increases to work RVUs. In the case of CPT code 46500, we believe that our crosswalk to CPT code 68811 at a work RVU of 1.74 more accurately maintains relativity with other 10-day global codes on the PFS. We also note that the 3 percent increase in surveyed work time for CPT code 46500 matches a 3 percent increase in the historic work RVU of the code, from 1.69 to 1.74. Therefore, we are proposing a work RVU of 1.74 for CPT code 46500 based on the aforementioned crosswalk.

For the direct PE inputs, we are proposing to remove 10 minutes of clinical labor time for the “Assist physician or other qualified healthcare professional—directly related to physician work time (100%)” (CA018) activity. This clinical labor time is listed twice in the recommendations along with a statement that although the clinical labor has not changed from prior reviews, time for both clinical staff members was inadvertently not included in the previous spreadsheets. We appreciate this notification in the recommendations, and therefore, we are asking for more information about why the clinical labor associated with this additional staff member was left out for previous reviews. We are particularly interested in knowing what activities the additional staff member would be undertaking during the procedure. We are proposing to remove the clinical labor associated with this additional clinical staff member pending the receipt of additional information. We are also proposing to remove 1 impervious staff gown (SB027), 1 surgical mask with face shield (SB034), and 1 pair of shoe covers (SB039) pending more information about the additional clinical staff member.

We are proposing to remove the clinical labor time for the “Review home care instructions, coordinate visits/prescriptions” (CA035) activity. CPT code 46500 is typically billed with a same day E/M service, and we believe that it would be duplicative to assign clinical labor time for reviewing home care instructions given that this task would typically be done during the same day E/M service. We are also proposing to refine the equipment times in accordance with our standard equipment time formulas.

(22) Removal of Intraperitoneal Catheter (CPT Code 49422)

In October 2016, CPT code 49422 (Removal of tunneled intraperitoneal catheter) was identified as a site of service anomaly because Medicare data from 2012-2014 indicated that it was performed less than 50 percent of the time in the inpatient setting, yet included inpatient hospital E/M services within the 10-day global period. The code was resurveyed using a 0-day global period for the April 2017 RUC meeting. For CY 2019, we are proposing the RUC-recommended work RVU of 4.00 for CPT code 49422.

We are not proposing any direct PE refinements for this code family.

(23) Dilation of Urinary Tract (CPT Codes 50X39, 50X40, 52334, and 74485)

In October 2014, the CPT Editorial Panel deleted six codes and created twelve new codes to describe genitourinary catheter procedures and bundle inherent imaging services. In January 2015, the specialty societies indicated that CPT code 50395 (Introduction of guide into renal pelvis and/or ureter with dilation to establish nephrostomy tract, percutaneous), which was identified as part of the family, would be referred to the CPT Editorial Panel to clear up any confusion with overlap in physician work with CPT code 50432 (Placement of nephrostomy catheter, percutaneous, including diagnostic nephrostogram and/or ureterogram when performed, imaging guidance (e.g., ultrasound and/or fluoroscopy) and all associated radiological supervision and interpretation). In September 2017, the CPT Editorial Panel deleted CPT code 50395 and created two new codes to report dilation of existing tract, and establishment of new access to the collecting system, including percutaneous, for an endourologic procedure including imaging guidance(e.g., ultrasound and/or fluoroscopy), all associated radiological supervision and interpretation, as well as post procedure tube placement when performed.

The specialty society surveyed the new CPT code 50X39 (Dilation of existing tract, percutaneous, for an endourologic procedure including imaging guidance (e.g., ultrasound and/or fluoroscopy) and all associated radiological supervision and interpretation, as well as post procedure tube placement, when performed), and the RUC recommended a total time of 70 minutes, intraservice time of 30 minutes, and a work RVU of 3.37. The RUC indicated that its recommended work RVU for this CPT code is identical to the work RVU of the CPT code being deleted, even though imaging guidance CPT code 74485 has now been bundled into the valuation of the CPT code. The RUC provided two key reference CPT codes to support its recommendation: CPT code 50694 (Placement of ureteral stent, percutaneous, including diagnostic nephrostogram and/or ureterogram when performed, imaging guidance (e.g., ultrasound and/or fluoroscopy), and all associated radiological supervision and interpretation; new access, without separate nephrostomy catheter) with total time of 111 minutes, intraservice time of 62 minutes, and a work RVU of 5.25; and CPT code 50695 (Placement of ureteral stent, percutaneous, including diagnostic nephrostogram and/or ureterogram when performed, imaging guidance (e.g., ultrasound and/or fluoroscopy), and all associated radiological supervision and interpretation; new access, with separate nephrostomy catheter), with total time of 124 minutes and intraservice time of 75 minutes, and a work RVU of 6.80. To further support its recommendation, the RUC also referenced CPT code 52287 (Cystourethroscopy, with injection(s) for chemodenervation of the bladder) with total time of 58 minutes, intraservice time of 21 minutes, and a work RVU of 3.37. We disagree with the RUC that the work RVU for this CPT code should be the same as the CPT code being deleted. Survey respondents indicated that the total time for completing the service described by the new CPT code is nearly 30 minutes less than the existing CPT code, even though imaging guidance was described as part of the procedure. We also note that the reference CPT codes both have substantially higher total and intraservice times than CPT code 50X39. We considered a number of parameters to arrive at our proposed work RVU of 2.78, supported by a Start Printed Page 35755crosswalk to CPT code 31646 (Bronchoscopy, rigid or flexible, including fluoroscopic guidance, when performed; with therapeutic aspiration of tracheobronchial tree, subsequent, same hospital stay). We examined the intraservice time ratio for the new CPT code in relation to the combination of CPT codes that the service represents and found that this would support a work RVU of 2.55. We also calculated the intraservice time ratio for the new CPT code in relation to each of the two reference CPT codes. For the comparison with CPT code 50694, the intraservice time ratio is 2.54, while the comparison with the second reference CPT code 50695 yields an intraservice time ratio of 2.72. We took the highest of these three values, 2.72, and found a corresponding crosswalk that we believe appropriately values the service described by the new CPT code. Therefore, we are proposing a work RVU of 2.78 for CPT code 50X39.

The specialty society also surveyed the new CPT code 50X40 (Dilation of existing tract, percutaneous, for an endourologic procedure including imaging guidance (e.g., ultrasound and/or fluoroscopy) and all associated radiological supervision and interpretation, as well as post procedure tube placement, when performed; including new access into the renal collecting system) and the RUC recommended a total time of 100 minutes, an intraservice time of 60 minutes, and a work RVU of 5.44. The recommended intraservice time of 60 minutes reflects the 75th percentile of survey results, rather than the median survey time, which is typically used for determining the intraservice time for new CPT codes. The RUC justified the use of the higher intraservice time because they believe the time better represents the additional time needed to introduce the guidewire into the renal pelvis and/or ureter, above and beyond the work involved in performing CPT code 50X39. The RUC compared this CPT code to CPT code 52235 (Cystourethroscopy, with fulguration (including cryosurgery or laser surgery) and/or resection of; MEDIUM bladder tumor(s) (2.0 to 5.0 cm)), with total time of 94 minutes, intraservice time of 45 minutes, and a work RVU of 5.44. The RUC also cited, as support, the second key reference CPT code 50694 (Placement of ureteral stent, percutaneous, including diagnostic nephrostogram and/or ureterogram when performed, imaging guidance (e.g., ultrasound and/or fluoroscopy), and all associated radiological supervision and interpretation; new access, without separate nephrostomy catheter) with total time 111 minutes, intraservice time 62 minutes, and a work RVU of 5.25. We do not agree with the RUC's recommended work RVU because we believe that the intraservice time for this CPT code should reflect the survey median rather than the 75th percentile. There is no indication that the additional work of imaging guidance was systematically excluded by survey respondents when estimating the time needed to furnish the service. Therefore, we are proposing to reduce the intraservice time for CPT code 50X40 from the RUC-recommended 60 minutes to the survey median time of 45 minutes. We note that this is still 15 minutes more than the intraservice time for CPT code 50X39, primarily for the provider to introduce the guidewire into the renal pelvis and/or ureter. We welcome comments about the amount of time needed to furnish this procedure. With the revised intraservice time of 45 minutes and a total time of 85 minutes, we believe that the RUC-recommended work RVU for this CPT code is overstated. When we apply the increment between the RUC-recommended values for between CPT codes 50X39 and 50X40 (2.07 work RVUs) in addition to our proposed work RVU for CPT code 50X39, we estimate that this CPT code is more accurately represented by a work RVU of 4.83. This value is supported by a crosswalk to CPT code 36902 (Introduction of needle(s) and/or catheter(s), dialysis circuit, with diagnostic angiography of the dialysis circuit, including all direct puncture(s) and catheter placement(s), injection(s) of contrast, all necessary imaging from the arterial anastomosis and adjacent artery through entire venous outflow including the inferior or superior vena cava, fluoroscopic guidance, radiological supervision and interpretation and image documentation and report; with transluminal balloon angioplasty, peripheral dialysis segment, including all imaging and radiological supervision and interpretation necessary to perform the angioplasty), which has intraservice time of 40 minutes and total time of 86 minutes. We believe that CPT code 36902 describes a service that is similar to the new CPT code 50X40) and therefore provides a reasonable crosswalk. We are proposing a work RVU of 4.83 for CPT code 50X40.

We are proposing the RUC-recommended work RVU of 3.37 for CPT code 52334 (Cystourethroscopy with insertion of ureteral guide wire through kidney to establish a percutaneous nephrostomy, retrograde) and the RUC-recommended work RVU of 0.83 for CPT code 74485 (Dilation of ureter(s) or urethra, radiological supervision and interpretation).

For the direct PE inputs, we are proposing to remove the clinical labor time for the “Confirm availability of prior images/studies” (CA006) activity for CPT code 52334. This code does not currently include this clinical labor time, and unlike the two new codes in the family (CPT codes 50X39 and 50X40), CPT code 52234 does not include imaging guidance in its code descriptor. When CPT code 52234 is performed with imaging guidance, it would be billed together with a separate imaging code that already includes clinical labor time for confirming the availability of prior images. As a result, we believe that it would be duplicative to include this clinical labor time in CPT code 52234.

(24) Transurethral Destruction of Prostate Tissue (CPT Codes 53850, 53852, and 538X3)

In September 2017, the CPT Editorial Panel created a new code (CPT code 538X3) to report transurethral destruction of prostate tissue by radiofrequency-generated water vapor thermotherapy. CPT codes 53850 (Transurethral destruction of prostate tissue; by microwave thermotherapy) and 53852 (Transurethral destruction of prostate tissue; by radiofrequency thermotherapy) were also included for review as part of the same family of codes.

For CPT code 53850 (Transurethral destruction of prostate tissue; by microwave thermotherapy), the RUC- recommended a work RVU of 5.42, supported by a direct crosswalk to CPT code 33272 (Removal of subcutaneous implantable defibrillator electrode) with a total time of 151 minutes, intraservice time of 45 minutes, and a work RVU of 5.42. The RUC indicated that a work RVU of 5.42 accurately reflects the lowest value of the three CPT codes in this family. We are proposing the work RVU of 5.42 for CPT code 53850, as recommended by the RUC.

The RUC recommended a work RVU of 5.93 for CPT code 53852 (Transurethral destruction of prostate tissue; by radiofrequency thermotherapy) and for CPT code 538X3 (Transurethral destruction of prostate tissue; by radiofrequency generated water vapor thermotherapy). We are proposing the RUC-recommended value of 5.93 for CPT code 53852.

CPT code 538X3 (Transurethral destruction of prostate tissue; by radiofrequency generated water vapor thermotherapy) is a service reflecting Start Printed Page 35756the use of a new technology, “radiofrequency generated water vapor thermotherapy,” as distinct from CPT code 53852, which describes destruction of tissue by “radiofrequency thermotherapy.” The RUC indicated that this CPT code is the most intense of the three CPT codes in this family, thereby justifying a work RVU identical to that of CPT code 53852 despite lower intraservice and total times. The RUC stated that 15 minutes of post service time is appropriate due to greater occurrence of post-procedure hematuria necessitating a longer monitoring time. However, the post-service monitoring time for this CPT code, 15 minutes, is identical to that for CPT code 53852. We do not agree with the explanation provided by the RUC for recommending a work RVU identical to that of CPT code 53852, given that the total time is 5 minutes lower, and the post service times are identical. Both the intraservice time ratio between this new CPT code and CPT code 53852 (4.94) and the total time ratio between the two CPT codes (5.72) suggest that the RUC-recommended work RVU of 5.93 overestimates the work involved in furnishing this service. We reviewed other 90-day global CPT codes with similar times and identified CPT code 24071 (Excision, tumor, soft tissue of upper arm or elbow area, subcutaneous; 3 cm or greater) with a total time of 183 minutes, intraservice time of 45 minutes, and a work RVU of 5.70 as an appropriate crosswalk. We believe that this is a better reflection of the work involved in furnishing CPT code 538X3, and therefore, we are proposing a work RVU of 5.70 for this CPT code. We welcome comments about the time and intensity required to furnish this new service. Since this CPT code reflects the use of a new technology, it will be reviewed again in 3 years.

For the direct PE inputs, we are proposing to add a new supply (SA128: “kit, Rezum delivery device”), a new equipment item (EQ389: “generator, water thermotherapy procedure”), and updating the price of two supplies (SA036: “kit, transurethral microwave thermotherapy” and SA037: “kit, transurethral needle ablation (TUNA)”) in response to the submission of invoices. We note that these invoices were submitted along with additional information listing the vendor discount for these supplies and equipment. We appreciate the inclusion of the discounted prices on these invoices, and we encourage other invoice submissions to provide the discounted price as well where available. Based on the market research on supply and equipment pricing carried out by our contractors, we have reason to believe that a vendor discount of 10-15 percent is common on many supplies and equipment. Since we are obligated by statute to establish RVUs for each service as required based on the resource inputs required to furnish the typical case of a service, we have concerns that relying on invoices for supply and equipment pricing absent these vendor discounts may overestimate the resource cost of some services. We encourage the submission of additional invoices that include the discounted price of supplies and equipment to more accurately assess the market cost of these resources. Furthermore, we refer readers to our discussion of the market-based supply and equipment pricing update detailed in section II.B. of this proposed rule.

(25) Vaginal Treatments (CPT Codes 57150 and 57160)

CPT codes 57150 (Irrigation of vagina and/or application of medicament for treatment of bacterial, parasitic, or fungoid disease) and 57160 (Fitting and insertion of pessary or other intravaginal support device) were identified as potentially misvalued on a screen of 0-day global services reported with an E/M visit 50 percent of the time or more, on the same day of service by the same patient and the same practitioner, that have not been reviewed in the last 5 years with Medicare utilization greater than 20,000. For CY 2019, we are proposing the RUC-recommended work RVU of 0.50 for CPT code 57150 and the RUC-recommended work RVU of 0.89 for CPT code 57160.

We are not proposing any direct PE refinements for this code family.

(26) Biopsy of Uterus Lining (CPT Codes 58100 and 58110)

CPT code 58100 (Endometrial sampling (biopsy) with or without endocervical sampling (biopsy), without cervical dilation, any method) was identified as potentially misvalued on a screen of 0-day global services reported with an E/M visit 50 percent of the time or more, on the same day of service by the same patient and the same practitioner, that have not been reviewed in the last 5 years with Medicare utilization greater than 20,000. CPT code 58110 (Endometrial sampling (biopsy) performed in conjunction with colposcopy) was also included for review as part of the same family of codes. For CY 2019, we are proposing the RUC-recommended work RVU of 1.21 for CPT code 58100 and the RUC-recommended work RVU of 0.77 for CPT code 58110.

For the direct PE inputs, we are proposing to remove the clinical labor time for the “Review/read post-procedure x-ray, lab and pathology reports” (CA028) activity for CPT code 58100. This code is typically billed with a same day E/M service, and we believe that it would be duplicative to assign clinical labor time for reviewing reports given that this task would typically be done during the same day E/M service. We are also proposing to refine the equipment times in accordance with our standard equipment time formulas.

(27) Injection Greater Occipital Nerve (CPT Code 64405)

CPT code 64405 (Injection, anesthetic agent; greater occipital nerve) was identified as potentially misvalued on a screen of 0-day global services reported with an E/M visit 50 percent of the time or more, on the same day of service by the same patient and the same practitioner, that have not been reviewed in the last 5 years with Medicare utilization greater than 20,000. For CY 2019, we are proposing the RUC-recommended work RVU of 0.94 for CPT code 64405.

For the direct PE inputs, we are proposing to refine the equipment time for the exam table (EF023) in accordance with our standard equipment time formulas.

(28) Injection Digital Nerves (CPT Code 64455)

CPT code 64455 (Injection(s), anesthetic agent and/or steroid, plantar common digital nerve(s) (e.g., Morton's neuroma)) was identified as potentially misvalued on a screen of 0-day global services reported with an E/M visit 50 percent of the time or more, on the same day of service by the same patient and the same practitioner, that have not been reviewed in the last 5 years with Medicare utilization greater than 20,000. For CY 2019, we are proposing the RUC-recommended work RVU of 0.75 for CPT code 64455.

For the direct PE inputs, we are proposing to refine the equipment time for the exam table (EF023) in accordance with our standard equipment time formulas.

(29) Removal of Foreign Body—Eye (CPT Codes 65205 and 65210)

CPT codes 65205 (Removal of foreign body, external eye; conjunctival superficial) and 65210 (Removal of foreign body, external eye; conjunctival embedded (includes concretions), subconjunctival, or scleral nonperforating) were identified as potentially misvalued on a screen of 0-day global services reported with an Start Printed Page 35757E/M visit 50 percent of the time or more, on the same day of service by the same patient and the same practitioner, that have not been reviewed in the last 5 years with Medicare utilization greater than 20,000.

For CY 2019, we are proposing the RUC-recommended work RVU of 0.49 for CPT code 65205. We note that the recommendations for this code included a statement that the work required to perform CPT code 65205 and the procedure itself had not fundamentally changed since the time of the last review. However, due to the fact that the surveyed intraservice time had decreased from 5 minutes to 3 minutes, the work RVU was lowered from the current value of 0.71 to the recommended work RVU of 0.49, based on a direct crosswalk to CPT code 68200 (Subconjunctival injection). We note that this recommendation appears to have been developed under a methodology similar to our ongoing use of time ratios as one of several methods used to evaluate work. We used time ratios to identify potential work RVUs and considered these work RVUs as potential options relative to the values developed through other options. As we have stated in past rulemaking (such as 82 FR 53032-53033), we do not imply that the decrease in time as reflected in survey values must equate to a one-to-one or linear decrease in newly valued work RVUs, as indeed it does not in the case of CPT code 65205 here. Instead, we believed that, since the two components of work are time and intensity, significant decreases in time should be reflected in decreases to work RVUs. We appreciate that the RUC-recommended work RVU for CPT code 65205 has taken these changes in work time into account, and we support the use of similar methodologies, where appropriate, in future work valuations.

For CPT code 65210, we disagree with the RUC-recommended work RVU of 0.75 and we are proposing a work RVU of 0.61 based on a direct crosswalk to CPT code 92511 (Nasopharyngoscopy with endoscope). This crosswalk code has the same intraservice time of 5 minutes and 4 additional minutes of total time as compared to CPT code 65210. We note that the recommended intraservice time for CPT code 65210 is decreasing from 13 minutes to 5 minutes (62 percent reduction), and the recommended total time for CPT code 65210 is decreasing from 25 minutes to 13 minutes (48 percent reduction); however, the RUC-recommended work RVU is only decreasing from 0.84 to 0.75, which is a reduction of about 11 percent. As we noted earlier, we do not believe that the decrease in time as reflected in survey values must equate to a one-to-one or linear decrease in the valuation of work RVUs, and we are not proposing a linear decrease in the work valuation based on these time ratios. However, we believe that since the two components of work are time and intensity, significant decreases in time should be reflected in decreases to work RVUs, and we do not believe that the recommended work RVU of 0.75 appropriately reflects these decreases in surveyed work time.

Our proposed work RVU of 0.61 is also based on a crosswalk to CPT code 51700 (Bladder irrigation, simple, lavage and/or instillation), another recently reviewed code with higher time values and a work RVU of 0.60. We also note that two injection codes (CPT codes 20551 and 64455) were reviewed at the same RUC meeting as CPT code 65210, each of which shared the same intraservice time of 5 minutes and had a higher total time of 21 minutes. Both of these codes had a RUC-recommended work RVU of 0.75, which we are proposing without refinement for CY 2019. Due to the fact that CPT code 65210 has a lower total time and a lower intensity than both of these injection procedures, we did not agree that CPT code 65210 should be valued at the same work RVU of 0.75. We believe that our proposed work RVU of 0.61 based on a crosswalk to CPT code 92511 is a more accurate value for this code.

For the direct PE inputs, we noted that the RUC-recommended equipment time for the screening lane (EL006) equipment in CPT codes 65205 and 65210 was equal to the total work time in addition to the clinical labor time needed to set up and clean the equipment. We disagree that the screening lane would typically be in use for the total work time, given that this includes the preservice evaluation time and the immediate postservice time. Although we are not currently proposing to refine the equipment time for the screening lane in these two codes, we are soliciting comments on whether the use of the intraservice work time would be more typical than the total work time for CPT codes 65205 and 65210.

(30) Injection—Eye (CPT Codes 67500, 67505, and 67515)

CPT code 67515 (Injection of medication or other substance into Tenon's capsule) was identified as potentially misvalued on a screen of 0-day global services reported with an E/M visit 50 percent of the time or more, on the same day of service by the same patient and the same practitioner, that have not been reviewed in the last 5 years with Medicare utilization greater than 20,000. CPT codes 67500 (Retrobulbar injection; medication (separate procedure, does not include supply of medication)) and 67505 (Retrobulbar injection; alcohol) were also included for review as part of the same family of codes. For CY 2019, we are proposing the RUC-recommended work RVU of 1.18 for CPT code 67500.

For CPT code 67505, we disagree with the RUC-recommended work RVU of 1.18 and we are proposing a work RVU of 0.94 based on a direct crosswalk to CPT code 31575 (Laryngoscopy, flexible; diagnostic). This is a recently reviewed code with the same intraservice time of 5 minutes and 2 fewer minutes of total time as compared to CPT code 67505. We disagreed with the recommendation to propose the same work RVU of 1.18 for both CPT code 67500 and 67505 for several reasons. We noted that the current work RVU of 1.44 for CPT code 67500 is higher than the current work RVU of 1.27 for CPT code 67505, while the current work time of CPT code 67500 is less than the current work time for CPT code 67505. This supported the view that CPT code 67500 should be valued higher than CPT code 67505 due to its greater intensity, which we also found to be supportable on clinical grounds. The typical patient for CPT code 67505 has already lost their sight, and there is less of a concern about accidental blindness as compared to CPT code 67500. At the recommended identical work RVUs, CPT code 67500 has almost triple the intensity of CPT code 67505. Similarly, the intensity does not match our clinical understanding of the complexity and difficulty of the two procedures.

We also noted that the surveyed total time for CPT code 67505 was 7 minutes less than the surveyed time for CPT code 67500, approximately 21 percent lower. If we were to take the total time ratio between the two codes, it would produce a suggested work RVU of 0.93 (26 minutes divided by 33 minutes times a work RVU of 1.18). This time ratio suggested a work RVU almost identical to the 0.94 value that we determined via a crosswalk to CPT code 31575. Based on the preceding rationale, we are proposing a work RVU of 0.94 for CPT code 67505.

For CPT code 67515, we disagree with the RUC-recommended work RVU of 0.84 and we are proposing a work RVU of 0.75 based on a crosswalk to CPT code 64450 (Injection, anesthetic agent; other peripheral nerve or branch). The recommended work RVU is based on a direct crosswalk to CPT code 65222 (Removal of foreign body, external eye; Start Printed Page 35758corneal, with slit lamp) at a work RVU of 0.84. However, the recommended crosswalk code has more than double the intraservice time of CPT code 67515 at 7 minutes, and we believe that it would be more accurate to use a crosswalk to a code with a more similar intraservice time such as CPT code 64450, which is another type of injection procedure. The proposed work RVU of 0.75 is also based on the use of the intraservice time ratio with the first code in the family, CPT code 67500. The intraservice time ratio between these codes is 0.60 (3 minutes divided by 5 minutes), which yields a suggested work RVU of 0.71 when multiplied by the recommended work RVU of 1.18 for CPT code 67500. We believe that this provides further rationale for our proposed work RVU of 0.75 for CPT code 67515.

We are not proposing any direct PE refinements for this code family.

(31) X-Ray Spine (CPT Codes 72020, 72040, 72050, 72052, 72070, 72072, 72074, 72080, 72100, 72110, 72114, and 72120)

CPT codes 72020 (Radiologic examination, spine, single view, specify level) and 72072 (Radiologic examination, spine; thoracic, 3 views) were identified on a screen of CMS or Other source codes with Medicare utilization greater than 100,000 services annually. The code family was expanded to include ten additional CPT codes to be reviewed together as a group: CPT codes 72040 (Radiologic examination, spine, cervical; 2 or 3 views), 72050 (Radiologic examination, spine, cervical; 4 or 5 views), 72052 (Radiologic examination, spine, cervical; 6 or more views), 72070 (Radiologic examination, spine; thoracic, 2 views), 72074 (Radiologic examination, spine; thoracic, minimum of 4 views), 72080 (Radiologic examination, spine; thoracolumbar junction, minimum of 2 views), 72100 (Radiologic examination, spine, lumbosacral; 2 or 3 views), 72110 (Radiologic examination, spine, lumbosacral; minimum of 4 views), 72114 (Radiologic examination, spine, lumbosacral; complete, including bending views, minimum of 6 views), and 72120 (Radiologic examination, spine, lumbosacral; bending views only, 2 or 3 views).

The radiologic examination procedures described by CPT codes 72020 (Radiologic examination, spine, single view, specify level), 72040 (Radiologic examination, spine, cervical; 2 or 3 views), 72050 (Radiologic examination, spine, cervical; 4 or 5 views), 72052 (Radiologic examination, spine, cervical; 6 or more views), 72070 (Radiologic examination, spine; thoracic, 2 views), 72072 (Radiologic examination, spine; thoracic, 3 views), 72074 (Radiologic examination, spine; thoracic, minimum of 4 views), 72080 (Radiologic examination, spine; thoracolumbar junction, minimum of 2 views), 72100 (Radiologic examination, spine, lumbosacral; 2 or 3 views), 72110 (Radiologic examination, spine, lumbosacral; minimum of 4 views), 72114 (Radiologic examination, spine, lumbosacral; complete, including bending views, minimum of 6 views), 72120 (Radiologic examination, spine, lumbosacral; bending views only, 2 or 3 views), 72200 (Radiologic examination, sacroiliac joints; less than 3 views), 72202 (Radiologic examination, sacroiliac joints; 3 or more views), 72220 (Radiologic examination, sacrum and coccyx, minimum of 2 views), 73070 (Radiologic examination, elbow; 2 views), 73080 (Radiologic examination, elbow; complete, minimum of 3 views), 73090 (Radiologic examination; forearm, 2 views), 73650 (Radiologic examination; calcaneus, minimum of 2 views), and 73660 (Radiologic examination; toe(s), minimum of 2 views) were all identified as potentially misvalued through a screen for CPT codes with high utilization. With approval from the RUC Research Subcommittee, the specialty societies responsible for reviewing these CPT codes did not conduct surveys, but instead employed a “crosswalk methodology,” in which they derived physician work and time components for CPT codes by comparing them to similar CPT codes. We recognize that a substantial amount of time and effort is involved in conducting surveys of potentially misvalued CPT codes; however, we have concerns about the quality of the underlying data used to value these CPT codes. The descriptors and other information on which the recommendations are based have themselves not been surveyed, in several instances, since 1995. There is no new information about any of these CPT codes that would allow us to detect any potential improvements in efficiency of furnishing the service or evaluate whether changes in practice patterns have affected time and intensity. We are not categorically opposed to changes in process or methodology that might reduce the burden of conducting surveys, but without the benefit of any additional data, through surveys or otherwise, we are not convinced that there is a basis for evaluating the RUC's recommendations for work RVUs for each of these CPT codes.

Since all 20 of the CPT codes in this group have very similar intraservice (from 3-5 minutes) and total (ranging from 5-8 minutes) times, we are proposing to use an alternative approach to the valuation of work RVUs for these CPT codes. We calculated the utilization-weighted average RUC-recommended work RVU for the 20 CPT codes. The result of this calculation is a work RVU of 0.23, which we propose to apply uniformly to each CPT code: 72020, 72040, 72050, 72052, 72070, 72072, 72074, 72080, 72100, 72110, 72114, 72120, 72200, 72202, 72220, 73070, 73080, 73090, 73650, and 73660. We recognize that the proposed work RVU for some of these CPT codes may be somewhat lower at the code level than the RUC's recommendation, while the proposed work RVU for other CPT codes may be slightly higher than the RUC's recommended value. We nevertheless believe that the alternative, accepting the RUC's recommendation for each separate CPT code implies a level of precision about the time and intensity of the CPT codes that we have no way to validate.

For the direct PE inputs, we are proposing to add a patient gown (SB026) supply to CPT code 72120. We noted that all of the other codes in the family that included clinical labor time for the “Greet patient, provide gowning, ensure appropriate medical records are available” (CA009) task included a patient gown, and we are proposing to add the patient gown to match the other codes in the family. We believe that the exclusion of the patient gown for CPT code 72120 was most likely due to a clerical error in the recommendations. We are also proposing to refine the equipment time for the basic radiology room (EL012) in accordance with our standard equipment time formulas.

In our review of the clinical labor time recommended for the “Perform procedure/service—NOT directly related to physician work time” (CA021) task, we noted that the standard convention for this family of codes seemed to be 3 minutes of clinical labor time per view being conducted. For example, CPT code 72020 with a single view had 3 minutes of recommended clinical labor time for this activity, while CPT code 72070 with two views had 6 minutes. However, we also noted that for the codes with 2-3 views such as CPT codes 72040 and 72100, the recommended clinical labor time of 9 minutes appears to assume that 3 views would always be typical for the procedure. The same pattern occurred for codes with 4-5 views, which have a Start Printed Page 35759recommended clinical labor time of 15 minutes (assuming 5 views is typical), and for codes with 6 or more views, which have a recommended clinical labor time of 21 minutes (assuming 7 views is typical).

We are not proposing to refine the clinical labor times for this task as we do not have data available to know how many views would be typical for these CPT codes. However, we note that the intraservice clinical labor time has not changed in roughly 2 decades for these X-ray services, including during this most recent review, and we believe that improving technology during this span of time may have resulted in greater efficiencies in the procedures. We continue to be interested in data sources regarding the intraservice clinical labor times for services such as these that do not match the physician intraservice time, and we welcome any comments that may be able to provide additional details for the twelve codes under review in this family.

(32) X-Ray Sacrum (CPT Codes 72200, 72202, and 72220)

CPT code 72220 (Radiologic examination, sacrum and coccyx, minimum of 2 views) was identified on a screen of CMS or Other source codes with Medicare utilization greater than 100,000 services annually. CPT codes 72200 (Radiologic examination, sacroiliac joints; less than 3 views) and 72202 (Radiologic examination, sacroiliac joints; 3 or more views) were also included for review as part of the same family of codes. See (31) X-Ray Spine (CPT codes 72020, 72040, 72050, 72052, 72070, 72072, 72074, 72080, 72100, 72110, 72114, and 72120) for a discussion of proposed work RVUs for these codes.

For the direct PE inputs, we are proposing to refine the equipment time for the basic radiology room (EL012) in accordance with our standard equipment time formulas.

(33) X-Ray Elbow-Forearm (CPT Codes 73070, 73080, and 73090)

CPT codes 73070 (Radiologic examination, elbow; 2 views) and 73090 (Radiologic examination; forearm, 2 views) were identified on a screen of CMS or Other source codes with Medicare utilization greater than 100,000 services annually. CPT code 73080 (Radiologic examination, elbow; complete, minimum of 3 views) was also included for review as part of the same family of codes. See (31) X-Ray Spine (CPT codes 72020, 72040, 72050, 72052, 72070, 72072, 72074, 72080, 72100, 72110, 72114, and 72120) above for a discussion of proposed work RVUs for these codes.

For the direct PE inputs, we are proposing to refine the equipment time for the basic radiology room (EL012) in accordance with our standard equipment time formulas.

(34) X-Ray Heel (CPT Code 73650)

CPT code 73650 (Radiologic examination; calcaneus, minimum of 2 views) was identified on a screen of CMS or Other source codes with Medicare utilization greater than 100,000 services annually. See (31) X-Ray Spine above for a discussion of proposed work RVUs for these codes.

For the direct PE inputs, we are proposing to refine the equipment time for the basic radiology room (EL012) in accordance with our standard equipment time formulas.

(35) X-Ray Toe (CPT Code 73660)

CPT code 73660 (Radiologic examination; toe(s), minimum of 2 views) was identified on a screen of CMS or Other source codes with Medicare utilization greater than 100,000 services annually. See (31) X-Ray Spine above for a discussion of proposed work RVUs for these codes.

For the direct PE inputs, we are proposing to add a patient gown (SB026) supply to CPT code 73660. We noted that the other codes in related X-ray code families that included clinical labor time for the “Greet patient, provide gowning, ensure appropriate medical records are available” (CA009) task included a patient gown, and we are proposing to add the patient gown to match the other codes in these families. We are also proposing to refine the equipment time for the basic radiology room (EL012) in accordance with our standard equipment time formulas.

(36) X-Ray Esophagus (CPT Codes 74210, 74220, and 74230)

CPT code 74220 (Radiologic examination; esophagus) was identified on a screen of CMS or Other source codes with Medicare utilization greater than 100,000 services annually. CPT codes 74210 (Radiologic examination; pharynx and/or cervical esophagus) and 74230 (Swallowing function, with cineradiography/videoradiography) were also included for review as part of the same family of codes.

We are proposing the work RVUs recommended by the RUC for the CPT codes in this family as follows: A work RVU 0.59 for CPT code 74210 (Radiologic examination; pharynx and/or cervical esophagus), a work RVU of 0.67 for CPT code 74220 (Radiologic examination; esophagus), and a work RVU of 0.53 for CPT code 74230 (Swallowing function, with cineradiography/videoradiography).

For the direct PE inputs, we noted that the recommended quantity of the Polibar barium suspension (SH016) supply is increasing from 1 ml to 150 ml for CPT code 74210 and 100 ml are being added to CPT code 74220, which did not previously include this supply. The RUC recommendation states that this supply quantity increase is due to clinical necessity, but does not go into further details about the typical use of the supply. Although we are not proposing to refine the quantity of the Polibar barium suspension at this time, we are seeking additional comment about the typical use of the supply in these procedures. We are also proposing to refine the equipment times for all three codes in accordance with our standard equipment time formulas.

(37) X-Ray Urinary Tract (CPT Code 74420)

CPT code 74420 (Urography, retrograde, with or without KUB) was identified on a screen of CMS or Other source codes with Medicare utilization greater than 100,000 services annually.

We are proposing the RUC-recommended work RVU of 0.52 for CPT code 74420 (Urography, retrograde, with or without KUB).

For the direct PE inputs, we are proposing to remove the 1 minute of clinical labor time for the “Confirm order, protocol exam” (CA014) activity. The clinical labor time recommended for this activity is not included in the reference code, nor is it included in any of the two dozen other X-ray codes that were reviewed at the same RUC meeting. There is also no explanation in the recommended materials as to why this clinical labor time would need to be added. We do not believe that this clinical labor would be typical for CPT code 74420, and we are proposing to remove it to match the rest of the X-ray codes. We are also proposing to refine the equipment times in accordance with our standard equipment time formulas.

(38) Fluoroscopy (CPT Code 76000)

CPT code 76000 (Fluoroscopy (separate procedure), up to 1 hour physician or other qualified health care professional time) was identified on a screen of CMS or Other source codes with Medicare utilization greater than 100,000 services annually. CPT code 76001 (Fluoroscopy, physician or other qualified health care professional time more than 1 hour, assisting a nonradiologic physician or other qualified health care professional) was Start Printed Page 35760also included for review as part of the same family of codes. However, due to the fact that supervision and interpretation services have been increasingly bundled into the underlying procedure codes, the RUC concluded that this practice is rare, if not obsolete, and CPT code 76001 was recommended for deletion by the CPT Editorial Panel for CY 2019.

We are proposing the RUC-recommended work RVU of 0.30 for CPT code 76000 (Fluoroscopy (separate procedure), up to 1 hour physician or other qualified health care professional time, other than 71023 or 71034 (e.g., cardiac fluoroscopy)).

For the direct PE inputs, we are proposing to refine the equipment times in accordance with our standard equipment time formulas.

(39) Echo Exam of Eye Thickness (CPT Code 76514)

CPT code 76514 (Ophthalmic ultrasound, diagnostic; corneal pachymetry, unilateral or bilateral (determination of corneal thickness)) was identified as potentially misvalued on a screen of codes with a negative intraservice work per unit of time (IWPUT), with 2016 estimated Medicare utilization over 10,000 for RUC reviewed codes and over 1,000 for Harvard-valued and CMS/Other source codes.

For CPT code 76514, we disagree with the RUC-recommended work RVU of 0.17 and we are proposing a work RVU of 0.14. We note that the recommended intraservice time for CPT code 76514 is decreasing from 5 minutes to 3 minutes (40 percent reduction), and the recommended total time for CPT code 76514 is decreasing from 15 minutes to 5 minutes (67 percent reduction); however, the RUC-recommended work RVU is not decreasing at all and remains at 0.17. Although we do not imply that the decrease in time as reflected in survey values must equate to a one-to-one or linear decrease in the valuation of work RVUs, we believe that since the two components of work are time and intensity, significant decreases in time should be reflected in decreases to work RVUs.

We also note that the RUC recommendations for CPT code 76514 stated that, although the steps in the procedure are unchanged since it was first valued, the workflow has changed. With the advent of smaller and easier to use pachymeters, the technician now typically takes the measurements that used to be taken by the practitioner for CPT code 76514, and the intraservice time was reduced by two minutes to account for the technician performing this service. We believe that this change in workflow indicates that the work RVU for the code should be reduced in some fashion, since some of the work that was previously done by the practitioner is now typically performed by the technician. We have no reason to believe that there is more intensive cognitive work being performed by the practitioner after these measurements are taken since the recommendations indicated that the steps in the procedure are unchanged since this code was first valued.

Therefore, we are proposing a work RVU of 0.14 for CPT code 76514, which is based on taking half of the intraservice time ratio. We considered applying the intraservice time ratio to CPT code 76514, which would reduce the work RVU to 0.10 based on taking the change in intraservice time (from 5 minutes to 3 minutes) and multiplying this ratio of 0.60 times the current work RVU of 0.17. However, we recognize that the minutes shifted to the clinical staff were less intense than the minutes that remained in CPT code 76514, and therefore, we applied half of the intraservice time ratio for a reduction of 0.03 RVUs to arrive at a proposed work RVU of 0.14. We believe that this proposed value more accurately takes into account the changes in workflow that have caused substantial reductions in the surveyed work time for the procedure.

We are not proposing any direct PE refinements for this code family.

(40) Ultrasound Elastography (CPT Codes 767X1, 767X2, and 767X3)

In September 2017, the CPT Editorial Panel created three new codes describing the use of ultrasound elastography to assess organ parenchyma and focal lesions: CPT codes 767X1 (Ultrasound, elastography; parenchyma), 767X2 (Ultrasound, elastography; first target lesion) and 767X3 (Ultrasound, elastography; each additional target lesion). The most common use of this code set will be for preparing patients with disease of solid organs, like the liver, or lesions within solid organs.

The RUC recommended a work RVU of 0.59 for CPT code 767X1 (Ultrasound, elastography; parenchyma (e.g., organ)), a work RVU of 0.59 for CPT code 767X2 (Ultrasound, elastography; first target lesion), and a work RVU of 0.50 for add-on CPT code 767X3 (Ultrasound, elastography; each additional target lesion). We are proposing the RUC- recommended work RVUs for each of these new CPT codes.

For the direct PE inputs, we are proposing to refine the clinical labor time for the “Prepare room, equipment and supplies” (CA013) activity to 3 minutes and to refine the clinical labor time for the “Confirm order, protocol exam” (CA014) activity to 0 minutes for CPT codes 767X1 and 767X2. CPT code 76700 (Ultrasound, abdominal, real time with image documentation; complete), the reference code for these two new codes, did not previously have clinical labor time assigned for the “Confirm order, protocol exam” clinical labor task, and we do not have any reason to believe that these particular services being furnished by the clinical staff have changed in the new codes, only the way in which this clinical labor time has been presented on the PE worksheets. We also note that there is no effect on the total clinical labor direct costs in these situations, since the same 3 minutes of clinical labor time is still being furnished in CPT codes 767X1 and 767X2. We are also proposing to refine the equipment times in accordance with our standard equipment time formulas.

(41) Ultrasound Exam—Scrotum (CPT Code 76870)

CPT code 76870 (Ultrasound, scrotum and contents) was identified on a screen of CMS or Other source codes with Medicare utilization greater than 100,000 services annually. We are proposing a work RVU of 0.64 for CPT code 76870 (Ultrasound, scrotum and contents), as recommended by the RUC.

For the direct PE inputs, we are proposing to refine the clinical labor time for the “Prepare room, equipment and supplies” (CA013) activity to 3 minutes and to refine the clinical labor time for the “Confirm order, protocol exam” (CA014) activity to 0 minutes. CPT code 76870 did not previously have clinical labor time assigned for the “Confirm order, protocol exam” clinical labor task, and we do not have any reason to believe that the services being furnished by the clinical staff have changed, only the way in which this clinical labor time has been presented on the PE worksheets. We also note that there is no effect on the total clinical labor direct costs in these situations since the same 3 minutes of clinical labor time is still being furnished under the CA013 room preparation activity. We are also proposing to refine the equipment times in accordance with our standard equipment time formulas.

(42) Contrast-Enhanced Ultrasound (CPT Codes 76X0X and 76X1X)

In September 2017, the CPT Editorial Panel created two new CPT codes describing the use of intravenous microbubble agents to evaluate Start Printed Page 35761suspicious lesions by ultrasound. CPT code 76X0X (Ultrasound, targeted dynamic microbubble sonographic contrast characterization (non-cardiac); initial lesion) is a stand-alone procedure for the evaluation of a single target lesion. CPT code 76X1X (Ultrasound, targeted dynamic microbubble sonographic contrast characterization (non-cardiac); each additional lesion with separate injection) is an add-on code for the evaluation of each additional lesion.

The two new CPT codes in this family represent a new technology that involves the use of intravenous microbubble agents to evaluate suspicious lesions by ultrasound. The first new CPT code, 76X0X (Ultrasound, targeted dynamic microbubble sonographic contrast characterization (non-cardiac); initial lesion), is the base code for the new add-on CPT code 76X1X (Ultrasound, targeted dynamic microbubble sonographic contrast characterization (non-cardiac); each additional lesion with separate injection). The RUC reviewed the survey results for CPT code 76X0X and recommended total time of 30 minutes and intraservice time of 20 minutes. Their recommendation for a work RVU of 1.62 is based neither on the median of the survey results (1.82) nor the 25th percentile of the survey results (1.27). Instead, the RUC-recommended work RVU is based on a crosswalk to CPT code 73719 (Magnetic resonance (e.g., proton) imaging, lower extremity other than joint; with contrast material(s)), which has identical intraservice and total times as the survey CPT code. The RUC also identified a comparison CPT code (CPT code 73222 (Magnetic resonance (e.g., proton) imaging, any joint of upper extremity; with contrast material(s)) with work RVU 1.62 and similar times. For add-on CPT code 76X1X, the RUC recommended a work RVU of 0.85, which is the 25th percentile of survey results, with total and intraservice times of 15 minutes.

While we generally agree that, particularly in instances where a CPT code represents a new technology or procedure, there may be reason to deviate from survey metrics, we are confused by the logic behind the RUC's recommendation of a work RVU of 1.62 for CPT code 76X0X. When we consider the range of existing CPT codes with 30 minutes total time and 20 minutes intraservice time, we note that a work RVU of 1.62 is among the highest potential crosswalks. We also note that the RUC agreed with the 25th percentile of survey results for the new add-on CPT code, 76X1X, and we do not see why the 25th percentile wouldn't also be appropriate for the base CPT code, 76X0X. Therefore, we are proposing a work RVU of 1.27 for CPT code 76X0X. We identified two CPT codes with total time of 30 minutes and intraservice time of 20 minutes that bracket the proposed work RVU of 1.27: CPT code 93975 (Duplex scan of arterial inflow and venous outflow of abdominal, pelvic, scrotal contents and/or retroperitoneal organs; complete study) has a work RVU of 1.16, and CPT code 72270 (Myelography, 2 or more regions (e.g., lumbar/thoracic, cervical/thoracic, lumbar/cervical, lumbar/thoracic/cervical), radiological supervision and interpretation) has a work RVU of 1.33. We are proposing the RUC-recommended work RVU of 0.85 for add-on CPT code 76X1X.

For the direct PE inputs, we are proposing to refine the clinical labor time for the “Prepare room, equipment and supplies” (CA013) activity to 3 minutes and to refine the clinical labor time for the “Confirm order, protocol exam” (CA014) activity to 0 minutes for CPT code 76X0X. CPT codes 76700 (Ultrasound, abdominal, real time with image documentation; complete) and 76705 (Ultrasound, abdominal, real time with image documentation; limited), the reference codes for this new code, did not previously have clinical labor time assigned for the “Confirm order, protocol exam” clinical labor task, and we do not have any reason to believe that these particular services being furnished by the clinical staff have changed in the new code, only the way in which this clinical labor time has been presented on the PE worksheets. We also note that there is no effect on the total clinical labor direct costs in these situations, since the same 3 minutes of clinical labor time is still being furnished in CPT code 76X0X.

We are proposing to remove the 50 ml of the phosphate buffered saline (SL180) for CPT codes 76X0X and 76X1X. When these codes were reviewed by the RUC, the conclusion that was reached was to remove this supply and replace it with normal saline. Since the phosphate buffered saline remained in the recommended direct PE inputs, we believe its inclusion may have been a clerical error. We are proposing to remove the supply and soliciting comments on the phosphate buffered saline or a replacement saline solution. We are also proposing to refine the equipment times in accordance with our standard equipment time formulas.

(43) Magnetic Resonance Elastography (CPT Code 76X01)

The CPT Editorial Panel created a new stand-alone code (76X01) describing the use of magnetic resonance elastography for the evaluation of organ parenchymal pathology. This code will most often be used to evaluate patients with disease of solid organs (for example, cirrhosis of the liver) or pathology within solid organs that manifest with increasing fibrosis or scarring. The goal with magnetic resonance elastography is to evaluate the degree of fibrosis/scarring (that is, stiffness) without having to perform more invasive procedures (for example, biopsy). This technique can be used to characterize the severity of parenchymal disease, follow disease progression, or response to therapy.

The RUC recommended a work RVU for new CPT code 76X01 (Magnetic resonance (e.g., vibration) elastography) of 1.29, with 15 minutes of intraservice time and 25 minutes of total time. The recommendation is based on a comparison with two reference CPT codes, CPT code 74183 (Magnetic resonance (e.g., proton) imaging, abdomen; without contrast material(s), followed by with contrast material(s) and further sequences) with total time of 40 minutes, intraservice time of 30 minutes, and a work RVU of 2.20; and CPT code 74181 (Magnetic resonance (e.g., proton) imaging, abdomen; without contrast material(s)), which has a total time of 30 minutes, intraservice time of 20 minutes, and a work RVU of 1.46. The RUC stated that both reference CPT codes have higher work values than the new CPT code, which is justified in both cases by higher intra-service times. They note that, despite shorter intraservice and total time, CPT code 76X01 is slightly more intense to perform due to the evaluation of wave propagation images and quantitative stiffness measures. We do not agree with the RUC's recommended work RVU for this CPT code. Using the RUC's two top reference CPT codes as a point of comparison, the intraservice time ratio in both instances suggests that a work RVU closer to 1.10 would be more appropriate. We recognize that the RUC believes the new CPT code is slightly more intense to furnish, but we are concerned about the relativity of this code in comparison with other imaging procedures that have similar intraservice and total times. Instead of the RUC-recommended work RVU of 1.29 for CPT code 76X01, we are proposing a work RVU of 1.10, which is based on a direct crosswalk to CPT code 71250 (Computed tomography, thorax; without contrast material). CPT code 71250 has identical intraservice time (15 minutes) and total time (25 minutes) compared to CPT code 76X01, and we Start Printed Page 35762believe that the work involved in furnishing both services is similar. We note that CPT code 76X01 describes a new technology and will be reviewed again by the RUC in 3 years.

For the direct PE inputs, we are proposing to refine the clinical labor time for the “Prepare room, equipment and supplies” (CA013) activity from 6 minutes to 5 minutes, and for the “Prepare, set-up and start IV, initial positioning and monitoring of patient” (CA016) activity from 4 minutes to 3 minutes. We disagree that this additional clinical labor time would be typical for these activities, which are already above the standard times for these tasks. In both cases, we propose to maintain the current time from the reference CPT code 72195 (Magnetic resonance (e.g., proton) imaging, pelvis; without contrast material(s)) for these clinical labor activities. We are also proposing to refine the equipment times in accordance with our standard equipment time formulas.

(44) Computed Tomography (CT) Scan for Needle Biopsy (CPT Code 77012)

CPT code 77012 (Computed tomography guidance for needle placement (e.g., biopsy, aspiration, injection, localization device), radiological supervision and interpretation) was identified on a screen of CMS or Other source codes with Medicare utilization greater than 100,000 services annually.

We are proposing the RUC-recommended work RVU of 1.50 for CPT code 77012 (Computed tomography guidance for needle placement (e.g., biopsy, aspiration, injection, localization device), radiological supervision and interpretation).

For the direct PE inputs, we are proposing to refine the clinical labor time for the “Prepare room, equipment and supplies” (CA013) activity to 3 minutes and to refine the clinical labor time for the “Confirm order, protocol exam” (CA014) activity to 0 minutes. CPT code 77012 did not previously have clinical labor time assigned for the “Confirm order, protocol exam” clinical labor task, and we do not have any reason to believe that the services being furnished by the clinical staff have changed, only the way in which this clinical labor time has been presented on the PE worksheets. We also note that there is no effect on the total clinical labor direct costs in these situations since the same 3 minutes of clinical labor time is still being furnished under the CA013 room preparation activity.

We are proposing to refine the equipment time for the CT room (EL007) to maintain the current time of 9 minutes. CPT code 77012 is a radiological supervision and interpretation procedure and there has been a longstanding convention in the direct PE inputs, shared by 38 other codes, to assign an equipment time of 9 minutes for the equipment room in these procedures. We do not believe that it would serve the interests of relativity to increase the equipment time for the CT room in CPT code 77012 without also addressing the equipment room time for the other radiological supervision and interpretation procedures. Therefore, we are proposing to maintain the current equipment room time of 9 minutes until this group of procedures can be subject to a more comprehensive review. We are also proposing to refine the equipment time for the Technologist PACS workstation (ED050) in accordance with our standard equipment time formulas.

(45) Dual-Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry (CPT Code 77081)

CPT code 77081 (Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), bone density study, 1 or more sites; appendicular skeleton (peripheral) (e.g., radius, wrist, heel)) was identified as potentially misvalued on a screen of codes with a negative intraservice work per unit of time (IWPUT), with 2016 estimated Medicare utilization over 10,000 for RUC reviewed codes and over 1,000 for Harvard valued and CMS/Other source codes. For CY 2019, we are proposing the RUC-recommended work RVU of 0.20 for CPT code 77081.

We are not proposing any direct PE refinements for this code family.

(46) Breast MRI With Computer-Aided Detection (CPT Codes 77X49, 77X50, 77X51, and 77X52)

CPT codes 77058 (Magnetic resonance imaging, breast, without and/or with contrast material(s); unilateral) and 77059 (Magnetic resonance imaging, breast, without and/or with contrast material(s); bilateral) were identified in 2016 on a high expenditure services screen across specialties with Medicare allowed charges of $10 million or more. When preparing to survey these codes, the specialties noted that the clinical indications had changed for these exams. The technology had advanced to make computer-aided detection (CAD) typical and these codes did not parallel the structure of other magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) codes. In June 2017 the CPT Editorial Panel deleted CPT codes 0159T, 77058, and 77059 and created four new CPT codes to report breast MRI with and without contrast (including computer-aided detection).

The RUC recommended a work RVU of 1.45 for CPT code 77X49 (Magnetic resonance imaging, breast, without contrast material; unilateral). This recommendation is based on a comparison with CPT codes 74176 (Computed tomography, abdomen and pelvis; without contrast material) and 74177 (Computed tomography, abdomen and pelvis; with contrast material(s)), which both have similar intraservice and total times in relation to CPT code 77X49. We disagree with the RUC's recommended work RVU because we do not believe that the reduction in total time of 15 minutes between the new CPT code 77X49 and the deleted CPT code 74177 is adequately reflected in its recommendation. While total time has decreased by 15 minutes, the only other difference between the two CPT codes is the change in the descriptor from the phrase `without and/or with contrast material(s)' to `without contrast material,' suggesting that there is less work involved in the new CPT code than in the deleted CPT code. Instead, we are proposing a work RVU of 1.15 for CPT code 77X49, which is similar to the total time ratio between the new CPT code and the deleted CPT code. It is also supported by a crosswalk to CPT code 77334 (Treatment devices, design and construction; complex (irregular blocks, special shields, compensators, wedges, molds or casts)). CPT code 77334 has total time of 35 minutes, intraservice time of 30 minutes, and a work RVU of 1.15.

CPT code 77X50 (Magnetic resonance imaging, breast, without contrast material; bilateral) describes the same work as CPT code 77X49, but reflects a bilateral rather than the unilateral procedure. The RUC recommended a work RVU of 1.60 for CPT code 77X50. Since we are proposing a different work RVU for the unilateral procedure than the value proposed by the RUC, we believe it is appropriate to recalibrate the work RVU for CPT code 77X50 relative to the RUC's recommended difference in work between the two CPT codes. The RUC's recommendation for the bilateral procedure is 0.15 work RVUs larger than for the unilateral procedure. Therefore, we are proposing a work RVU of 1.30 for CPT code 77X50.

The RUC recommended a work RVU of 2.10 for CPT code 77X51 (Magnetic resonance imaging, breast, without and with contrast material(s), including computer-aided detection (CAD-real time lesion detection, characterization and pharmacokinetic analysis) when performed; unilateral). CPT code 77X51 is a new CPT code that bundles the deleted CPT code for unilateral breast Start Printed Page 35763MRI without and/or with contrast material(s) with CAD, which was previously reported, in addition to the primary procedure CPT code, as CPT code 0159T (computer aided detection, including computer algorithm analysis of MRI image data for lesion detection/characterization, pharmacokinetic analysis, with further physician review for interpretation, breast MRI). Consistent with our belief that the proposed value for the base CPT code in this series of new CPT codes (CPT code 77X49) should be a work RVU of 1.15, we are proposing a work RVU for CPT code 77X51 that adds the RUC-recommended difference in RUC-recommended work RVUs between CPT codes 77X49 and 77X51 (0.65 work RVUs) to the proposed work RVU for CPT code 77X49. Therefore, we are proposing a work RVU of 1.80 for CPT code 77X51.

The last new CPT code in this series, CPT code 77X52 (Magnetic resonance imaging, breast, without and with contrast material(s), including computer-aided detection (CAD-real time lesion detection, characterization and pharmoacokinetic analysis) when performed; bilateral) describes the same work as CPT code 77X51, but reflects a bilateral rather than a unilateral procedure. The RUC recommended a work RVU of 2.30 for this CPT code. Similar to the process for valuing work RVUs for CPT code 77X50 and CPT code 77X51, we believe that a more appropriate work RVU is calculated by adding the difference in the RUC recommended work RVU for CPT codes 77X49 and 77X52, to the proposed value for CPT code 77X49. Therefore, we are proposing a work RVU of 2.00 for CPT code 77X52.

For the direct PE inputs, we are proposing to refine the clinical labor time for the “Prepare, set-up and start IV, initial positioning and monitoring of patient” (CA016) activity from 7 minutes to 3 minutes for CPT codes 77X49 and 77X50, and from 9 minutes to 5 minutes for CPT codes 77X51 and 77X52. We note that when the MRI of Lower Extremity codes were reviewed during the previous rule cycle (CPT codes 73718-73720), these codes contained either 3 minutes or 5 minutes of recommended time for this same clinical labor activity. We also note that the current Breast MRI codes that are being deleted and replaced with these four new codes, CPT codes 77058 and 77059, contain 5 minutes of clinical labor time for this same activity. We have no reason to believe that the new codes would require additional clinical labor time for patient positioning, especially given that the recommended clinical labor times are decreasing in comparison to the reference codes for obtaining patient consent (CA011) and preparing the room (CA013). Therefore, we are refining the clinical labor time for the CA016 activity as detailed above to maintain relativity with the current clinical labor times in the reference codes, as well as with other recently reviewed MRI procedures.

Included in the recommendations for this code family were five new equipment items: CAD Server (ED057), CAD Software (ED058), CAD Software—Additional User License (ED059), Breast coil (EQ388), and CAD Workstation (CPU + Color Monitor) (ED056). We did not receive any invoices for these five equipment items, and as such we do not have any direct pricing information to use in their valuation. We are proposing to use crosswalks to similar equipment items as proxies for three of these new types of equipment until we do have pricing information:

  • CAD software (ED058) is crosswalked to flow cytometry analytics software (EQ380).
  • Breast coil (EQ388) is crosswalked to Breast biopsy device (coil) (EQ371).
  • CAD Workstation (CPU + Color Monitor) (ED056) is crosswalked to Professional PACS workstation (ED053).

We welcome the submission of invoices with pricing information for these three new equipment items for our consideration to replace the use of these proxies. For the other two equipment items (CAD Server (ED057) and CAD Software—Additional User License (ED059)), we are not proposing to establish a price at this time as we believe both of them would constitute forms of indirect PE under our methodology. We do not believe that the CAD Server or Additional User License would be allocated to the use of an individual patient for an individual service, and can be better understood as forms of indirect costs similar to office rent or administrative expenses. We understand that as the PE data age, these issues involving the use of software and other forms of digital tools become more complex. However, the use of new technology does not change the statutory requirement under which indirect PE is assigned on the basis of direct costs that must be individually allocable to a particular patient for a particular service. We look forward to continuing to seek out new data sources to help in updating the PE methodology.

We are also proposing to refine the equipment times in accordance with our standard equipment time formulas.

(47) Blood Smear Interpretation (CPT Code 85060)

CPT code 85060 (Blood smear, peripheral, interpretation by physician with written report) was identified on a screen of CMS or Other source codes with Medicare utilization greater than 100,000 services annually. For CY 2019, the RUC recommended a work RVU of 0.45 based on maintaining the current work RVU.

We disagree with the recommended value and are proposing a work RVU of 0.36 for CPT code 85060 based on the total time ratio between the current time of 15 minutes and the recommended time established by the survey of 12 minutes. This ratio equals 80 percent, and 80 percent of the current work RVU of 0.45 equals a work RVU of 0.36. When we reviewed CPT code 85060, we found that the recommended work RVU was higher than nearly all of the other global XXX codes with similar time values, and we do not believe that this blood smear interpretation procedure would have an anomalously high intensity. Although we do not imply that the decrease in time as reflected in survey values must equate to a one-to-one or linear decrease in the valuation of work RVUs, we believe that since the two components of work are time and intensity, significant decreases in time should be reflected in decreases to work RVUs. In the case of CPT code 85060, we believe that it would be more accurate to propose the total time ratio at a work RVU of 0.36 to account for these decreases in the surveyed work time.

The proposed work RVU is also based on the use of three crosswalk codes. We are directly supporting the proposed valuation through a crosswalk to CPT code 95930 (Visual evoked potential (VEP) checkerboard or flash testing, central nervous system except glaucoma, with interpretation and report), which has a work RVU of 0.35 along with 10 minutes of intraservice time and 14 minutes of total time. We also explain the proposed valuation by bracketing it between two other crosswalks, with CPT code 99152 (Moderate sedation services provided by the same physician or other qualified health care professional performing the diagnostic or therapeutic service that the sedation supports; initial 15 minutes of intraservice time, patient age 5 years or older) on the lower end at a work RVU of 0.25 and CPT code 93923 (Complete bilateral noninvasive physiologic studies of upper or lower extremity arteries, 3 or more levels, or single level study with provocative Start Printed Page 35764functional maneuvers) on the higher end at a work RVU of 0.45.

The RUC recommended no direct PE inputs for CPT code 85060 and we are recommending none.

(48) Bone Marrow Interpretation (CPT Code 85097)

CPT code 85097 (Bone marrow, smear interpretation) was identified on a screen of CMS or Other source codes with Medicare utilization greater than 100,000 services annually. For CY 2019, the RUC recommended a work RVU of 1.00 based on a direct crosswalk to CPT code 88121 (Cytopathology, in situ hybridization (e.g., FISH), urinary tract specimen with morphometric analysis, 3-5 molecular probes, each specimen; using computer-assisted technology).

We disagree with the RUC-recommended value and we are proposing a work RVU of 0.94 for CPT code 85097 based on maintaining the current work valuation. We noted that the survey indicated that CPT code 85097 typically takes 25 minutes of work time to perform, down from a previous work time of 30 minutes, and, generally speaking, since the two components of work are time and intensity, we believe that significant decreases in time should be reflected in decreases to work RVUs. For the specific case of CPT code 85097, we are supporting our proposed work RVU of 0.94 through a crosswalk to CPT code 88361 (Morphometric analysis, tumor immunohistochemistry (e.g., Her-2/neu, estrogen receptor/progesterone receptor), quantitative or semiquantitative, per specimen, each single antibody stain procedure; using computer-assisted technology), a recently reviewed code from CY 2018 with the identical time values and a work RVU of 0.95.

We also considered a work RVU of 0.90 based on double the recommended work RVU of 0.45 for CPT code 85060 (Blood smear, peripheral, interpretation by physician with written report). When both of these CPT codes were under review, the explanation was offered that in a peripheral blood smear, typically, the practitioner does not have the approximately 12 precursor cells to review, whereas in an aspirate from the bone marrow, the practitioner is examining all the precursor cells. Additionally, for CPT code 85097, there are more cell types to look at as well as more slides, usually four, whereas with CPT code 85060 the practitioner would typically only look at one slide. While we do not propose to value CPT code 85097 at twice the work RVU of CPT code 85060, we believe this analysis also supports maintaining the current work RVU of 0.94 as opposed to raising it to 1.00.

For the direct PE inputs, we are proposing to remove the clinical labor time for the “Accession and enter information” (PA001) and “File specimen, supplies, and other materials” (PA008) activities. As we stated previously, information entry and specimen filing tasks are not individually allocable to a particular patient for a particular service and are considered to be forms of indirect PE. While we agree that these are necessary tasks, under our established methodology we believe that they are more appropriately classified as indirect PE.

(49) Fibrinolysins Screen (CPT Code 85390)

CPT code 85390 (Fibrinolysins or coagulopathy screen, interpretation and report) was identified as potentially misvalued on a screen of codes with a negative IWPUT, with 2016 estimated Medicare utilization over 10,000 for RUC reviewed codes and over 1,000 for Harvard valued and CMS/Other source codes. For CY 2019, we are proposing the RUC-recommended work RVU of 0.75 for CPT code 85390.

Because this is a work only code, the RUC did not recommend, and we are not proposing any direct PE inputs for CPT code 85390.

(50) Electroretinography (CPT Codes 92X71, 92X73, and 03X0T)

CPT code 92275 (Electroretinography with interpretation and report) was identified in 2016 on a high expenditure services screen across specialties with Medicare allowed charges of $10 million or more. In January 2016, the specialty society noted that they became aware of inappropriate use of CPT code 92275 for a less intensive version of this test for diagnosis and indications that are not clinically proven and for which less expensive and less intensive tests already exist. CPT changes were necessary to ensure that the service for which CPT code 92275 was intended was clearly described, as well as an accurate vignette and work descriptor were developed. In September 2017, the CPT Editorial Panel deleted CPT code 92275 and replaced it with two new codes to describe electroretinography full field and multi focal. A category III code was retained for pattern electroretinography.

For CPT code 92X71 (Electroretinography (ERG) with interpretation and report; full field (e.g., ffERG, flash ERG, Ganzfeld ERG)), we disagree with the recommended work RVU of 0.80 and we are instead proposing a work RVU of 0.69 based on a direct crosswalk to CPT code 88172 (Cytopathology, evaluation of fine needle aspirate; immediate cytohistologic study to determine adequacy for diagnosis, first evaluation episode, each site). CPT code 88172 is another interpretation procedure with the same 20 minutes of intraservice time, which we believe is a more accurate comparison for CPT code 92X71 than the two reference codes chosen by the survey participants due to their significantly higher and lower intraservice times. We note that the recommended intraservice time for CPT code 92X71 as compared to its predecessor CPT code 92275 is decreasing from 45 minutes to 20 minutes (56 percent reduction), and the recommended total time is decreasing from 71 minutes to 22 minutes (69 percent reduction); however, the work RVU is only decreasing from 1.01 to 0.80, which is a reduction of just over 20 percent. Although we do not imply that the decreases in time as reflected in survey values must equate to a one-to-one or linear decrease in the valuation of work RVUs, we believe that since the two components of work are time and intensity, significant decreases in time should be reflected in decreases to work RVUs. In the case of CPT code 92X71, we have reason to believe that the significant drops in surveyed work time as compared to CPT code 92275 are a result of improvements in technology since the predecessor code was reviewed. The older machines used for electroretinography were slower and more cumbersome, and now the same work for the service can be performed in significantly less time. Therefore, we are proposing a work RVU of 0.69 based on the direct crosswalk to CPT code 88172, which we believe more accurately accounts for these decreases in surveyed work time.

For CPT code 92X73 (Electroretinography (ERG) with interpretation and report; multifocal (mfERG)), we disagree with the RUC-recommended work RVU of 0.72 and are proposing a work RVU of 0.61. We concur that the relative difference in work between CPT code 92X71 and 92X73 is equivalent to the recommended interval of 0.08 RVUs. Therefore, we are proposing a work RVU of 0.61 for CPT code 92X73, based on the recommended interval of 0.08 fewer RVUs below our proposed work RVU of 0.69 for CPT code 92X71. The proposed work RVU is also based on the use of two crosswalk codes: CPT code 88387 (Macroscopic examination, dissection, and preparation of tissue for Start Printed Page 35765non-microscopic analytical studies; each tissue preparation); and CPT code 92100 (Serial tonometry (separate procedure) with multiple measurements of intraocular pressure over an extended time period with interpretation and report, same day). Both codes share the same 20 minutes of intraservice and 20 minutes of total time, with a work RVU of 0.62 for CPT code 88387 and a work RVU of 0.61 for CPT code 92100.

The recommendations for this code family also include Category III code 03X0T (Electroretinography (ERG) with interpretation and report, pattern (PERG)). We typically assign contractor pricing for Category III codes since they are temporary codes assigned to emerging technology and services. However, in cases where there is an unusually high volume of services that will be performed under a Category III code, we have sometimes assigned an active status to the procedure and developed RVUs before a formal CPT code is created. In the case of Category III code 03X0T, the recommendations indicate that approximately 80 percent of the services currently reported under CPT code 92275 will be reported under the new Category III code. Since this will involve an estimated 100,000 services for CY 2019, we believe that the interests of relativity would be better served by assigning an active status to Category III code 03X0T and creating RVUs through the use of a proxy crosswalk to a similar existing service. Therefore, we are proposing to assign an active status to Category III code 03X0T for CY 2019, with a work RVU and work time values crosswalked from CPT code 92250 (Fundus photography with interpretation and report). CPT code 92250 is a clinically similar procedure that was recently reviewed during the CY 2017 rule cycle. We are proposing a work RVU of 0.40 and work times of 10 minutes of intraservice and 12 minutes of total time for Category III code 03X0T based on this crosswalk to CPT code 92250.

For the direct PE inputs, we are proposing to remove the preservice clinical labor in the facility setting for CPT codes 92X71 and 92X73. Both of these codes are diagnostic tests under which the professional (26 modifier) and technical (TC modifier) components will be separately billable, and codes that have these professional and technical components typically will not have direct PE inputs in the facility setting since the technical component is only valued in the nonfacility setting. We also note on this subject that the predecessor code, CPT code 92275, does not currently include any preservice clinical labor, nor any facility direct PE inputs.

We are proposing to remove the clinical labor time for the “Greet patient, provide gowning, ensure appropriate medical records are available” (CA009) and the “Provide education/obtain consent” (CA011) activities for CPT codes 92X71 and 92X73. Both of these CPT codes will typically be reported with a same day E/M service, and we believe that these clinical labor tasks will be carried out during the E/M service. We believe that their inclusion in CPT codes 92X71 and 92X73 would be duplicative. We are also proposing to refine the clinical labor time for the “Prepare room, equipment and supplies” (CA013) activity to 3 minutes and to refine the clinical labor time for the “Confirm order, protocol exam” (CA014) activity to 0 minutes for both codes. The predecessor CPT code 92275 did not previously have clinical labor time assigned for the “Confirm order, protocol exam” clinical labor task, and we do not have any reason to believe that the services being furnished by the clinical staff have changed in the new codes, only the way in which this clinical labor time has been presented on the PE worksheets. We also note that there is no effect on the total clinical labor direct costs in these situations since the same 3 minutes of clinical labor time is still being furnished.

We are proposing to refine the clinical labor time for the “Clean room/equipment by clinical staff” (CA024) activity from 12 minutes to 8 minutes for CPT codes 92X71 and 92X73. The recommendations for these codes stated that cleaning is carried out in several steps: The patient is first cleaned for 2 minutes, followed by wires and electrodes being scrubbed carefully with detergent, soaked, and then rinsed with sterile water. We agree with the need for 2 minutes of patient cleaning time and for the cleaning of the wires and electrodes to take place in two different steps. However, our standard clinical labor time for room/equipment cleaning is 3 minutes, and therefore, we are proposing a total time of 8 minutes for these codes, based on 2 minutes for patient cleaning and then 3 minutes for each of the two steps of wire and electrode cleaning.

We are proposing to refine the clinical labor time for the “Technologist QC's images in PACS, checking for all images, reformats, and dose page” (CA030) activity from 10 minutes to 3 minutes for CPT codes 92X71 and 92X73. We finalized in the CY 2017 PFS final rule (81 FR 80184-80186) a range of appropriate standard minutes for this clinical labor activity, ranging from 2 minutes for simple services up to 5 minutes for highly complex services. We believe that the complexity of the imaging in CPT codes 92X71 and 92X73 is comparable to the CT and magnetic resonance (MR) codes that have been recently reviewed, such as CPT code 76X01 (Magnetic resonance (e.g., vibration) elastography). Therefore, in order to maintain relativity, we are proposing the same clinical labor time of 3 minutes for CPT codes 92X71 and 92X73 that has been recommended for these CT and MR codes. We are also proposing to refine the clinical labor time for the “Review examination with interpreting MD/DO” (CA031) activity from 5 minutes to 2 minutes for CPT codes 92X71 and 92X73. We also finalized in the CY 2017 PFS final rule a standard time of 2 minutes for reviewing examinations with the interpreting MD, and we have no reason to believe that these codes would typically require additional clinical labor at more than double the standard time.

We noted that the new equipment item “Contact lens electrode for mfERG and ffERG” (EQ391) was listed twice for CPT code 92X71 but only a single time for CPT code 92X73. We are seeking additional information about whether the recommendations intended this equipment item to be listed twice, with one contact intended for each eye, or whether this was a clerical mistake. We are also interested in additional information as to why the contact lens electrode was listed twice for CPT code 92X71 but only a single time for CPT code 92X73. Finally, we are also proposing to refine the equipment times in accordance with our standard equipment time formulas.

We are proposing to use the direct PE inputs for CPT code 92X73, including the refinements detailed above, as a proxy for Category III code 03X0T until it can be separately reviewed by the RUC.

(51) Cardiac Output Measurement (CPT Codes 93561 and 93562)

CPT codes 93561 (Indicator dilution studies such as dye or thermodilution, including arterial and/or venous catheterization; with cardiac output measurement) and 93562 (Indicator dilution studies such as dye or thermodilution, including arterial and/or venous catheterization; subsequent measurement of cardiac output) were identified as potentially misvalued on a screen of codes with a negative IWPUT, with 2016 estimated Medicare utilization over 10,000 for RUC reviewed codes and over 1,000 for Start Printed Page 35766Harvard valued and CMS/Other source codes. The specialty societies noted that CPT codes 93561 and 93562 are primarily performed in the pediatric population, thus the Medicare utilization for these Harvard-source services is not over 1,000. However, the specialty societies requested and the RUC agreed that these services should be reviewed under this negative IWPUT screen.

For CPT code 93561, we disagree with the RUC-recommended work RVU of 0.95 and we are proposing a work RVU of 0.60 based on a crosswalk to CPT code 77003 (Fluoroscopic guidance and localization of needle or catheter tip for spine or paraspinous diagnostic or therapeutic injection procedures (epidural or subarachnoid)). CPT Code 77003 is another recently-reviewed add-on global code with the same 15 minutes of intraservice time and 2 additional minutes of preservice evaluation time. In our review of CPT code 93561, we found that there was a particularly unusual relationship between the surveyed work times and the RUC-recommended work RVU. We noted that the recommended intraservice time for CPT code 93561 is decreasing from 29 minutes to 15 minutes (48 percent reduction), and the recommended total time for CPT code 93561 is decreasing from 78 minutes to 15 minutes (81 percent reduction); however, the recommended work RVU is instead increasing from 0.25 to 0.95, which is an increase of nearly 300 percent. Although we do not imply that the decrease in time as reflected in survey values must equate to a one-to-one or linear decrease in the valuation of work RVUs, we believe that since the two components of work are time and intensity, significant decreases in time should typically be reflected in decreases to work RVUs, not increases in valuation. We recognize that CPT code 93561 is an unusual case, as it is shifting from 0-day global status to add-on code status. However, when the work time for a code is going down and the unit of service is being reduced, we would not expect to see an increased work RVU under these circumstances, and especially not such a large work RVU increase. Therefore, we are proposing instead to crosswalk CPT code 93561 to CPT code 77003 at a work RVU of 0.60, which we believe is a more accurate valuation in relation to other recently-reviewed add-on codes on the PFS. We believe that this proposed work RVU of 0.60 better preserves relativity with other clinically similar codes with similar surveyed work times.

For CPT code 93562, we disagree with the recommended work RVU of 0.77 and are proposing a work RVU of 0.48 based on the intraservice time ratio with CPT code 93561. We observed a similar pattern taking place with CPT code 93562 as with the first code in the family, noting that the recommended intraservice time is decreasing from 16 minutes to 12 minutes (25 percent reduction), and the recommended total time is decreasing from 44 minutes to 12 minutes (73 percent reduction); however, the RUC-recommended work RVU is instead increasing from 0.01 to 0.77. We recognize that CPT code 93562 is another unusual case, as it is also shifting from 0-day global status to add-on code status, and the current work RVU of 0.01 was a decrease from the code's former valuation of 0.16 following the removal of moderate sedation in the CY 2017 rule cycle. However, when the work time for a code is going down and the unit of service is being reduced, we typically would not expect to see a work RVU increase under these circumstances, and especially not such a large work RVU increase. Therefore, we are proposing instead to apply the intraservice time ratio from CPT code 93561, for a ratio of 0.80 (12 minutes divided by 15 minutes) multiplied by the proposed work RVU of 0.60 for CPT code 93561, which results in the proposed work RVU of 0.48 for CPT code 93562. We note that the RUC-recommended work values also line up according to the same intraservice time ratio, with the recommended work RVU of 0.77 for CPT code 93562 existing in a ratio of 0.81 with the recommended work RVU of 0.95 for CPT code 93561. We believe that this provides further rationale for our proposal to value the work RVU of CPT code 93562 at 80 percent of the work RVU of CPT code 93561.

There are no recommended direct PE inputs for the codes in this family and we are not proposing any direct PE inputs.

(52) Coronary Flow Reserve Measurement (CPT Codes 93571 and 93572)

CPT code 93571 (Intravascular Doppler velocity and/or pressure derived coronary flow reserve measurement (coronary vessel or graft) during coronary angiography including pharmacologically induced stress; initial vessel) was identified on a list of all services with total Medicare utilization of 10,000 or more that have increased by at least 100 percent from 2009 through 2014. CPT code 93572 (Intravascular Doppler velocity and/or pressure derived coronary flow reserve measurement (coronary vessel or graft) during coronary angiography including pharmacologically induced stress; each additional vessel) was also included for review as part of the same family of CPT codes. The RUC recommended a work RVU of 1.50 for CPT code 93571, which is lower than the current work RVU of 1.80. The total time for this service decreased by 5 minutes from 20 minutes to 15 minutes. The RUC's recommendation is based on a crosswalk to CPT code 15136 (Dermal autograft, face, scalp, eyelids, mouth, neck, ears, orbits, genitalia, hands, feet, and/or multiple digits; each additional 100 sq cm, or each additional 1% of body area of infants and children, or part thereof), which has an identical intraservice and total time as CPT code 93571 of 15 minutes. We disagree with the recommended work RVU of 1.50 for this CPT code because we do not believe that a reduction in work RVU from 1.80 to 1.50 is commensurate with the reduction in time for this service of five minutes. Using the building block methodology, we believe the work RVU for CPT code 93571 should be 1.35. We believe that a crosswalk to CPT code 61517 (Implantation of brain intracavitary chemotherapy agent (List separately in addition to CPT code for primary procedure)) with a work RVU of 1.38 is more appropriate because it has an identical intraservice and total time (15 minutes) as CPT code 93571, describes work that is similar, and is closer to the calculations for intraservice time ratio, total time ratio, and the building block method. Therefore, we are proposing a work RVU of 1.38 for CPT code 93571.

We are proposing the RUC-recommended work RVU for CPT code 93572 (Intravascular Doppler velocity and/or pressure derived coronary flow reserve measurement (coronary vessel or graft) during coronary angiography including pharmacologically induced stress; each additional vessel) of 1.00.

Both of these codes are facility-only procedures with no recommended direct PE inputs.

(53) Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) Rehabilitation (CPT Code 93668)

During 2017, we issued a national coverage determination (NCD) for Medicare coverage of supervised exercise therapy (SET) for the treatment of peripheral artery disease (PAD). Previously, the service had been assigned noncovered status under the PFS. CPT code 93668 (Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) rehabilitation, per session) was payable before the end of CY 2017, retroactive to the effective date of the NCD (May 25, 2017), and for CY 2018, CMS made payment for Medicare-covered SET for the treatment of PAD, Start Printed Page 35767consistent with the NCD, reported with CPT code 93668. We used the most recent RUC-recommended work and direct PE inputs and requested that the RUC review the service, which had not been reviewed since 2001, for direct PE inputs. The RUC is not recommending a work RVU for CPT code 93668 due to the belief that there is no physician work involved in this service. After reviewing this code, we are proposing a work RVU of 0.00 for CPT code 93668 and are proposing to continue valuing the code for PE only.

(54) Home Sleep Apnea Testing (CPT Codes 95800, 95801, and 95806)

CPT codes 95800 (Sleep study, unattended, simultaneous recording; heart rate, oxygen saturation, respiratory analysis (e.g., by airflow or peripheral arterial tone), and sleep time), 95801 (Sleep study, unattended, simultaneous recording; minimum of heart rate, oxygen saturation, and respiratory analysis (e.g., by airflow or peripheral arterial tone)), and 95806 (Sleep study, unattended, simultaneous recording of, heart rate, oxygen saturation, respiratory airflow, and respiratory effort (e.g., thoracoabdominal movement)) were flagged by the CPT Editorial Panel and reviewed at the October 2014 Relativity Assessment Workgroup meeting. Due to rapid growth in service volume, the RUC recommended that these services be reviewed after 2 more years of Medicare utilization data (2014 and 2015 data). These three codes were surveyed for the April 2017 RUC meeting and new recommendations for work and direct PE inputs were submitted to CMS.

For CPT code 95800, the RUC recommended a work RVU of 1.00 based on the survey 25th percentile value. We disagree with the recommended value and are proposing a work RVU of 0.85 based on a pair of crosswalk codes: CPT code 93281 (Programming device evaluation (in person) with iterative adjustment of the implantable device to test the function of the device and select optimal permanent programmed values with analysis, review and report by a physician or other qualified health care professional; multiple lead pacemaker system) and CPT code 93260 (Programming device evaluation (in person) with iterative adjustment of the implantable device to test the function of the device and select optimal permanent programmed values with analysis, review and report by a physician or other qualified health care professional; implantable subcutaneous lead defibrillator system). Both of these codes have a work RVU of 0.85, as well as having the same intraservice time of 15 minutes, similar total times to CPT code 95800, and recent review dates within the last few years.

In reviewing CPT code 95800, we noted that the recommended intraservice time is decreasing from 20 minutes to 15 minutes (25 percent reduction), and the recommended total time is decreasing from 50 minutes to 31 minutes (38 percent reduction); however, the RUC-recommended work RVU is only decreasing from 1.05 to 1.00, which is a reduction of less than 5 percent. Although we do not imply that the decrease in time as reflected in survey values must equate to a one-to-one or linear decrease in the valuation of work RVUs, we believe that since the two components of work are time and intensity, significant decreases in time should be reflected in decreases to work RVUs. In the case of CPT code 95800, we believe that it would be more accurate to propose a work RVU of 0.85 based on the aforementioned crosswalk codes to account for these decreases in the surveyed work time. We also note that in this case where the surveyed times are decreasing and the utilization of CPT code 95800 is increasingly significantly (quadrupling in the last 5 years), we have reason to believe that practitioners are becoming more efficient at performing the procedure, which, under the resource-based nature of the RVU system, lends further support for a reduction in the work RVU.

For CPT code 95801, the RUC proposed a work RVU of 1.00 again based on the survey 25th percentile. We disagree with the recommended value and we are again proposing a work RVU of 0.85 based on the same pair of crosswalk codes, CPT codes 93281 and 93260. We noted that CPT codes 95800 and 95801 had identical recommended work RVUs and identical recommended survey work times. Given that these two codes also have extremely similar work descriptors, we interpreted this to mean that the two codes could have the same work RVU, and therefore, we are proposing the same work RVU of 0.85 for both codes.

For CPT code 95806, the RUC recommended a work RVU of 1.08 based on a crosswalk to CPT code 95819 (Electroencephalogram (EEG); including recording awake and asleep). Although we disagree with the RUC-recommended work RVU of 1.08, we concur that the relative difference in work between CPT codes 95800 and 95801 and CPT code 95806 is equivalent to the recommended interval of 0.08 RVUs. Therefore, we are proposing a work RVU of 0.93 for CPT code 95806, based on the recommended interval of 0.08 additional RVUs above our proposed work RVU of 0.85 for CPT codes 95800 and 95801. We also note that CPT code 95806 is experiencing a similar change in the recommended work and time values comparable to CPT code 95800. The recommended intraservice time for CPT code 95806 is decreasing from 25 minutes to 15 minutes (40 percent), and the recommended total time is decreasing from 50 minutes to 31 minutes (38 percent); however, the recommended work RVU is only decreasing from 1.25 to 1.08, which is a reduction of only 14 percent. As we stated for CPT code 95800, we do not believe that decreases in work time must equate to a one-to-one or linear decrease in the valuation of work RVUs, but we do believe that these changes in surveyed work time suggest that practitioners are becoming more efficient at performing the procedure, and that it would be more accurate to maintain the recommended work interval with CPT codes 95800 and 95801 by proposing a work RVU of 0.93 for CPT code 95806.

We are not proposing any direct PE refinements for this code family.

(55) Neurostimulator Services (CPT Codes 95970, 95X83, 95X84, 95X85, and 95X86)

In October 2013, CPT code 95971 (Electronic analysis of implanted neurostimulator pulse generator system; simple spinal cord, or peripheral (i.e., peripheral nerve, sacral nerve, neuromuscular) neurostimulator pulse generator/transmitter, with intraoperative or subsequent programming) was identified in the second iteration of the High Volume Growth screen. In January 2014, the RUC recommended that CPT codes 95971, 95972 (Electronic analysis of implanted neurostimulator pulse generator system; complex spinal cord, or peripheral (i.e., peripheral nerve, sacral nerve, neuromuscular) (except cranial nerve) neurostimulator pulse generator/transmitter, with intraoperative or subsequent programming) and 95974 (Electronic analysis of implanted neurostimulator pulse generator system; complex cranial nerve neurostimulator pulse generator/transmitter, with intraoperative or subsequent programming, with or without nerve interface testing, first hour) be referred to the CPT Editorial Panel to address the entire family regarding the time referenced in the CPT code descriptors. In June 2017, the CPT Editorial Panel revised CPT codes 95970, 95971, and 95972, deleted CPT codes 95974, 95975 (Electronic analysis of implanted neurostimulator pulse Start Printed Page 35768generator system; complex cranial nerve neurostimulator pulse generator/transmitter, with intraoperative or subsequent programming, each additional 30 minutes after first hour), 95978 (Electronic analysis of implanted neurostimulator pulse generator system, complex deep brain neurostimulator pulse generator/transmitter, with initial or subsequent programming; first hour), and 95979 (Electronic analysis of implanted neurostimulator pulse generator system, complex deep brain neurostimulator pulse generator/transmitter, with initial or subsequent programming; each additional 30 minutes after first hour) and created four new CPT codes for analysis and programming of implanted cranial nerve neurostimulator pulse generator, analysis, and programming of brain neurostimulator pulse generator systems and analysis of stored neurophysiology recording data.

The RUC recommended a work RVU of 0.45 for CPT code 95970 (Electronic analysis of implanted neurostimulator pulse generator/transmitter (e.g., contact group(s), interleaving, amplitude, pulse width, frequency (Hz), on/off cycling, burst, magnet mode, dose lockout, patient selectable parameters, responsive neurostimulation, detection algorithms, closed loop parameters, and passive parameters by physician or other qualified health care professional; with brain, cranial nerve, spinal cord, peripheral nerve, or sacral nerve neurostimulator pulse generator/transmitter, without programming)), which is identical to the current work RVU for this CPT code. The descriptor for this CPT code has been modified slightly, but the specialty societies affirmed that the work itself has not changed. To justify its recommendation, the RUC provided two references: CPT code 62368 (Electronic analysis of programmable, implanted pump for intrathecal or epidural drug infusion (includes evaluation of reservoir status, alarm status, drug prescription status); with reprogramming), with intraservice time of 15 minutes, total time of 27 minutes, and a work RVU of 0.67; and CPT code 99213 (Office or other outpatient visit for the evaluation and management of an established patient, which requires at least 2 of these 3 key components: An expanded problem focused history; An expanded problem focused examination; or Medical decision making of low complexity. Counseling and coordination of care with other physicians, other qualified health care professionals, or agencies are provided consistent with the nature of the problem(s) and the patient's and/or family's needs. Usually, the presenting problem(s) are of low to moderate severity. Typically, 15 minutes are spent face-to-face with the patient and/or family), with intraservice time of 15 minutes, total time of 23 minutes, and a work RVU of 0.97. We disagree with the RUC's recommendation because we do not believe that maintaining the work RVU, given a decrease of four minutes in total time, is appropriate. In addition, we note that the reference CPT codes chosen have much higher intraservice and total times than CPT code 95970, and also have higher work RVUs, making them poor comparisons. Instead, we identified a crosswalk to CPT code 95930 (Visual evoked potential (VEP) checkerboard or flash testing, central nervous system except glaucoma, with interpretation and report) with 10 minutes intraservice time, 14 minutes total time, and a work RVU of 0.35. Therefore, we are proposing a work RVU of 0.35 for CPT code 95970.

CPT code 95X83 (Electronic analysis of implanted neurostimulator pulse generator/transmitter (e.g., contact group(s), interleaving, amplitude, pulse width, frequency (Hz), on/off cycling, burst, magnet mode, dose lockout, patient selectable parameters, responsive neurostimulation, detection algorithms, closed loop parameters, and passive parameters) by physician or other qualified health care professional; with simple cranial nerve neurostimulator pulse generator/transmitter programming by physician or other qualified health care professional) is a new CPT code replacing CPT code 95974 (Electronic analysis of implanted neurostimulator pulse generator system (e.g., rate, pulse amplitude, pulse duration, configuration of wave form, battery status, electrode selectability, output modulation, cycling, impedance and patient compliance measurements); complex cranial nerve neurostimulator pulse generator/transmitter, with intraoperative or subsequent programming, with or without nerve interface testing, first hour). The description of the work involved in furnishing CPT code 95X83 differs from that of the deleted CPT code in a few important ways, notably that the time parameter has been removed so that the CPT code no longer describes the first hour of programming. In addition, the new CPT code refers to simple rather than complex programming. Accordingly, the intraservice and total times for this CPT code are substantively different from those of the deleted CPT code. CPT code 95X83 has an intraservice time of 11 minutes and a total time of 24 minutes, while CPT code 95974 has an intraservice time of 60 minutes and a total time of 110 minutes. The RUC recommended a work RVU of 0.95 for CPT code 95X83. The RUC's top reference CPT code as chosen by the RUC survey participants was CPT code 95816 (Electroencephalogram (EEG); including recording awake and drowsy), with an intraservice time of 15 minutes, 26 minutes total time, and a work RVU of 1.08. The RUC indicated that the service is similar, but somewhat more complex than CPT code 95X83. We disagree with the RUC's recommended work RVU for this CPT code because we do not believe that the large difference in time between the new CPT code and CPT code 95974 is reflected in the slightly smaller proportional decrease in work RVUs. The reduction in total time, from 110 minutes to 24 minutes is nearly 80 percent. However, the RUC's recommended work RVU reflects a reduction of just under 70 percent. We believe that a more appropriate crosswalk would be CPT code 76641 (Ultrasound, breast, unilateral, real time with image documentation, including axilla when performed; complete) with intraservice time of 12 minutes, total time of 22 minutes, and a work RVU of 0.73. Therefore, we are proposing a work RVU of 0.73 for CPT code 95X83.

CPT code 95X84 describes the same work as CPT code 95X83, but with complex rather than simple programming. The CPT Editorial Panel refers to simple programming of a neurostimulator pulse generator/transmitter as the adjustment of one to three parameter(s), while complex programming includes adjustment of more than three parameters. For purposes of applying the building block methodology and calculating intraservice and total time ratios, the RUC compared CPT code 94X84 with CPT code 95975 (Electronic analysis of implanted neurostimulator pulse generator system (e.g., rate, pulse amplitude, pulse duration, configuration of wave form, battery status, electrode selectability, output modulation, cycling, impedance and patient compliance measurements); complex cranial nerve neurostimulator pulse generator/transmitter, with intraoperative or subsequent programming, each additional 30 minutes after first hour), which is being deleted by the CPT Editorial Panel. We believe that this was an inappropriate comparison since it is time based (first hour of programming) and is an add-on code. Instead we believe that the RUC Start Printed Page 35769intended to compare CPT code 95X84 with CPT code 95974 (Electronic analysis of implanted neurostimulator pulse generator system (e.g., rate, pulse amplitude, pulse duration, configuration of wave form, battery status, electrode selectability, output modulation, cycling, impedance and patient compliance measurements); complex cranial nerve neurostimulator pulse generator/transmitter, with intraoperative or subsequent programming, with or without nerve interface testing, first hour), which has been recommended for deletion by the CPT Editorial Panel and is also the comparison for CPT code 95X83. The RUC recommended a work RVU of 1.19 for CPT code 95X84. The RUC disagreed with the two top reference services CPT code 99215 (Office or other outpatient visit for the evaluation and management of an established patient, which requires at least 2 of these 3 key components: A comprehensive history; A comprehensive examination; or Medical decision making of high complexity. Counseling and/or coordination of care with other physicians, other qualified health care professionals, or agencies are provided consistent with the nature of the problem(s) and the patient's and/or family's needs. Usually, the presenting problem(s) are of moderate to high severity. Typically, 40 minutes are spent face-to-face with the patient and/or family) and CPT code 99202 (Office or other outpatient visit for the evaluation and management of a new patient, which requires these 3 key components: An expanded problem focused history; An expanded problem focused examination; or straightforward medical decision making. Counseling and/or coordination of care with other physicians, other qualified health care professionals, or agencies are provided consistent with the nature of the problem(s) and the patient's and/or family's needs. Usually, the presenting problem(s) are of low to moderate severity. Typically, 20 minutes are spent face-to-face with the patient and/or family) and instead compared CPT code 95X84 to CPT code 99308 (Subsequent nursing facility care, per day, for the evaluation and management of a patient, which requires at least 2 of these 3 key components: An expanded problem focused interval history; An expanded problem focused examination; or Medical decision making of low complexity. Counseling and/or coordination of care with other physicians, other qualified health care professionals, or agencies are provided consistent with the nature of the problem(s) and the patient's and/or family's needs. Usually, the patient is responding inadequately to therapy or has developed a minor complication. Typically, 15 minutes are spent at the bedside and on the patient's facility floor or unit.) with total time of 31 minutes, intraservice time of 15 minutes, and a work RVU of 1.16; and CPT code 12013 (Simple repair of superficial wounds of face, ears, eyelids, nose, lips and/or mucous membranes; 2.6 cm to 5.0 cm), with total time of 27 minutes, intraservice time of 15 minutes, and a work RVU of 1.22. We disagree with the RUC's recommended work RVU of 1.19 for CPT code 95X84. Once the comparison CPT code is corrected to CPT code 95974, the reverse building block calculation indicates that a lower work RVU (close to 0.82) would be a better reflection of the work involved in furnishing this service. As an alternative to the RUC's recommendation, we added the difference in RUC-recommended work RVUs between CPT code 95X83 and 95X84 (0.24 RVUs) to the proposed work RVU of 0.73 for CPT code 95X83. Therefore, we propose a work RVU of 0.97 for CPT code 95X84.

CPT code 95X85 (Electronic analysis of implanted neurostimulator pulse generator/transmitter (e.g., contact group(s), interleaving, amplitude, pulse width, frequency (Hz), on/off cycling, burst, magnet mode, doe lockout, patient selectable parameters, responsive neurostimulation, detection algorithms, closed loop parameters, and passive parameters) by physician or other qualified health care professional; with brain neurostimulator pulse generator/transmitter programming, first 15 minutes face-to-face time with physician or other qualified health care professional) is the base for add-on CPT code 95X86 (Electronic analysis of implanted neurostimulator pulse generator/transmitter (e.g., contact group(s), interleaving, amplitude, pulse width, frequency (Hz), on/off cycling, burst, magnet mode, doe lockout, patient selectable parameters, responsive neurostimulation, detection algorithms, closed loop parameters, and passive parameters) by physician or other qualified health care professional; with brain neurostimulator pulse generator/transmitter programming, each additional 15 minutes face-to-face time with physician or other qualified health care professional), which is an add-on CPT code and can only be billed with CPT code 95X85. The RUC compared CPT code 95X85 with CPT code 95978 (Electronic analysis of implanted neurostimulator pulse generator system (e.g., rate, pulse amplitude and duration, battery status, electrode selectability and polarity, impedance and patient compliance measurements), complex deep brain neurostimulator pulse generator/transmitter, with initial or subsequent programming; first hour), which the CPT Editorial Panel is recommending for deletion. The primary distinction between the new and old CPT codes is that the new CPT code describes the first 15 minutes of programming while the deleted CPT code describes up to one hour of programming. The RUC recommended a work RVU of 1.25 for CPT code 95X85 and a work RVU of 1.00 for CPT code 95X86. For CPT code 95X85, the RUC's recommendation is based on reference CPT codes 12013 (Simple repair of superficial wounds of face, ears, eyelids, nose, lips and/or mucous membranes; 2.6 cm to 5.0 cm), with total time of 27 minutes, intraservice time of 15 minutes, and a work RVU of 1.22; and CPT code 70470 (Computed tomography, head or brain; without contrast material, followed by contrast material(s) and further sections) with 25 minutes of total time, 15 minutes of intraservice time, and a work RVU of 1.27. We disagree with the RUC's recommended work RVU for CPT code 95X85 because we do not believe that the reduction in work RVU reflects the change in time described by the CPT code. Using the reverse building block methodology, we estimate that a work RVU of nearer to 1.11 would be more appropriate. In addition, if we were to sum the RUC-recommended RVUs for a single hour of programming using one of the base CPT codes and three of the 15 minute follow-on CPT codes, 1 hour of programming would be valued at 4.25 work RVUs. This contrasts sharply from the work RVU of 3.50 for 1 hour of programming using the deleted CPT code 95978. We believe that a more appropriate valuation of the work involved in furnishing this service is reflected by a crosswalk to CPT code 93886 (Transcranial Doppler study of the intracranial arteries; complete study), with total time 27 minutes, intraservice time of 17 minutes, and a work RVU of 0.91. Therefore, we are proposing a work RVU of 0.91 for CPT code 95X85.

The RUC's recommended work RVU of 1.00 for CPT code 95X86 is based on the key reference service CPT code 64645 (Chemodenervation of one extremity; each additional extremity, 5 or more muscles), which has total time of 26 minutes, intraservice time of 25 minutes, and a work RVU 1.39. This new CPT code is replacing CPT code 95978 (Electronic analysis of implanted Start Printed Page 35770neurostimulator pulse generator system (e.g., rate, pulse amplitude and duration, battery status, electrode selectability and polarity, impedance and patient compliance measurements), complex deep brain neurostimulator pulse generator/transmitter, with initial or subsequent programming; first hour), which is being deleted by the CPT Editorial Panel. If we add the incremental difference between CPT codes 95X85 and 95X86 to the proposed value for the base CPT code (95X85, work RVU = 0.91), we estimate that this add-on CPT code should have a work RVU of 0.75. The building block methodology results in a recommendation of a slightly higher work RVU of 0.82. We are proposing a work RVU of 0.80 for CPT code 95X86, which falls between the calculated value using incremental differences and the calculation from the reverse building block, and is supported by a crosswalk to CPT code 51797 (Voiding pressure studies, intra-abdominal (i.e., rectal, gastric, intraperitoneal)), which is an add-on CPT code with identical total and intraservice times (15 minutes) as CPT code 95X86.

We are not proposing any direct PE refinements for this code family.

(56) Psychological and Neuropsychological Testing (CPT Codes 96105, 96110, 96116, 96125, 96127, 963X0, 963X1, 963X2, 963X3, 963X4, 963X5, 963X6, 963X7, 963X8, 963X9, 96X10, 96X11, 96X12)

In CY 2016, the Psychological and Neuropsychological Testing family of codes were identified as potentially misvalued using a high expenditure services screen across specialties with Medicare allowed charges of $10 million or more. The entire family of codes was referred to the CPT Editorial Panel to be revised, as the testing practices had been significantly altered by the growth and availability of technology, leading to confusion about how to report the codes. In June 2017, the CPT Editorial Panel revised five existing codes, added 13 codes to provide better description of psychological and neuropsychological testing, and deleted CPT codes 96101, 96102, 96103, 96111, 96118, 96119, and 96120. The RUC and HCPAC submitted recommendations for the 13 new codes and for the existing CPT codes 96105, 96110, 96116, 96125, and 96127.

We are proposing the RUC- and HCPAC-recommend work RVUs for several of the CPT codes in this family: A work RVU of 1.75 for CPT code 96105; a work RVU of 1.86 for CPT code 96116; a work RVU of 1.70 for CPT code 96125; a work RVU of 1.71 for CPT code 963X2; a work RVU of 0.55 for CPT code 963X7; a work RVU of 0.46 for CPT code 963X8; and a work RVU of 0.51 for CPT code 96X11. CPT codes 96110, 96127, 963X9, 96X10, and 96X12 were valued by the RUC for PE only.

This code family contains a subset of codes that describe psychological and neuropsychological testing administration and evaluation, not including assessment of aphasia, developmental screening, or developmental testing. The CPT Editorial Panel's recommended coding for this subset of services consists of seven new codes: Two that describe either psychological or neuropsychological testing when administered by physicians or other qualified health professionals (CPT codes 963X7 and 963X8), and two for either type of testing when administered by technicians (CPT codes 963X9 and 96X10); and four new codes that describe testing evaluation by physicians or other qualified health care professionals (CPT codes 963X3-963X6). This new coding effectively unbundles codes that currently report the full course of testing into separate codes for testing administration (CPT codes 963X7, 963X8, 963X9, and 96X10) and evaluation (CPT Codes 963X3, 963X4, and 963X5). According to a stakeholder that represents the psychologist and neuropsychologist community, this new coding will result in significant reductions in payment for these services due to the unbundling of the testing codes into codes for physician-administered tests and technician-administered tests. The stakeholder asserts that because the new coding includes testing codes with zero work RVUs for the technician administered tests and the work RVUs are lower than they believe to be accurate, this new valuation would ignore the clinical evaluation and decision making performed by the physician or other qualified health professional during the course of testing administration and evaluation. Furthermore, the net result of the code valuations for these new codes is a reduction in the overall work RVUs for this family of codes. In other words, the stakeholder's analysis found that the RUC recommendations result in a reduction in total work RVUs, even though the actual physician work of a testing battery has not changed.

In the interest of payment stability for these high-volume services, we are proposing to implement work RVUs for this code family, which would eliminate the approximately 2 percent reduction in work spending. We are proposing to achieve work neutrality for this code family by scaling the work RVUs upward from the RUC-recommended values so that the size of the pool of work RVUs would be essentially unchanged for this family of services. Therefore, we are proposing: A work RVU of 2.56 for CPT code 963X0, rather than the RUC recommended work RVU of 2.50; a work RVU of 1.16 for CPT code 963X1, rather than the RUC-recommended work RVU of 1.10; a work RVU of 2.56 for CPT code 963X3, rather than the RUC-recommended work RVU of 2.50; a work RVU of 1.96 for CPT code 963X4, rather than the RUC-recommended work RVU of 1.90; a work RVU of 2.56 for CPT code 963X5, rather than the RUC-recommended work RVU of 2.50; and a work RVU of 1.96 for CPT code 963X6, rather than the RUC-recommended work RVU of 1.90. We see no evidence that the typical practice for these services has changed to merit a reduction in valuation of professional services.

The RUC made several revisions to the recommended direct PE inputs for the administration codes from their respective predecessor codes, including revisions to quantities of testing forms. For the supply item, “psych testing forms, average” there is a quantity of 0.10 in the predecessor CPT code 96101, and a quantity of 0.33 in the predecessor CPT code 96102. For the supply item “neurobehavioral status forms, average,” there is a quantity of 1.0 in the predecessor CPT code 96118 and a quantity of 0.30 for predecessor CPT code 96119, and for the supply item “aphasia assessment forms, average,” there is a quantity of 1.0 in the predecessor CPT code 96118 and a quantity of 0.30 in predecessor CPT code 96119. The RUC recommendation does not include any forms for CPT codes 963X5 and 963X6. The RUC has replaced the corresponding predecessor supply items with new items “WAIS-IV Record Form,” “WAIS-IV Response Booklet #1,” and “WAIS-IV Response Booklet #2,” and assigned quantities of 0.165 for each of these new supply items for CPT codes 963X7-96X10. In our analysis, we find that the RUC-recommended PE refinements contributes significantly to the reduction in the overall payment for this code family. We see no compelling evidence that the quantities of testing forms used in a typical course of testing would have reduced dramatically and, in the interest of payment stability, we are proposing to refine the direct PE inputs for CPT codes 963X5-96X10 by including 1.0 quantity each of the supply items “WAIS-IV Record Form,” “WAIS-IV Response Booklet #1”, and Start Printed Page 35771“WAIS-IV Response Booklet #2.” We believe that a typical course of testing would involve use of one booklet for each of the relevant codes. In addition, these proposed refinements would largely mitigate potentially destabilizing payment reductions for these services. We are seeking comment on our proposed work RVUs and proposed PE refinements for this family of services.

For the direct PE inputs, we are proposing to remove the equipment time for the CANTAB Mobile (ED055) equipment item from CPT code 96X12. This item was listed at different points in the recommendations as a supply item with a cost of $28 per assessment and as an equipment item for a software license with a cost of $2,800 that could be used for up to 100 assessments. We are unclear as to how the CANTAB Mobile would typically be used in this procedure, and we are proposing to remove the equipment time pending the submission of more data about the item. We are seeking additional information about the use of this item and how it should best be included into the PE methodology. We are also interested in information as to whether the submitted invoice refers to the cost of the mobile device itself, or the cost of user licenses for the mobile device, which was unclear from the information submitted with the recommendations.

(57) Electrocorticography (CPT Code 96X00)

CPT Code 95829 is used for Electrocorticogram performed at the time of surgery; however, a new code was needed to account for this non-face-to-face service for the review of a month's worth or more of stored data. CPT code 96X00 (Electrocorticogram from an implanted brain neurostimulator pulse generator/transmitter, including recording, with interpretation and written report, up to 30 days) is a new code approved at the September 2017 CPT Editorial Panel Meeting to describe this service.

We disagree with the RUC-recommended work RVU of 2.30 for CPT code 96X00 and are proposing a work RVU of 1.98 based on a direct crosswalk to the top reference, CPT code 95957 (Digital analysis of electroencephalogram (EEG) (e.g., for epileptic spike analysis)). This is a recently-reviewed code with the same intraservice time of 30 minutes and a total time only 2 minutes lower than CPT code 96X00. We agree with the survey respondents that CPT code 95957 is an accurate valuation for this new code, and due to the clinically similar nature of the two procedures and their near-identical time values, we are proposing to value both of them at the same work RVU of 1.98.

The RUC did not recommend, and we did not propose, any direct PE inputs for CPT code 96X00.

(58) Chronic Care Remote Physiologic Monitoring (CPT Codes 990X0, 990X1, and 994X9)

In the CY 2018 PFS final rule, we finalized separate payment for CPT code 99091 (Collection and interpretation of physiologic data (e.g., ECG, blood pressure, glucose monitoring) digitally stored and/or transmitted by the patient and/or caregiver to the physician or other qualified health care professional, qualified by education, training, licensure/regulation (when applicable) requiring a minimum of 30 minutes of time) (82 FR 53014). In that rule, we indicated that there would be new coding describing remote monitoring forthcoming from the CPT Editorial Panel and the RUC (82 FR 53014). In September 2017, the CPT Editorial Panel revised one code and created three new codes to describe remote physiologic monitoring and management and the RUC provided valuation recommendations through our standard rulemaking process.

CPT codes 990X0 (Remote monitoring of physiologic parameter(s) (e.g., weight, blood pressure, pulse oximetry, respiratory flow rate), initial; set-up and patient education on use of equipment) and 990X1 (Remote monitoring of physiologic parameter(s) (e.g., weight, blood pressure, pulse oximetry, respiratory flow rate), initial; device(s) supply with daily recording(s) or programmed alert(s) transmission, each 30 days) are both PE-only codes. We are proposing the RUC-recommended work RVU of 0.61 for CPT code 994X9 (Remote physiologic monitoring treatment management services, 20 minutes or more of clinical staff/physician/other qualified healthcare professional time in a calendar month requiring interactive communication with the patient/caregiver during the month).

For the direct PE inputs, we are proposing to accept the RUC-recommended direct PE inputs for CPT code 990X0 and to remove the “Monthly cellular and licensing service fee” supply from CPT code 990X1. We do not believe that these licensing fees would be allocated to the use of an individual patient for an individual service, and instead believe they can be better understood as forms of indirect costs similar to office rent or administrative expenses. Therefore, we are proposing to remove this supply input as a form of indirect PE. We are proposing the direct PE inputs for CPT code 994X9 without refinement.

(59) Interprofessional Internet Consultation (CPT Codes 994X6, 994X0, 99446, 99447, 99448, and 99449)

In September 2017, the CPT Editorial Panel revised four codes and created two codes to describe interprofessional telephone/internet/electronic medical record consultation services. CPT codes 99446 (Interprofessional telephone/internet assessment and management service provided by a consultative physician including a verbal and written report to the patient's treating/requesting physician or other qualified health care professional; 5-10 minutes of medical consultative discussion and review), 99447 (Interprofessional telephone/internet assessment and management service provided by a consultative physician including a verbal and written report to the patient's treating/requesting physician or other qualified health care professional; 11-20 minutes of medical consultative discussion and review), 99448 (Interprofessional telephone/internet assessment and management service provided by a consultative physician including a verbal and written report to the patient's treating/requesting physician or other qualified health care professional; 21-30 minutes of medical consultative discussion and review), and 99449 (Interprofessional telephone/internet assessment and management service provided by a consultative physician including a verbal and written report to the patient's treating/requesting physician or other qualified health care professional; 31 minutes or more of medical consultative discussion and review) describe assessment and management services in which a patient's treating physician or other qualified healthcare professional requests the opinion and/or treatment advice of a physician with specific specialty expertise to assist with the diagnosis and/or management of the patient's problem without the need for the face-to-face interaction between the patient and the consultant. These CPT codes are currently assigned a procedure status of B (bundled) and are not separately payable under Medicare. The CPT Editorial Panel revised these codes to include electronic health record consultations, and the RUC reaffirmed the work RVUs it had previously submitted for these codes. We reevaluated the submitted recommendations and, in light of changes in medical practice and technology, we are proposing to change the procedure status for CPT codes 99446, 99447, 99448, and 99449 from B Start Printed Page 35772(bundled) to A (active). We are also proposing the RUC re-affirmed work RVUs of 0.35 for CPT code 99446, 0.70 for CPT code 99447, 1.05 for CPT code 99448, and 1.40 for CPT code 99449.

The CPT Editorial Panel also created two new codes, CPT code 994X0 (Interprofessional telephone/internet/electronic health record referral service(s) provided by a treating/requesting physician or qualified health care professional, 30 minutes) and CPT code 994X6 (Interprofessional telephone/internet/electronic health record assessment and management service provided by a consultative physician including a written report to the patient's treating/requesting physician or other qualified health care professional, 5 or more minutes of medical consultative time). The RUC-recommended work RVUs are 0.50 for CPT code 994X0 and 0.70 for 994X6. Since the CPT code for the treating/requesting physician or qualified healthcare professional and the CPT code for the consultative physician have similar intraservice times, we believe that these CPT codes should have equal values for work. Therefore, we are proposing a work RVU of 0.50 for both CPT codes 994X0 and 994X6.

We welcome comments on this proposal. We also direct readers to section II.D. of this proposed rule, which includes additional detail regarding our proposed policies for modernizing Medicare physician payment by recognizing communication technology-based services.

There are no recommended direct PE inputs for the codes in this family.

(60) Chronic Care Management Services (CPT Code 994X7)

In February 2017, the CPT Editorial Panel created a new code to describe at least 30 minutes of chronic care management services performed personally by the physician or qualified health care professional over one calendar month. CMS began making separate payment for CPT code 99490 (Chronic care management services, at least 20 minutes of clinical staff time directed by a physician or other qualified health care professional, per calendar month, with the following required elements: Multiple (two or more) chronic conditions expected to last at least 12 months, or until the death of the patient; chronic conditions place the patient at significant risk of death, acute exacerbation/decompensation, or functional decline; comprehensive care plan established, implemented, revised, or monitored) in CY 2015 (79 FR 67715). CPT code 99490 describes 20 minutes of clinical staff time spent on care management services for patients with 2 or more chronic conditions. CPT code 99490 also includes 15 minutes of physician time for supervision of clinical staff. For CY 2019, the CPT Editorial Panel created CPT code 994X7 (Chronic care management services, provided personally by a physician or other qualified health care professional, at least 30 minutes of physician or other qualified health care professional time, per calendar month, with the following required elements: Multiple (two or more) chronic conditions expected to last at least 12 months, or until the death of the patient, chronic conditions place the patient at significant risk of death, acute exacerbation/decompensation, or functional decline; comprehensive care plan established, implemented, revised, or monitored) to describe situations when the billing practitioner is doing the care coordination work that is attributed to clinical staff in CPT code 99490. For CPT code 994X7, the RUC recommended a work RVU of 1.45 for 30 minutes of physician time. We believe this work RVU overvalues the resource costs associated with the physician performing the same care coordination activities that are performed by clinical staff in the service described by CPT code 99490. Additionally, this valuation of the work is higher than that of CPT code 99487 (Complex chronic care management services, with the following required elements: Multiple (two or more) chronic conditions expected to last at least 12 months, or until the death of the patient, chronic conditions place the patient at significant risk of death, acute exacerbation/decompensation, or functional decline, establishment or substantial revision of a comprehensive care plan, moderate or high complexity medical decision making; 60 minutes of clinical staff time directed by a physician or other qualified health care professional, per calendar month), which includes 60 minutes of clinical staff time, creating a rank order anomaly within the family of codes if we were to accept the RUC-recommended value.

CPT code 99490 has a work RVU of 0.61 for 15 minutes of physician time. Therefore, as CPT code 994X7 describes 30 minutes of physician time, we are proposing a work RVU of 1.22, which is double the work RVU of CPT code 99490.

We are not proposing any direct PE refinements for this code family.

(61) Diabetes Management Training (HCPCS Codes G0108 and G0109)

HCPCS codes G0108 (Diabetes outpatient self-management training services, individual, per 30 minutes) and G0109 (Diabetes outpatient self-management training services, group session (2 or more), per 30 minutes) were identified on a screen of CMS or Other source codes with Medicare utilization greater than 100,000 services annually. For CY 2019, we are proposing the HCPAC-recommended work RVU of 0.90 for HCPCS code G0108 and the HCPAC-recommended work RVU of 0.25 for HCPCS code G0109.

For the direct PE inputs, we note that there is a significant disparity between the specialty recommendation and the final recommendation submitted by the HCPAC. We are concerned about the significant decreases in direct PE inputs in the final recommendation when compared to the current makeup of the two codes. The final HCPAC recommendation removed a series of different syringes and the patient education booklet that currently accompanies the procedure. We believe that injection training is part of these services and that the supplies associated with that training would typically be included in the procedures. Due to these concerns, we are proposing to maintain the current direct PE inputs for HCPCS codes G0108 and G0109. Therefore, we will not add the new supply item “20x30 inch self-stick easel pad, white, 30 sheets/pad” (SK129) to HCPCS code G0109, as it is not a current supply for HCPCS code G0109; however, we are proposing to accept the submitted invoice price and to add the supply to our direct PE database.

(62) External Counterpulsation (HCPCS Code G0166)

HCPCS code G0166 (External counterpulsation, per treatment session) was identified on a screen of CMS or Other source codes with Medicare utilization greater than 100,000 services annually. The RUC is not recommending a work RVU for HCPCS code G0166 due to the belief that there is no physician work involved in this service. After reviewing this code, we are proposing a work RVU of 0.00 for HCPCS code G0166, and are proposing to make the code valued for PE only.

For the direct PE inputs, we are proposing to refine the equipment times in accordance with our standard equipment time formulas.Start Printed Page 35773

(63) Wound Closure by Adhesive (HCPCS Code G0168)

HCPCS code G0168 (Wound closure utilizing tissue adhesive(s) only) was identified as potentially misvalued on a screen of 0-day global services reported with an E/M visit 50 percent of the time or more, on the same day of service by the same patient and the same practitioner, that have not been reviewed in the last 5 years with Medicare utilization greater than 20,000. For CY 2019, the RUC recommended a work RVU of 0.45 based on maintaining the current work RVU.

We disagree with the recommended value and we are proposing a work RVU of 0.31 for HCPCS code G0168 based on a direct crosswalk to CPT code 93293 (Transtelephonic rhythm strip pacemaker evaluation(s) single, dual, or multiple lead pacemaker system, includes recording with and without magnet application with analysis, review and report(s) by a physician or other qualified health care professional, up to 90 days). CPT code 93293 is a recently-reviewed code with the same 5 minutes of intraservice time and 1 fewer minute of total time. In reviewing HCPCS code G0168, the recommendations stated that the work involved in the service had not changed even though the surveyed intraservice time was decreasing by 50 percent, from 10 minutes to 5 minutes. Although we do not imply that the decrease in time as reflected in survey values must equate to a one-to-one or linear decrease in the valuation of work RVUs, we believe that since the two components of work are time and intensity, significant decreases in time should be reflected in decreases to work RVUs. In the case of HCPCS code G0168, we believe that it would be more accurate to propose a work RVU of 0.31 based on the aforementioned crosswalk to CPT code 93293 to account for these decreases in the surveyed work time. Maintaining the current work RVU of 0.45 despite a 50 percent decrease in the surveyed intraservice time would result in a significant increase in the intensity of HCPCS code G0168, and we have no reason to believe that the procedure has increased in intensity since the last time that it was valued.

For the direct PE inputs, we are proposing to refine the equipment times in accordance with our standard equipment time formulas.

(64) Removal of Impacted Cerumen (HCPCS Code G0268)

HCPCS code G0268 (Removal of impacted cerumen (one or both ears) by physician on same date of service as audiologic function testing) was identified as potentially misvalued on a screen of 0-day global services reported with an E/M visit 50 percent of the time or more, on the same day of service by the same patient and the same practitioner, that have not been reviewed in the last 5 years with Medicare utilization greater than 20,000. For CY 2019, we are proposing the RUC-recommended work RVU of 0.61 for HCPCS code G0268.

For the direct PE inputs, we are proposing to remove the clinical labor time for the “Clean surgical instrument package” (CA026) activity. There is no surgical instrument pack included in the recommended equipment for HCPCS code G0268, and this code already includes the standard 3 minutes allocated for cleaning the room and equipment. In addition, all of the instruments used in the procedure appear to be disposable supplies that would not require cleaning since they would only be used a single time.

(65) Structured Assessment, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment for Substance Use Disorders (HCPCS Codes G0396, G0397, and GSBR1)

In response to the Request for Information in the CY 2018 PFS proposed rule (82 FR 34172), commenters requested that CMS pay separately for assessment and referral related to substance use disorders. In the CY 2008 PFS final rule (72 FR 66371), we created two G-codes to allow for appropriate Medicare reporting and payment for alcohol and substance abuse assessment and intervention services that are not provided as screening services, but that are performed in the context of the diagnosis or treatment of illness or injury. The codes are HCPCS code G0396 (Alcohol and/or substance (other than tobacco) abuse structured assessment (e.g., AUDIT, DAST) and brief intervention, 15 to 30 minutes)) and HCPCS code G0397 (Alcohol and/or substance (other than tobacco) abuse structured assessment (e.g., AUDIT, DAST) and intervention greater than 30 minutes)). In 2008, we instructed Medicare contractors to pay for these codes only when the services were considered reasonable and necessary.

Given the ongoing opioid epidemic and the current needs of the Medicare population, we expect that these services would often be reasonable and necessary. However, the utilization for these services is relatively low, which we believe is in part due to the service-specific documentation requirements for these codes (the current requirements can be found here: https://www.cms.gov/​Outreach-and-Education/​Medicare-Learning-Network-MLN/​MLNProducts/​downloads/​SBIRT_​Factsheet_​ICN904084.pdf). We believe that removing the additional documentation requirements will also ease the administrative burden on providers. Therefore, for CY 2019, we are proposing to eliminate the service-specific documentation requirements for HCPCS codes G0397 and G0398. We welcome comments on our proposal to change the documentation requirements for these codes.

Additionally, we are proposing to create a third HCPCS code, GSBR1, with a lower time threshold in order to accurately account for the resource costs when practitioners furnish these services, but do not meet the requirements of the existing codes. The proposed code descriptor is: Alcohol and/or substance (other than tobacco) abuse structured assessment (e.g., AUDIT, DAST), and brief intervention, 5-14 minutes. We are proposing a work RVU of 0.33, based on the intraservice time ratio between HCPCS codes G0396 and G0397. We welcome comments on this code descriptor and proposed valuation for HCPCS code GSBR1.

(66) Prolonged Services (HCPCS Code GPRO1)

CPT codes 99354 (Prolonged evaluation and management or psychotherapy service(s) (beyond the typical service time of the primary procedure) in the office or other outpatient setting requiring direct patient contact beyond the usual service; first hour (List separately in addition to code for office or other outpatient Evaluation and Management or psychotherapy service)) and 99355 (Prolonged evaluation and management or psychotherapy service(s) (beyond the typical service time of the primary procedure) in the office or other outpatient setting requiring direct patient contact beyond the usual service; each additional 30 minutes (List separately in addition to code for prolonged service)) describe additional time spent face-to-face with a patient. Stakeholders claim that the threshold of 60 minutes for CPT code 99354 is difficult to meet and is an impediment to billing these codes. In response to stakeholder feedback and as part of our proposal as discussed in section II.I. of this proposed rule to implement a single PFS rate for E/M visit levels 2-5 while maintaining payment stability across the specialties, we are proposing HCPCS code GPRO1 (Prolonged evaluation and management or psychotherapy service(s) (beyond the typical service time of the primary procedure) in the Start Printed Page 35774office or other outpatient setting requiring direct patient contact beyond the usual service; 30 minutes (List separately in addition to code for office or other outpatient Evaluation and Management or psychotherapy service)), which could be billed with any level of E/M code. We note that we do not propose to make any changes to CPT codes 99354 and 99355, which could still be billed, as needed, when their time thresholds and all other requirements are met. We are proposing a work RVU of 1.17, which is equal to half of the work RVU assigned to CPT code 99354. Additionally, we are proposing direct PE inputs for HCPCS code GPRO1 that are equal to one half of the values assigned to CPT code 99354, which can be found in the Direct PE Inputs public use file for this proposed rule.

(67) Remote Pre-Recorded Services (HCPCS Code GRAS1)

For CY 2019, we are proposing to make separate payment for remote services when a physician uses pre-recorded video and/or images submitted by a patient in order to evaluate a patient's condition through new HCPCS G-code GRAS1 (Remote evaluation of recorded video and/or images submitted by the patient (e.g., store and forward), including interpretation with verbal follow-up with the patient within 24 business hours, not originating from a related E/M service provided within the previous 7 days nor leading to an E/M service or procedure within the next 24 hours or soonest available appointment). We are proposing to value this service by a direct crosswalk to CPT code 93793 (Anticoagulant management for a patient taking warfarin, must include review and interpretation of a new home, office, or lab international normalized ratio (INR) test result, patient instructions, dosage adjustment (as needed), and scheduling of additional test(s), when performed), as we believe the work described is similar in kind and intensity to the work performed as part of HCPCS code GRAS1. Therefore, we are proposing a work RVU of 0.18, preservice time of 3 minutes, intraservice time of 4 minutes, and post service time of 2 minutes. We are also proposing to add 6 minutes of clinical labor (L037D) in the service period. We are seeking comment on the code descriptor and valuation for HCPCS code GRAS1. We direct readers to section II.D. of this proposed rule, which includes additional detail regarding our proposed policies for modernizing Medicare physician payment by recognizing communication technology-based services.

(68) Brief Communication Technology-Based Service, e.g., Virtual Check-in (HCPCS Code GVCI1)

We are proposing to create a G-code, HCPCS code GVCI1 (Brief communication technology based service, e.g. virtual check-in, by a physician or other qualified health care professional who may report evaluation and management services provided to an established patient, not originating from a related E/M service provided within the previous 7 days nor leading to an E/M service or procedure within the next 24 hours or soonest available appointment; 5-10 minutes of medical discussion) to facilitate payment for these brief communication technology-based services. We propose to base the code descriptor and valuation for HCPCS code GVCI1 on existing CPT code 99441 (Telephone evaluation and management service by a physician or other qualified health care professional who may report evaluation and management services provided to an established patient, parent, or guardian not originating from a related E/M service provided within the previous 7 days nor leading to an E/M service or procedure within the next 24 hours or soonest available appointment; 5-10 minutes of medical discussion), which is currently not separately payable under the PFS. As CPT code 99441 only describes telephone calls, we are proposing to create a new HCPCS code GVCI1 to encompass a broader array of communication modalities. We do, however, believe that the resource assumptions for CPT code 99441 would accurately account for the costs associated with providing the proposed virtual check-in service, regardless of the technology. We are proposing a work RVU of 0.25, based on a direct crosswalk to CPT code 99441. For the direct PE inputs for HCPCS code GVCI1, we are also proposing the direct PE inputs assigned to CPT code 99441. Given the breadth of technologies that could be described as telecommunications, we look forward to receiving public comments and working with the CPT Editorial Panel and the RUC to evaluate whether separate coding and payment is needed to account for differentiation between communication modalities. We are seeking comment on the code descriptor, as well as the proposed valuation for HCPCS code GVCI1. We direct readers to section II.D. of this proposed rule, which includes additional detail regarding our proposed policies for modernizing Medicare physician payment by recognizing communication technology-based services.

(69) Visit Complexity Inherent to Certain Specialist Visits (HCPCS Code GCG0X)

We are proposing to create a HCPCS G-code to be reported with an E/M service to describe the additional resource costs for specialties for whom E/M visit codes make up a large percentage of their total allowed charges and who we believe primarily bill level 4 and level 5 visits. The treatment approaches for these specialties generally do not have separate coding and are generally reported using the E/M visit codes. We are proposing to create HCPCS code, GCG0X (Visit complexity inherent to evaluation and management associated with endocrinology, rheumatology, hematology/oncology, urology, neurology, obstetrics/gynecology, allergy/immunology, otolaryngology, or interventional pain management-centered care (Add-on code, list separately in addition to an evaluation and management visit)). We are proposing a valuation for HCPCS code GCG0X based on a crosswalk to 75 percent of the work RVU and time of CPT code 90785 (Interactive complexity), which would result in a proposed work RVU of 0.25 and a physician time of 8.25 minutes for HCPCS code GCG0X. CPT code 90785 has no direct PE inputs. Interactive complexity is an add-on code that may be billed when a psychotherapy or psychiatric service requires more work due to the complexity of the patient. We believe that this work RVU and physician time would be an accurate representation of the additional work associated with the higher level complex visits. For further discussion of proposals relating to this code, see section II.I of this proposed rule. We are seeking comment on the code descriptor, as well as the proposed valuation for HCPCS code GCG0X.

(70) Visit Complexity Inherent to Primary Care Services (HCPCS Code GPC1X)

We are proposing to create a HCPCS G-code for primary care services, GPC1X (Visit complexity inherent to evaluation and management associated with primary medical care services that serve as the continuing focal point for all needed health care services (Add-on code, list separately in addition to an evaluation and management visit)). This code describes furnishing a visit to a new or existing patient, and can include aspects of care management, counseling, or treatment of acute or chronic Start Printed Page 35775conditions not accounted for by other coding. HCPCS code GPC1X would be billed in addition to the E/M visit code when the visit involved primary care-focused services. We are proposing a work RVU of 0.07, physician time of 1.75 minutes. This proposed valuation accounts for the additional work resource costs associated with furnishing primary care that distinguishes E/M primary care visits from other types of E/M visits and maintains work budget neutrality across the office/outpatient E/M code set. For further discussion of proposals relating to this code, see section II.I of this proposed rule. We are seeking comment on the code descriptor, as well as the proposed valuation for HCPCS code GPC1X.

(71) Podiatric Evaluation and Management Services (HCPCS Codes GPD0X and GPD1X)

We are proposing to create two HCPCS G-codes, HCPCS codes GPD0X (Podiatry services, medical examination and evaluation with initiation of diagnostic and treatment program, new patient) and GPD1X (Podiatry services, medical examination and evaluation with initiation of diagnostic and treatment program, established patient), to describe podiatric evaluation and management services. We are proposing a work RVU of 1.36, a physician time of 28.19 minutes, and direct costs summing to $21.29 for HCPCS code GPD0X, and a work RVU of 0.85, physician time of 21.73 minutes, and direct costs summing to $15.87 for HCPCS code GPD1X. These values are based on the average rate for CPT codes 99201-99203 and CPT codes 99211-99212 respectively, weighted by podiatric volume. For further discussion of proposals relating to these codes, see section II.I of this proposed rule.

(72) Comment Solicitation on Superficial Radiation Treatment Planning and Management

In the CY 2015 PFS final rule with comment period (79 FR 67666-67667), we noted that changes to the CPT prefatory language limited the codes that could be reported when describing services associated with superficial radiation treatment (SRT) delivery, described by CPT code 77401 (radiation treatment delivery, superficial and/or ortho voltage, per day). The changes effectively meant that many other related services were bundled with CPT code 77401, instead of being separately reported. For example, CPT guidance clarified that certain codes used to describe clinical treatment planning, treatment devices, isodose planning, physics consultation, and radiation treatment management cannot be reported when furnished in association with SRT. Stakeholders informed us that these changes to the CPT prefatory language prevented them from billing Medicare for codes that were previously frequently billed with CPT code 77401. We solicited comments as to whether the revised bundled coding for SRT allowed for accurate reporting of the associated services. In the CY 2016 PFS final rule with comment period (80 FR 70955), we noted that the RUC did not review the inputs for SRT procedures, and therefore, did not assess whether changes in valuation were appropriate in light of the bundling of associated services. In addition, we solicited recommendations from stakeholders regarding whether it would be appropriate to add physician work for this service, even though physician work is not included in other radiation treatment services. In the CY 2018 PFS proposed rule (82 FR 34012) and the CY 2018 PFS final rule (82 FR 53082), we noted that the 2016 National Correct Coding Initiative (NCCI) Policy Manual for Medicare Services states that radiation oncology services may not be separately reported with E/M codes. While this NCCI edit is no longer active stakeholders have stated that MACs have denied claims for E/M services associated with SRT based on the NCCI policy manual language. According to stakeholders, the bundling of SRT with associated services, as well as coding confusion regarding the appropriate use of E/M coding to report associated physician work, meant that practitioners were not being paid appropriately for planning and treatment management associated with furnishing SRT. Due to these concerns regarding reporting of services associated with SRT, in the CY 2018 PFS proposed rule (82 FR 34012-34013), we proposed to make separate payment for the professional planning and management associated with SRT using HCPCS code GRRR1 (Superficial radiation treatment planning and management related services, including but not limited to, when performed, clinical treatment planning (for example, 77261, 77262, 77263), therapeutic radiology simulation-aided field setting (for example, 77280, 77285, 77290, 77293), basic radiation dosimetry calculation (for example, 77300), treatment devices (for example, 77332, 77333, 77334), isodose planning (for example, 77306, 77307, 77316, 77317, 77318), radiation treatment management (for example, 77427, 77431, 77432, 77435, 77469, 77470, 77499), and associated E/M per course of treatment). We proposed that this code would describe the range of professional services associated with a course of SRT, including services similar to those not otherwise separately reportable under CPT guidance. Furthermore, we proposed that this code would have included several inputs associated with related professional services such as treatment planning, treatment devices, and treatment management. Many commenters did not support our proposal to make separate payment for HCPCS code GRRR1 for CY 2018, stating that our proposed valuation of HCPCS code GRRR1 would represent a significant payment reduction for the associated services as compared with the list of services that they could previously bill in association with SRT. Commenters voiced concern that the proposed coding would inhibit access to care and discourage the use of SRT as a non-surgical alternative to Mohs surgery. We received comments recommending a variety of potential coding solutions and found that there was not general agreement among commenters about a preferred alternative. In the CY 2018 PFS final rule (82 FR 53081-53083), we solicited further comment, and stated that we would continue our dialogue with stakeholders to address appropriate coding and payment for professional services associated with SRT.

Given stakeholder feedback that we have continued to receive following the publication of the CY 2018 PFS final rule, we continue to believe that there are potential coding gaps for SRT-related professional services. We generally rely on the CPT process to determine coding specificity, and we believe that deferring to this process in addressing potential coding gaps is generally preferable. As our previous attempt at designing a coding solution in the CY 2018 PFS proposed rule did not gain stakeholder consensus, and given that there were various, in some cases diverging, suggestions on a coding solution from stakeholders, we are not proposing changes relating to SRT coding, SRT-related professional codes, or payment policies for CY 2019. However, we are seeking comment on the possibility of creating multiple G-codes specific to services associated with SRT, as was suggested by one stakeholder following the CY 2018 PFS final rule. These codes would be used separately to report services including SRT planning, initial patient simulation visit, treatment device design and construction associated with SRT, SRT management, and medical physics consultation. We are seeking comment Start Printed Page 35776on whether we should create such G codes to separately report each of the services described above, mirroring the coding of other types of radiation treatment delivery. For instance, HCPCS code G6003 (Radiation treatment delivery, single treatment area, single port or parallel opposed ports, simple blocks or no blocks: Up to 5 mev) is used to report radiation treatment delivery, while associated professional services are billed with codes such as CPT codes 77427 (Radiation treatment management, 5 treatments), 77261 (Therapeutic radiology treatment planning; simple), 77332 (Treatment devices, design and construction; simple (simple block, simple bolus), and 77300 (Basic radiation dosimetry calculation, central axis depth dose calculation, TDF, NSD, gap calculation, off axis factor, tissue inhomogeneity factors, calculation of non-ionizing radiation surface and depth dose, as required during course of treatment, only when prescribed by the treating physician). We are interested in public comment on whether it would be appropriate to create separate codes for professional services associated with SRT in a coding structure parallel to radiation treatment delivery services such as HCPCS code G6003. We are seeking comment on creating these codes for inclusion in this update of the PFS. We are also interested in whether such codes should be contractor priced for CY 2019. We would consider contractor pricing such codes for CY 2019 because we believe that the preferable method to develop new coding is with multi-specialty input through the CPT and RUC process, and we prefer to defer nationally pricing such codes pending input from the CPT Editorial Panel and the RUC process to assist in determining the appropriate level of coding specificity for SRT-related professional services. Based on stakeholder feedback, we continue to believe there may be a coding gap for these services, and therefore, we are soliciting comment on whether we should create these G codes and allow them to be contractor priced for CY 2019. This would be an interim approach for addressing the potential coding gap until the CPT Editorial Panel and the RUC can address coding for SRT and SRT-related professional services, giving the CPT Editorial Panel and the RUC an opportunity to develop a coding solution that could be addressed in future rulemaking.

Table 13—CY 2019 Proposed Work RVUs for New, Revised, and Potentially Misvalued Codes

HCPCSDescriptorCurrent work RVURUC work RVUCMS work RVUCMS time refinement
03X0TElectroretinography (ERG) with interpretation and report, pattern (PERG)NEWC0.40No.
10021Fine needle aspiration biopsy; without imaging guidance; first lesion1.271.201.03No.
10X11Fine needle aspiration biopsy; without imaging guidance; each additional lesionNEW0.800.80No.
10X12Fine needle aspiration biopsy, including ultrasound guidance; first lesionNEW1.631.46No.
10X13Fine needle aspiration biopsy, including ultrasound guidance; each additional lesionNEW1.001.00No.
10X14Fine needle aspiration biopsy, including fluoroscopic guidance; first lesionNEW1.811.81No.
10X15Fine needle aspiration biopsy, including fluoroscopic guidance; each additional lesionNEW1.181.18No.
10X16Fine needle aspiration biopsy, including CT guidance; first lesionNEW2.432.26No.
10X17Fine needle aspiration biopsy, including CT guidance; each additional lesionNEW1.651.65No.
10X18Fine needle aspiration biopsy, including MR guidance; first lesionNEWCCNo.
10X19Fine needle aspiration biopsy, including MR guidance; each additional lesionNEWCCNo.
11755Biopsy of nail unit (e.g., plate, bed, matrix, hyponychium, proximal and lateral nail folds)1.311.251.08No.
11X02Tangential biopsy of skin, (e.g., shave, scoop, saucerize, curette), single lesionNEW0.660.66No.
11X03Tangential biopsy of skin, (e.g., shave, scoop, saucerize, curette), each separate/additional lesionNEW0.380.29No.
11X04Punch biopsy of skin, (including simple closure when performed), single lesionNEW0.830.83No.
11X05Punch biopsy of skin, (including simple closure when performed), each separate/additional lesionNEW0.450.45No.
11X06Incisional biopsy of skin (e.g., wedge), (including simple closure when performed), single lesionNEW1.011.01No.
11X07Incisional biopsy of skin (e.g., wedge), (including simple closure when performed), each separate/additional lesionNEW0.540.54No.
20551Injection(s); single tendon origin/insertion0.750.750.75No.
209X3Allograft, includes templating, cutting, placement and internal fixation when performed; osteoarticular, including articular surface and contiguous boneNEW13.0113.01No.
209X4Allograft, includes templating, cutting, placement and internal fixation when performed; hemicortical intercalary, partial (i.e., hemicylindrical)NEW11.9411.94No.
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209X5Allograft, includes templating, cutting, placement and internal fixation when performed; intercalary, complete (i.e., cylindrical)NEW13.0013.00No.
27X69Injection procedure for contrast knee arthrography or contrast enhanced CT/MRI knee arthrographyNEW0.960.77No.
29105Application of long arm splint (shoulder to hand)0.870.800.80No.
29540Strapping; ankle and/or foot0.390.390.39No.
29550Strapping; toes0.250.250.25No.
31623Bronchoscopy, rigid or flexible, including fluoroscopic guidance, when performed; with brushing or protected brushings2.632.632.63No.
31624Bronchoscopy, rigid or flexible, including fluoroscopic guidance, when performed; with bronchial alveolar lavage2.632.632.63No.
332X0Transcatheter implantation of wireless pulmonary artery pressure sensor for long term hemodynamic monitoring, including deployment and calibration of the sensor, right heart catheterization, selective pulmonary catheterization, radiological supervision and interpretation, and pulmonary artery angiography, when performedNEW6.006.00No.
332X5Insertion, subcutaneous cardiac rhythm monitor, including programmingNEW1.531.53No.
332X6Removal, subcutaneous cardiac rhythm monitorNEW1.501.50No.
335X1Replacement, aortic valve; by translocation of autologous pulmonary valve and transventricular aortic annulus enlargement of the left ventricular outflow tract with valved conduit replacement of pulmonary valve (Ross-Konno procedure)NEW64.0064.00No.
33X01Aortic hemiarch graft including isolation and control of the arch vessels, beveled open distal aortic anastomosis extending under one or more of the arch vessels, and total circulatory arrest or isolated cerebral perfusionNEW19.7419.74No.
33X05Transcatheter insertion or replacement of permanent leadless pacemaker, right ventricular, including imaging guidance (e.g., fluoroscopy, venous ultrasound, ventriculography, femoral venography) and device evaluation (e.g., interrogation or programming), when performedNEW8.777.80No.
33X06Transcatheter removal of permanent leadless pacemaker, right ventricularNEW9.568.59No.
36568Insertion of peripherally inserted central venous catheter (PICC), without subcutaneous port or pump, without imaging guidance; younger than 5 years of age1.672.112.11No.
36569Insertion of peripherally inserted central venous catheter (PICC), without subcutaneous port or pump, without imaging guidance; age 5 years or older1.701.901.90No.
36584Replacement, complete, of a peripherally inserted central venous catheter (PICC), without subcutaneous port or pump, through same venous access, including all imaging guidance, image documentation, and all associated radiological supervision and interpretation required to perform the replacement1.201.471.20No.
36X72Insertion of peripherally inserted central venous catheter (PICC), without subcutaneous port or pump, including all imaging guidance, image documentation, and all associated radiological supervision and interpretation required to perform the insertion; younger than 5 years of ageNEW2.001.82No.
36X73Insertion of peripherally inserted central venous catheter (PICC), without subcutaneous port or pump, including all imaging guidance, image documentation, and all associated radiological supervision and interpretation required to perform the insertion; age 5 years or olderNEW1.901.70No.
3853XBiopsy or excision of lymph node(s); open, inguinofemoral node(s)NEW6.746.74No.
38792Injection procedure; radioactive tracer for identification of sentinel node0.520.650.65No.
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43X63Replacement of gastrostomy tube, percutaneous, includes removal, when performed, without imaging or endoscopic guidance; not requiring revision of gastrostomy tractNEW0.750.75No.
43X64Replacement of gastrostomy tube, percutaneous, includes removal, when performed, without imaging or endoscopic guidance; requiring revision of gastrostomy tractNEW1.411.41No.
45300Proctosigmoidoscopy, rigid; diagnostic, with or without collection of specimen(s) by brushing or washing (separate procedure)0.800.800.80No.
46500Injection of sclerosing solution, hemorrhoids1.422.001.74No.
49422Removal of tunneled intraperitoneal catheter6.294.004.00No.
50X39Dilation of existing tract, percutaneous, for an endourologic procedure including imaging guidance (e.g., ultrasound and/or fluoroscopy) and all associated radiological supervision and interpretation, as well as post procedure tube placement, when performedNEW3.372.78No.
50X40Dilation of existing tract, percutaneous, for an endourologic procedure including imaging guidance (e.g., ultrasound and/or fluoroscopy) and all associated radiological supervision and interpretation, as well as post procedure tube placement, when performed; including new access into the renal collecting systemNEW5.444.83Yes.
52334Cystourethroscopy with insertion of ureteral guide wire through kidney to establish a percutaneous nephrostomy, retrograde4.823.373.37No.
53850Transurethral destruction of prostate tissue; by microwave thermotherapy10.085.425.42No.
53852Transurethral destruction of prostate tissue; by radiofrequency thermotherapy10.835.935.93No.
538X3Transurethral destruction of prostate tissue; by radiofrequency generated water vapor thermotherapyNEW5.935.70No.
57150Irrigation of vagina and/or application of medicament for treatment of bacterial, parasitic, or fungoid disease0.550.500.50No.
57160Fitting and insertion of pessary or other intravaginal support device0.890.890.89No.
58100Endometrial sampling (biopsy) with or without endocervical sampling (biopsy), without cervical dilation, any method (separate procedure)1.531.211.21No.
58110Endometrial sampling (biopsy) performed in conjunction with colposcopy0.770.770.77No.
64405Injection, anesthetic agent; greater occipital nerve0.940.940.94No.
64455Injection(s), anesthetic agent and/or steroid, plantar common digital nerve(s) (e.g., Morton's neuroma)0.750.750.75No.
65205Removal of foreign body, external eye; conjunctival superficial0.710.490.49No.
65210Removal of foreign body, external eye; conjunctival embedded (includes concretions), subconjunctival, or scleral nonperforating0.840.750.61No.
67500Retrobulbar injection; medication (separate procedure, does not include supply of medication)1.441.181.18No.
67505Retrobulbar injection; & alcohol1.271.180.94No.
67515Injection of medication or other substance into Tenon's capsule1.400.840.75No.
72020Radiologic examination, spine, single view, specify level0.150.150.23No.
72040Radiologic examination, spine, cervical; 2 or 3 views0.220.220.23No.
72050Radiologic examination, spine, cervical; 4 or 5 views0.310.310.23No.
72052Radiologic examination, spine, cervical; 6 or more views0.360.350.23No.
72070Radiologic examination, spine; thoracic, 2 views0.220.220.23No.
72072Radiologic examination, spine; thoracic, 3 views0.220.220.23No.
72074Radiologic examination, spine; thoracic, minimum of 4 views0.220.220.23No.
72080Radiologic examination, spine; thoracolumbar junction, minimum of 2 views0.220.220.23No.
72100Radiologic examination, spine, lumbosacral; 2 or 3 views0.220.220.23No.
72110Radiologic examination, spine, lumbosacral; minimum of 4 views0.310.310.23No.
72114Radiologic examination, spine, lumbosacral; complete, including bending views, minimum of 6 views0.320.310.23No.
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72120Radiologic examination, spine, lumbosacral; bending views only, 2 or 3 views0.220.220.23No.
72200Radiologic examination, sacroiliac joints; less than 3 views0.170.170.23No.
72202Radiologic examination, sacroiliac joints; 3 or more views0.190.180.23No.
72220Radiologic examination, sacrum and coccyx, minimum of 2 views0.170.170.23No.
73070Radiologic examination, elbow; 2 views0.150.150.23No.
73080Radiologic examination, elbow; complete, minimum of 3 views0.170.170.23No.
73090Radiologic examination; forearm, 2 views0.160.160.23No.
73650Radiologic examination; calcaneus, minimum of 2 views0.160.160.23No.
73660Radiologic examination; toe(s), minimum of 2 views0.130.130.23No.
74210Radiologic examination; pharynx and/or cervical esophagus0.360.590.59No.
74220Radiologic examination; esophagus0.460.670.67No.
74230Swallowing function, with cineradiography/videoradiography0.530.530.53No.
74420Urography, retrograde, with or without KUB0.360.520.52No.
74485Dilation of ureter(s) or urethra, radiological supervision and interpretation0.540.830.83No.
76000Fluoroscopy (separate procedure), up to 1 hour physician or other qualified health care professional time, other than 71023 or 71034 (e.g., cardiac fluoroscopy)0.170.300.30No.
76514Ophthalmic ultrasound, diagnostic; corneal pachymetry, unilateral or bilateral (determination of corneal thickness)0.170.170.14No.
767X1Ultrasound, elastography; parenchyma (e.g., organ)NEW0.590.59No.
767X2Ultrasound, elastography; first target lesionNEW0.590.59No.
767X3Ultrasound, elastography; each additional target lesionNEW0.500.50No.
76870Ultrasound, scrotum and contents0.640.640.64No.
76942Ultrasonic guidance for needle placement (e.g., biopsy, fine needle aspiration biopsy, injection, localization device), imaging supervision and interpretation0.670.670.67No.
76X01Magnetic resonance (e.g., vibration) elastographyNEW1.291.10No.
76X0XUltrasound, targeted dynamic microbubble sonographic contrast characterization (non-cardiac); initial lesionNEW1.621.27No.
76X1XUltrasound, targeted dynamic microbubble sonographic contrast characterization (non-cardiac); each additional lesion with separate injectionNEW0.850.85No.
77012Computed tomography guidance for needle placement (e.g., biopsy, aspiration, injection, localization device), radiological supervision and interpretation1.161.501.50No.
77021Magnetic resonance guidance for needle placement (e.g., for biopsy, fine needle aspiration biopsy, injection, or placement of localization device) radiological supervision and interpretation1.501.501.50No.
77081Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), bone density study, 1 or more sites; appendicular skeleton (peripheral) (e.g., radius, wrist, heel)0.220.200.20No.
77X49Magnetic resonance imaging, breast, without contrast material; unilateralNEW1.451.15No.
77X50Magnetic resonance imaging, breast, without contrast material; bilateralNEW1.601.30No.
77X51Magnetic resonance imaging, breast, without and with contrast material(s), including computer-aided detection (CAD-real time lesion detection, characterization and pharmacokinetic analysis) when performed; unilateralNEW2.101.80No.
77X52Magnetic resonance imaging, breast, without and with contrast material(s), including computer-aided detection (CAD-real time lesion detection, characterization and pharmacokinetic analysis) when performed; bilateralNEW2.302.00No.
85060Blood smear, peripheral, interpretation by physician with written report0.450.450.36No.
85097Bone marrow, smear interpretation0.941.000.94No.
85390Fibrinolysins or coagulopathy screen, interpretation and report0.370.750.75No.
92X71Electroretinography (ERG) with interpretation and report; full field (e.g., ffERG, flash ERG, Ganzfeld ERG)NEW0.800.69No.
92X73Electroretinography (ERG) with interpretation and report; multifocal (mfERG)NEW0.720.61No.
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93561Indicator dilution studies such as dye or thermodilution, including arterial and/or venous catheterization; with cardiac output measurement0.250.950.60No.
93562Indicator dilution studies such as dye or thermodilution, including arterial and/or venous catheterization; subsequent measurement of cardiac output0.010.770.48No.
93571Intravascular Doppler velocity and/or pressure derived coronary flow reserve measurement (coronary vessel or graft) during coronary angiography including pharmacologically induced stress; initial vessel1.801.501.38No.
93572Intravascular Doppler velocity and/or pressure derived coronary flow reserve measurement (coronary vessel or graft) during coronary angiography including pharmacologically induced stress; each additional vessel1.441.001.00No.
93668Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) rehabilitation, per session0.000.000.00No.
93XX1Remote monitoring of a wireless pulmonary artery pressure sensor for up to 30 days including at least weekly downloads of pulmonary artery pressure recordings, interpretation(s), trend analysis, and report(s) by a physician or other qualified health care professionalNEW0.700.70No.
95800Sleep study, unattended, simultaneous recording; heart rate, oxygen saturation, respiratory analysis (e.g., by airflow or peripheral arterial tone), and sleep time1.051.000.85No.
95801Sleep study, unattended, simultaneous recording; minimum of heart rate, oxygen saturation, and/respiratory analysis (e.g., by airflow or peripheral arterial tone)1.001.000.85No.
95806Sleep study, unattended, simultaneous recording of, heart rate, oxygen saturation, respiratory airflow, and respiratory effort (e.g., thoracoabdominal movement)1.251.080.93No.
95970Electronic analysis of implanted neurostimulator pulse generator/transmitter (e.g., contact group(s), interleaving, amplitude, pulse width, frequency (Hz), on/off cycling, burst, magnet mode, dose lockout, patient selectable parameters, responsive neurostimulation, detection algorithms, closed loop parameters, and passive parameters) by physician or other qualified health care professional; with brain, cranial nerve, spinal cord, peripheral nerve, or sacral nerve neurostimulator pulse generator/transmitter, without programming0.450.450.35No.
95X83Electronic analysis of implanted neurostimulator pulse generator/transmitter (e.g., contact group(s), interleaving, amplitude, pulse width, frequency (Hz), on/off cycling, burst, magnet mode, dose lockout, patient selectable parameters, responsive neurostimulation, detection algorithms, closed loop parameters, and passive parameters) by physician or other qualified health care professional; with simple cranial nerve neurostimulator pulse generator/transmitter programming by physician or other qualified health care professionalNEW0.950.73No.
95X84Electronic analysis of implanted neurostimulator pulse generator/transmitter (e.g., contact group(s), interleaving, amplitude, pulse width, frequency (Hz), on/off cycling, burst, magnet mode, dose lockout, patient selectable parameters, responsive neurostimulation, detection algorithms, closed loop parameters, and passive parameters) by physician or other qualified health care professional; with complex cranial nerve neurostimulator pulse generator/transmitter programming by physician or other qualified health care professionalNEW1.190.97No.
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95X85Electronic analysis of implanted neurostimulator pulse generator/transmitter (e.g., contact group(s), interleaving, amplitude, pulse width, frequency (Hz), on/off cycling, burst, magnet mode, dose lockout, patient selectable parameters, responsive neurostimulation, detection algorithms, closed loop parameters, and passive parameters) by physician or other qualified health care professional; with brain neurostimulator pulse generator/transmitter programming, first 15 minutes face-to-face time with physician or other qualified health care professionalNEW1.250.91No.
95X86Electronic analysis of implanted neurostimulator pulse generator/transmitter (e.g., contact group(s), interleaving, amplitude, pulse width, frequency (Hz), on/off cycling, burst, magnet mode, dose lockout, patient selectable parameters, responsive neurostimulation, detection algorithms, closed loop parameters, and passive parameters) by physician or other qualified health care professional; with brain neurostimulator pulse generator/transmitter programming, each additional 15 minutes face-to-face time with physician or other qualified health care professionalNEW1.000.80No.
96105Assessment of aphasia (includes assessment of expressive and receptive speech and language function, language comprehension, speech production ability, reading, spelling, writing, e.g., by boston diagnostic aphasia examination) with interpretation and report, per hour1.751.751.75No.
96110Developmental screening (e.g., developmental milestone survey, speech and language delay screen) with scoring and documentation, per standardized instrument0.000.000.00No.
96116Neurobehavioral status exam (clinical assessment of thinking, reasoning and judgment, e.g., acquired knowledge, attention, language, memory, planning and problem solving, and visual spatial abilities), by physician or other qualified health care professional, both face-to-face time with the patient and time interpreting test results and preparing the report; first hour1.861.861.86No.
96125Standardized cognitive performance testing (e.g., ross information processing assessment) per hour of a qualified health care professional's time, both face-to-face time administering tests to the patient and time interpreting these test results and preparing the report1.701.701.70No.
96127Brief emotional/behavioral assessment (e.g., depression inventory, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder [ADHD] scale), with scoring and documentation, per standardized instrument0.000.000.00No.
963X0Developmental test administration (including assessment of fine and/or gross motor, language, cognitive level, social, memory and/or executive functions by standardized developmental instruments when performed), by physician or other qualified health care professional, with interpretation and report; first hourNEW2.502.56No.
963X1Developmental test administration (including assessment of fine and/or gross motor, language, cognitive level, social, memory and/or executive functions by standardized developmental instruments when performed), by physician or other qualified health care professional, with interpretation and report; each additional 30 minutesNEW1.101.16No.
963X2Neurobehavioral status exam (clinical assessment of thinking, reasoning and judgment, e.g., acquired knowledge, attention, language, memory, planning and problem solving, and visual spatial abilities), by physician or other qualified health care professional, both face-to-face time with the patient and time interpreting test results and preparing the report; each additional hourNEW1.711.71No.
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963X3Psychological testing evaluation services by physician or other qualified health care professional, including integration of patient data, interpretation of standardized test results and clinical data, clinical decision making, treatment planning and report, and interactive feedback to the patient, family member(s) or caregiver(s), when performed; first hourNEW2.502.56No.
963X4Psychological testing evaluation services by physician or other qualified health care professional, including integration of patient data, interpretation of standardized test results and clinical data, clinical decision making, treatment planning and report, and interactive feedback to the patient, family member(s) or caregiver(s), when performed; each additional hourNEW1.901.96No.
963X5Neuropsychological testing evaluation services by physician or other qualified health care professional, including integration of patient data, interpretation of standardized test results and clinical data, clinical decision making, treatment planning and report, and interactive feedback to the patient, family member(s) or caregiver(s), when performed; first hourNEW2.502.56No.
963X6Neuropsychological testing evaluation services by physician or other qualified health care professional, including integration of patient data, interpretation of standardized test results and clinical data, clinical decision making, treatment planning and report, and interactive feedback to the patient, family member(s) or caregiver(s), when performed; each additional hourNEW1.901.96No.
963X7Psychological or neuropsychological test administration and scoring by physician or other qualified health care professional, two or more tests, any method, first 30 minutesNEW0.550.55No.
963X8Psychological or neuropsychological test administration and scoring by physician or other qualified health care professional, two or more tests, any method, each additional 30 minutesNEW0.460.46No.
963X9Psychological or neuropsychological test administration and scoring by technician, two or more tests, any method; first 30 minutesNEW0.000.00No.
96X00Electrocorticogram from an implanted brain neurostimulator pulse generator/transmitter, including recording, with interpretation and report, up to 30 daysNEW2.301.98No.
96X10Psychological or neuropsychological test administration and scoring by technician, two or more tests, any method; each additional 30 minutesNEW0.000.00No.
96X11Psychological or neuropsychological test administration using single instrument, with interpretation and report by physician or other qualified health care professional and interactive feedback to the patient, family member(s), or caregivers(s), when performedNEW0.510.51No.
96X12Psychological or neuropsychological test administration, with single automated instrument via electronic platform, with automated result onlyNEW0.000.00No.
990X0Remote monitoring of physiologic parameter(s) (e.g., weight, blood pressure, pulse oximetry, respiratory flow rate), initial; set-up and patient education on use of equipmentNEW0.000.00No.
990X1Remote monitoring of physiologic parameter(s) (e.g., weight, blood pressure, pulse oximetry, respiratory flow rate), initial; device(s) supply with daily recording(s) or programmed alert(s) transmission, each 30 daysNEW0.000.00No.
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99201Office or other outpatient visit for the evaluation and management of a new patient, which requires these 3 key components: A problem focused history; A problem focused examination; Straightforward medical decision making. Counseling and/or coordination of care with other physicians, other qualified health care professionals, or agencies are provided consistent with the nature of the problem(s) and the patient's and/or family's needs. Usually, the presenting problem(s) are self limited or minor. Typically, 10 minutes are spent face-to-face with the patient and/or family0.480.480.48No.
99202Office or other outpatient visit for the evaluation and management of a new patient, which requires these 3 key components: An expanded problem focused history; An expanded problem focused examination; Straightforward medical decision making. Counseling and/or coordination of care with other physicians, other qualified health care professionals, or agencies are provided consistent with the nature of the problem(s) and the patient's and/or family's needs. Usually, the presenting problem(s) are of low to moderate severity. Typically, 20 minutes are spent face-to-face with the patient and/or family0.930.931.90Yes.
99203Office or other outpatient visit for the evaluation and management of a new patient, which requires these 3 key components: A detailed history; A detailed examination; Medical decision making of low complexity. Counseling and/or coordination of care with other physicians, other qualified health care professionals, or agencies are provided consistent with the nature of the problem(s) and the patient's and/or family's needs. Usually, the presenting problem(s) are of moderate severity. Typically, 30 minutes are spent face-to-face with the patient and/or family1.421.421.90Yes.
99204Office or other outpatient visit for the evaluation and management of a new patient, which requires these 3 key components: A comprehensive history; A comprehensive examination; Medical decision making of moderate complexity. Counseling and/or coordination of care with other physicians, other qualified health care professionals, or agencies are provided consistent with the nature of the problem(s) and the patient's and/or family's needs. Usually, the presenting problem(s) are of moderate to high severity. Typically, 45 minutes are spent face-to-face with the patient and/or family2.432.431.90Yes.
99205Office or other outpatient visit for the evaluation and management of a new patient, which requires these 3 key components: A comprehensive history; A comprehensive examination; Medical decision making of high complexity. Counseling and/or coordination of care with other physicians, other qualified health care professionals, or agencies are provided consistent with the nature of the problem(s) and the patient's and/or family's needs. Usually, the presenting problem(s) are of moderate to high severity. Typically, 60 minutes are spent face-to-face with the patient and/or family3.173.171.90Yes.
99211Office or other outpatient visit for the evaluation and management of an established patient, that may not require the presence of a physician or other qualified health care professional. Usually, the presenting problem(s) are minimal. Typically, 5 minutes are spent performing or supervising these services0.180.180.18No.
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99212Office or other outpatient visit for the evaluation and management of an established patient, which requires at least 2 of these 3 key components: A problem focused history; A problem focused examination; Straightforward medical decision making. Counseling and/or coordination of care with other physicians, other qualified health care professionals, or agencies are provided consistent with the nature of the problem(s) and the patient's and/or family's needs. Usually, the presenting problem(s) are self limited or minor. Typically, 10 minutes are spent face-to-face with the patient and/or family0.480.481.22Yes.
99213Office or other outpatient visit for the evaluation and management of an established patient, which requires at least 2 of these 3 key components: An expanded problem focused history; An expanded problem focused examination; Medical decision making of low complexity. Counseling and coordination of care with other physicians, other qualified health care professionals, or agencies are provided consistent with the nature of the problem(s) and the patient's and/or family's needs. Usually, the presenting problem(s) are of low to moderate severity. Typically, 15 minutes are spent face-to-face with the patient and/or family0.970.971.22Yes.
99214Office or other outpatient visit for the evaluation and management of an established patient, which requires at least 2 of these 3 key components: A detailed history; A detailed examination; Medical decision making of moderate complexity. Counseling and/or coordination of care with other physicians, other qualified health care professionals, or agencies are provided consistent with the nature of the problem(s) and the patient's and/or family's needs. Usually, the presenting problem(s) are of moderate to high severity. Typically, 25 minutes are spent face-to-face with the patient and/or family1.501.501.22Yes.
99215Office or other outpatient visit for the evaluation and management of an established patient, which requires at least 2 of these 3 key components: A comprehensive history; A comprehensive examination; Medical decision making of high complexity. Counseling and/or coordination of care with other physicians, other qualified health care professionals, or agencies are provided consistent with the nature of the problem(s) and the patient's and/or family's needs. Usually, the presenting problem(s) are of moderate to high severity. Typically, 40 minutes are spent face-to-face with the patient and/or family2.112.111.22Yes.
99446Interprofessional telephone/Internet/electronic health record assessment and management service provided by a consultative physician including a verbal and written report to the patient's treating/requesting physician or other qualified healthcare professional; 5-10 minutes of medical consultative discussion and reviewB0.350.35No.
99447Interprofessional telephone/Internet/electronic health record assessment and management service provided by a consultative physician including a verbal and written report to the patient's treating/requesting physician or other qualified healthcare professional; 11-20 minutes of medical consultative discussion and reviewB0.700.70No.
99448Interprofessional telephone/Internet/electronic health record assessment and management service provided by a consultative physician including a verbal and written report to the patient's treating/requesting physician or other qualified healthcare professional; 21-30 minutes of medical consultative discussion and reviewB1.051.05No.
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99449Interprofessional telephone/Internet/electronic health record assessment and management service provided by a consultative physician including a verbal and written report to the patient's treating/requesting physician or other qualified healthcare professional; 31 minutes or more of medical consultative discussion and reviewB1.401.40No.
994X0Interprofessional telephone/Internet/electronic health record referral service(s) provided by a treating/requesting physician or qualified health care professional, 30 minutesNEW0.500.50No.
994X6Interprofessional telephone/Internet/electronic health record assessment and management service provided by a consultative physician including a written report to the patient's treating/requesting physician or other qualified health care professional, 5 or more minutes of medical consultative timeNEW0.700.50No.
994X7CCM provided personally by a physician/QHPNEW1.451.22No.
994X9Remote physiologic monitoring treatment management services, 20 minutes or more of clinical staff/physician/other qualified healthcare professional time in a calendar month requiring interactive communication with the patient/caregiver during the monthNEW0.610.61No.
G0108Diabetes outpatient self-management training services, individual, per 30 minutes0.900.900.90No.
G0109Diabetes outpatient self-management training services, group session (2 or more), per 30 minutes0.250.250.25No.
G0166External counterpulsation, per treatment session0.070.000.00No.
G0168Wound closure utilizing tissue adhesive(s) only0.450.450.31No.
G0268Removal of impacted cerumen (one or both ears) by physician on same date of service as audiologic function testing0.610.610.61No.
GCG0XVisit complexity inherent to evaluation and management associated with endocrinology, rheumatology, hematology/oncology, urology, neurology, obstetrics/gynecology, allergy/immunology, otolaryngology, or interventional pain management-centered care (Add-on code, list separately in addition to an evaluation and management visit)NEW0.25No.
GPC1XVisit complexity inherent to evaluation and management associated with primary medical care services that serve as the continuing focal point for all needed health care services (Add-on code, list separately in addition to an evaluation and management visit)NEW0.07No.
GPD0XPodiatry services, medical examination and evaluation with initiation of diagnostic and treatment program, new patientNEW1.35No.
GPD1XPodiatry services, medical examination and evaluation with initiation of diagnostic and treatment program, established patientNEW0.85No.
GPRO1Prolonged evaluation and management or psychotherapy service(s) (beyond the typical service time of the primary procedure) in the office or other outpatient setting requiring direct patient contact beyond the usual service; 30 minutes (List separately in addition to code for office or other outpatient Evaluation and Management or psychotherapy service)NEW1.17No.
GRAS1Remote pre-recorded service via recorded video and/or images submitted by the patient (e.g., store and forward), including interpretation with verbal follow-up with the patient within 24 business hours, not originating from a related E/M service provided within the previous 7 days nor leading to an E/M service or procedure within the next 24 hours or soonest available appointmentNEW0.18No.
GSBR1Alcohol and/or substance (other than tobacco) abuse structured assessment (e.g., audit, dast), and brief intervention, 5-14 minutesNEW0.33No.
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GVCI1Brief communication technology-based service, e.g., virtual check-in, by a physician or other qualified health care professional who can report evaluation and management services, provided to an established patient, not originating from a related E/M service provided within the previous 7 days nor leading to an E/M service or procedure within the next 24 hours or soonest available appointment; 5-10 minutes of medical discussionNEW0.25No.
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Table 15—Proposed CY 2019 Existing Invoices

CPT/HCPCS codesItem nameCMS codeCurrent priceUpdated pricePercent changeNumber of invoicesEstimated non-facility allowed services for HCPCS codes using this item
19085, 19086, 19287, 19288Breast MRI computer aided detection and biopsy guidance softwareEQ3700.000.0012,466
53850kit, transurethral microwave thermotherapySA0361,149.001,000.00−1315,608
53852kit, transurethral needle ablation (TUNA)SA0371,050.00900.00−1422,476
85097stain, Wright's Pack (per slide)SL1400.050.16235143,183
96116, 96118, 96119, 96125neurobehavioral status forms, averageSK0505.774.00−313414,139
258 codesscope video system (monitor, processor, digital capture, cart, printer, LED light)ES03133,391.0036,306.0092,480,515

Table 16—Proposed CY 2019 New Invoices

CPT/HCPCS codesItem nameCMS codeAverage priceNumber of invoicesNF allowed services
10X18, 10X19MREYE CHIBA BIOPSY NEEDLESC10637.0010
332X5subcutaneous cardiac rhythm monitor systemSA1275,032.504280
36X72, 36X73, 36584Turbo-Ject PICC LineSD331170.00124,402
538X3kit, Rezum delivery deviceSA1281,150.001121
538X3generator, water thermotherapy procedureEQ38927,538.0010121
58100Uterine SoundSD3293.17159,152
58100TenaculumSD3303.77159,152
767X1, 767X2, 767X3sheer wave elastography softwareED0609,600.001493
76X01MR Elastography PackageEL050200,684.501350
76X0X, 76X1Xbubble contrastSD332126.59189
76X0X, 76X1XUltrasound Contrast Imaging PackageER1085,760.00189
77X51, 77X52CAD SoftwareED05817,200.00036,675
77X49, 77X50, 77X51, 77X52Breast coilEQ38812,238.00039,785
77X51, 77X52CAD Workstation (CPU + Color Monitor)ED05614,829.62036,675
85097slide stainer, automated, hematologyEP1218,649.43134,559
92X71Sleep maskSK1339.95110,266
92X71, 92X73mfERG and ffERG electrodiagnostic unitEQ390102,400.00125,602
92X71, 92X73Contact lens electrode for mfERG and ffERGEQ3911,440.00125,602
963X7, 963X8, 963X9, 96X10WAIS-IV Record FormSK1305.251301,452
963X7, 963X8, 963X9, 96X10WAIS-IV Response Booklet #1SK1313.301301,452
963X7, 963X8, 963X9, 96X10WMS-IV Response Booklet #2SK1322.001301,452
963X7, 963X8, 963X9, 96X10Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale—Fourth Edition (WAIS-IV) Kit (less forms)EQ387971.301301,452
96X12CANTAB Mobile (per single automated assessment)ED0552,800.0010
990X1heart failure patient physiologic monitoring equipment packageEQ3921,000.00158
G010920x30 inch self-stick easel pad, white, 30 sheets/padSK1290.00093,576
noneneedle holder, Mayo Hegar, 6″SC1053.0310

Table 17—Proposed CY 2019 No PE Refinements

HCPCSDescription
10X11Fna bx w/o img gdn ea addl.
10X13Fna bx w/us gdn ea addl.
10X15Fna bx w/fluor gdn ea addl.
10X17Fna bx w/ct gdn ea addl.
10X18Fna bx w/mr gdn 1st les.
10X19Fna bx w/mr gdn ea addl.
332X0Tcat impl wrls p-art prs snr.
332X5Insj subq car rhythm mntr.
332X6Rmvl subq car rhythm mntr.
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33X05Tcat insj/rpl perm ldls pm.
33X06Tcat rmvl perm ldls pm.
36568Insj picc <5 yr w/o imaging.
36569Insj picc 5 yr+ w/o imaging.
36584Compl rplcmt picc rs&i.
3853XOpen bx/exc inguinofem nodes.
49422Remove tunneled ip cath.
50X39Dilat xst trc ndurlgc px.
50X40Dilat xst trc new access rcs.
53850Prostatic microwave thermotx.
53852Prostatic rf thermotx.
538X3Trurl dstrj prst8 tiss rf wv.
57150Treat vagina infection.
57160Insert pessary/other device.
58110Bx done w/colposcopy add-on.
65205Remove foreign body from eye.
65210Remove foreign body from eye.
67500Inject/treat eye socket.
67505Inject/treat eye socket.
67515Inject/treat eye socket.
74485Dilation urtr/urt rs&i.
76514Echo exam of eye thickness.
767X3Use ea addl target lesion.
76942Echo guide for biopsy.
77081Dxa bone density/peripheral.
93668Peripheral vascular rehab.
93XX1Rem mntr wrls p-art prs snr.
95800Slp stdy unattended.
95801Slp stdy unatnd w/anal.
95806Sleep study unatt&resp efft.
95970Alys npgt w/o prgrmg.
95X83Alys smpl cn npgt prgrmg.
95X84Alys cplx cn npgt prgrmg.
95X85Alys brn npgt prgrmg 15 min.
95X86Alys brn npgt prgrmg addl 15.
96105Assessment of aphasia.
96110Developmental screen w/score.
96116Neurobehavioral status exam.
96125Cognitive test by hc pro.
96127Brief emotional/behav assmt.
963X0Devel tst phys/qhp 1st hr.
963X1Devel tst phys/qhp ea addl.
963X2Nubhvl xm phy/qhp ea addl hr.
963X3Psycl tst eval phys/qhp 1st.
963X4Psycl tst eval phys/qhp ea.
96X00Ecog impltd brn npgt </30 d.
96X11
990X0Rem mntr physiol param setup.
99201Office/outpatient visit new.
99211Office/outpatient visit est.
994X7Chrnc care mgmt svc 30 min.
994X9Rem physiol mntr 20 min mo.
G0166Extrnl counterpulse, per tx.

I. Evaluation & Management (E/M) Visits

1. Background

a. E/M Visits Coding Structure

Physicians and other practitioners paid under the PFS bill for common office visits for evaluation and management (E/M) services under a relatively generic set of CPT codes (Level I HCPCS codes) that distinguish visits based on the level of complexity, site of service, and whether the patient is new or established. The CPT codes have three key components:

  • History of Present Illness (History),
  • Physical Examination (Exam) and
  • Medical Decision Making (MDM).

These codes are broadly referred to as E/M visit codes. There are three to five E/M visit code levels, depending on site of service and the extent of the three components of history, exam and MDM. For example, there are three to four levels of E/M visit codes in the inpatient hospital and nursing facility settings, based on a relatively narrow degree of complexity in those settings. In contrast, there are five levels of E/M visit codes in the office or other outpatient setting based on a broader range of complexity in those settings.

Current PFS payment rates for E/M visit codes increase with the level of visit billed. As for all services under the PFS, the rates are based on the resources in terms of work (time and intensity), PE and malpractice expense required to furnish the typical case of the service. The current payment rates reflect typical service times for each code that are based on RUC recommendations.

In total, E/M visits comprise approximately 40 percent of allowed charges for PFS services, and office/outpatient E/M visits comprise approximately 20 percent of allowed charges for PFS services. Within these percentages, there is significant variation among specialties. According to Medicare claims data, E/M visits are furnished by nearly all specialties, but represent a greater share of total allowed services for physicians and other practitioners who do not routinely furnish procedural interventions or diagnostic tests. Generally, these practitioners include both primary care practitioners and specialists such as neurologists, endocrinologists and rheumatologists. Certain specialties, such as podiatry, tend to furnish lower level E/M visits more often than higher level E/M visits. Some specialties, such as dermatology and otolaryngology, tend to bill more E/M visits on the same day as they bill minor procedures.

Potential misvaluation of E/M codes is an issue that we have been carefully considering for several years. We have discussed at length in our recent PFS proposed and final rules that the E/M visit code set is outdated and needs to be revised and revalued (for example: 81 FR 46200 and 76 FR 42793). We have noted that this code set represents a high proportion of PFS expenditures, but has not been recently revalued to account for significant changes in the disease burden of the Medicare patient population and changes in health care practice that are underway to meet the Medicare population's health care needs (81 FR 46200). In the CY 2012 PFS proposed rule, we proposed to refer all E/M codes to the RUC for review as potentially misvalued (76 FR 42793). Many commenters to that rule were concerned about the possible inadequacies of the current E/M coding and documentation structure to address evolving chronic care management and to support primary care (76 FR 73060 through 73064). We did not finalize our proposal to refer the E/M codes for RUC review at that time. Instead, we stated that we would allow time for consideration of the findings of certain demonstrations and other initiatives to provide improved information for the valuation of chronic care management, primary care, and care transitions. We stated that we would also continue to consider the numerous policy alternatives that commenters offered, such as separate E/M codes for established visits for patients with chronic disease versus a post-surgical follow-up office visit.

Many stakeholders continue to similarly express to us through letters, meetings, public comments in past rulemaking cycles, and other avenues, that the E/M code set is outdated and needs to be revised. For example, some stakeholders recommend an extensive research effort to revise and revalue E/M services, especially physician work inputs (CY 2017 PFS final rule, 81 FR 80227-80228). In recent years, we have continued to consider the best ways to recognize the significant changes in health care practice, especially innovations in the active management and ongoing care of chronically ill patients, under the PFS. We have been engaged in an ongoing, incremental effort to identify gaps in appropriate coding and payment.

b. E/M Documentation Guidelines

For coding and billing E/M visits to Medicare, practitioners may use one of two versions of the E/M Documentation Guidelines for a patient encounter, commonly referenced based on the year of their release: The “1995” or “1997” E/M Documentation Guidelines. These guidelines are available on the CMS website.[3] They specify the medical record information within each of the three key components (such as number of body systems reviewed) that serves as support for billing a given level of E/M Start Printed Page 35833visit. The 1995 and 1997 guidelines are very similar to the guidelines that reside within the AMA's CPT codebook for E/M visits. For example, the core structure of what comprises or defines the different levels of history, exam, and medical decision-making are the same. However, the 1995 and 1997 guidelines include extensive examples of clinical work that comprise different levels of medical decision-making and do not appear in the AMA's CPT codebook. Also, the 1995 and 1997 guidelines do not contain references to preventive care that appear in the AMA's CPT codebook. We provide an example of how the 1995 and 1997 guidelines distinguish between level 2 and level 3 E/M visits in Table 18.

Table 18—Key Component Documentation Requirements for Level 2 vs. 3 E/M Visit

Key component *Level 2 (1995)Level 3 (1995)Level 2 (1997)Level 3 (1997)
History (History of Present Illness or HPI)Review of Systems (ROS) n/aProblem Pertinent ROS: Inquires about the system directly related to the problem(s) identified in the HPINo change from 1995No change from 1995.
Physical Examination (Exam)A limited examination of the affected body area or organ systemA limited examination of the affected body area or organ system and other symptomatic or related organ system(s)General multi-system exam: Performance and documentation of one to five elements in one or more organ system(s) or body area(s) Single organ system exam: Performance and documentation of one to five elementsGeneral multi-system exam: Performance and documentation of at least six elements in one or more organ system(s) or body area(s). Single organ system exam: Performance and documentation of at least six elements.
Medical Decision Making (MDM) Measured by: **Straightforward:Low complexity:No change from 1995.
1. Problem—Number of diagnoses/treatment options1. Minimal1. Limited.
2. Data—Amount and/or complexity of data to be reviewed2. Minimal or no data review2. Limited data review.
3. Risk—Risk of complications and/or morbidity or mortality3. Minimal risk3. Low risk.
* For certain settings and patient types, each of these three key components must be met or exceeded (for example, new patients; initial hospital visits). For others, only two of the three key components must be met or exceeded (for example, established patients, subsequent hospital or other visits).
** Two of three met or exceeded.

According to both Medicare claims processing manual instructions and CPT coding rules, when counseling and/or coordination of care accounts for more than 50 percent of the face-to-face physician/patient encounter (or, in the case of inpatient E/M services, the floor time) the duration of the visit can be used as an alternative basis to select the appropriate E/M visit level (Pub. 100-04, Medicare Claims Processing Manual, Chapter 12, Section 30.6.1.C available at https://www.cms.gov/​Regulations-and-Guidance/​Guidance/​Manuals/​Downloads/​clm104c12.pdf; see also 2017 CPT Codebook Evaluation and Management Services Guidelines, page 10). Pub. 100-04, Medicare Claims Processing Manual, Chapter 12, Section 30.6.1.B states, “Instruct physicians to select the code for the service based upon the content of the service. The duration of the visit is an ancillary factor and does not control the level of the service to be billed unless more than 50 percent of the face-to-face time (for non-inpatient services) or more than 50 percent of the floor time (for inpatient services) is spent providing counseling or coordination of care as described in subsection C.” Subsection C states that “the physician may document time spent with the patient in conjunction with the medical decision-making involved and a description of the coordination of care or counseling provided. Documentation must be in sufficient detail to support the claim.” The example included in subsection C further states, “The code selection is based on the total time of the face-to-face encounter or floor time, not just the counseling time. The medical record must be documented in sufficient detail to justify the selection of the specific code if time is the basis for selection of the code.”

Both the 1995 and 1997 E/M guidelines contain guidelines that address time, which state that “In the case where counseling and/or coordination of care dominates (more than 50 percent of) the physician/patient and/or family encounter (face-to-face time in the office or other outpatient setting or floor/unit time in the hospital or nursing facility), time is considered the key or controlling factor to qualify for a particular level of E/M services.” The guidelines go on to state that “If the physician elects to report the level of service based on counseling and/or coordination of care, the total length of time of the encounter (face-to-face or floor time, as appropriate) should be documented and the record should describe the counseling and/or activities to coordinate care.” [4]

We note that other manual provisions regarding E/M visits that are cited in this proposed rule are housed separately within Medicare's Internet-Only Manuals, and are not contained within the 1995 or 1997 E/M documentation guidelines.Start Printed Page 35834

In accordance with section 1862(a)(1)(A) of the Act, which requires services paid under Medicare Part B to be reasonable and necessary for the diagnosis or treatment of illness or injury or to improve the functioning of a malformed body member, medical necessity is a prerequisite to Medicare payment for E/M visits. The Medicare Claims Processing Manual states, “Medical necessity of a service is the overarching criterion for payment in addition to the individual requirements of a CPT code. It would not be medically necessary or appropriate to bill a higher level of evaluation and management service when a lower level of service is warranted. The volume of documentation should not be the primary influence upon which a specific level of service is billed. Documentation should support the level of service reported” (Pub. 100-04, Medicare Claims Processing Manual, Chapter 12, Section 30.6.1A, available on the CMS website at https://www.cms.gov/​Regulations-and-Guidance/​Guidance/​Manuals/​Downloads/​clm104c12.pdf).

Stakeholders have long maintained that all of the E/M documentation guidelines are administratively burdensome and outdated with respect to the practice of medicine. Stakeholders have provided CMS with examples of such outdated material (on history, exam and MDM) that can be found within all versions of the E/M guidelines (the AMA's CPT codebook, the 1995 guidelines and the 1997 guidelines). Stakeholders have told CMS that they believe the guidelines are too complex, ambiguous, fail to meaningfully distinguish differences among code levels, and are not updated for changes in technology, especially electronic health record (EHR) use. Prior attempts to revise the E/M guidelines were unsuccessful or resulted in additional complexity due to lack of stakeholder consensus (with widely varying views among specialties), and differing perspectives on whether code revaluation would be necessary under the PFS as a result of revising the guidelines, which contributed another layer of complexity to the considerations. For example, an early attempt to revise the guidelines resulted in an additional version designed for use by certain specialties (the 1997 version), and in CMS allowing the use of either the 1995 or 1997 versions for purposes of documentation and billing to Medicare. Another complication in revising the guidelines is that they are also used by many other payers, which have their own payment rules and audit protocols. Moreover, stakeholders have suggested that there is sometimes variation in how Medicare's own contractors (Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) interpret and apply the guidelines as part of their audit processes.

As previously mentioned, in recent years, some clinicians and other stakeholders have requested a major CMS research initiative to overhaul not only the E/M documentation guidelines, but also the underlying coding structure and valuation. Stakeholders have reported to CMS that they believe the E/M visit codes themselves need substantial updating and revaluation to reflect changes in the practice of medicine, and that revising the documentation guidelines without addressing the codes themselves simply preserves an antiquated framework for payment of E/M services.

Last year, CMS sought public comment on potential changes to the E/M documentation rules, deferring making any changes to E/M coding itself in order to immediately focus on revision of the E/M guidelines to reduce unnecessary administrative burden (82 FR 34078 through 34080). In the CY 2018 PFS final rule (82 FR 53163 through 53166), we summarized the public comments we received and stated that we would take that feedback into consideration for future rulemaking. In response to commenters' request that we provide additional venues for stakeholder input, we held a listening session this year on March 18, 2018 (transcript and materials are available on the CMS website at https://www.cms.gov/​Outreach-and-Education/​Outreach/​NPC/​National-Provider-Calls-and-Events-Items/​2018-03-21-Documentation-Guidelines-and-Burden-Reduction.html?​DLPage=​1&​DLEntries=​10&​DLSort=​0&​DLSortDir=​descending). We also sought input by participating in several listening sessions recently hosted by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) in the course of implementing section 4001(a) of the 21st Century Cures Act (Pub. L. 114-255). This provision requires the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a goal, develop a strategy, and make recommendations to reduce regulatory or administrative burdens relating to the use of EHRs. The ONC listening sessions sought public input on the E/M guidelines as one part of broader, related and unrelated burdens associated with EHRs.

Several themes emerged from this recent stakeholder input. Stakeholders commended CMS for undertaking to revise the E/M guidelines and recommended a multi-year process. Many commenters advised CMS to obtain further input across specialties. They recommended town halls, open door forums or a task force that would come up with replacement guidelines that would work for all specialties over the course of several years. They urged CMS to proceed cautiously given the magnitude of the undertaking; past failed reform attempts by the AMA, CMS, and other payers; and the wide-ranging impact of any changes (for example, how other payers approach the issue).

We received substantially different recommendations by specialty. Based on this feedback, it is clear that any changes would have substantial specialty-specific impacts, both clinical and financial. Based on this feedback, it also seems that the history and exam portions of the guidelines are most significantly outdated with respect to current clinical practice.

A few stakeholders seemed to indicate that the documentation guidelines on history and exam should be kept in their current form. Many stakeholders believed they should be simplified or reduced, but not eliminated. Some stakeholders indicated that the documentation guidelines on history and exam could be eliminated altogether, and/or that documentation of these parts of an E/M visit could be left to practitioner discretion. We also heard from stakeholders that the degree to which an extended history and exam enables a given practitioner to reach a certain level of coding (and payment) varies according to their specialty. Many stakeholders advised CMS to increase reliance on medical decision-making (MDM) and time in determining the appropriate level of E/M visit, or to use MDM by itself, but many of these commenters believed that the MDM portions of the guidelines would need to be altered before being used alone. Commenters were divided on the role of time in distinguishing among E/M visit levels, and expressed some concern about potential abuse or inequities among more- or less-efficient practitioners. Some commenters expressed support for simplifying E/M coding generally into three levels such as low, medium and high, and potentially distinguishing those levels on the basis of time.

2. CY 2019 Proposed Policies

Having considered the public feedback to the CY 2018 PFS proposed rule (82 FR 53163 through 53166) and our other outreach efforts described above, we are proposing several changes to E/M visit documentation and Start Printed Page 35835payment. The proposed changes would only apply to office/outpatient visit codes (CPT codes 99201 through 99215), except where we specify otherwise. We agree with commenters that we should take a step-wise approach to these issues, and therefore, we would limit initial changes to the office/outpatient E/M code set. We understand from commenters that there are more unique issues to consider for the E/M code sets used in other settings such as inpatient hospital or emergency department care, such as unique clinical and legal issues and the potential intersection with hospital Conditions of Participation (CoPs). We may consider expanding our efforts more broadly to address sections of the E/M code set beyond the office/outpatient codes in future years.

We wish to emphasize that, this year, we are including our proposed E/M documentation changes in a proposed rule due to the longstanding nature of our instruction that practitioners may use either the 1995 or 1997 versions of the E/M guidelines to document E/M visits billed to Medicare, the magnitude of the proposed changes, and the associated payment policy proposals that require notice and comment rulemaking. We believe our proposed documentation changes for E/M visits are intrinsically related to our proposal to alter PFS payment for E/M visits (discussed below), and the PFS payment proposal for E/M visits requires notice and comment rulemaking. We note that we are proposing a relatively broad outline of changes in this proposed rule, and we anticipate that many details related to program integrity and ongoing refinement would need to be developed over time through subregulatory guidance. This would afford flexibility and enable us to more nimbly and quickly make ongoing clarifications, changes and refinements in response to continued practitioner experience moving forward.

a. Lifting Restrictions Related to E/M Documentation

(i) Eliminating Extra Documentation Requirements for Home Visits

Medicare pays for E/M visits furnished in the home (a private residence) under CPT codes 99341 through 99350. The payment rates for these codes are slightly more than for office visits (for example, approximately $30 more for a level 5 established patient, non-facility). The beneficiary need not be confined to the home to be eligible for such a visit. However, there is a Medicare Claims Processing Manual provision requiring that the medical record must document the medical necessity of the home visit made in lieu of an office or outpatient visit (Pub. 100-04, Medicare Claims Processing Manual, Chapter 12, Section 30.6.14.1.B, available on the CMS website at https://www.cms.gov/​Regulations-and-Guidance/​Guidance/​Manuals/​Downloads/​clm104c12.pdf). Stakeholders have suggested that whether a visit occurs in the home or the office is best determined by the practitioner and the patient without applying additional rules. We agree, so we are proposing to remove the requirement that the medical record must document the medical necessity of furnishing the visit in the home rather than in the office. We welcome public comments on this proposal, including any potential, unintended consequences of eliminating this requirement. If we finalize this proposal in the CY 2019 PFS final rule, we would update the manual to reflect the change.

(ii) Public Comment Solicitation on Eliminating Prohibition on Billing Same-Day Visits by Practitioners of the Same Group and Specialty

The Medicare Claims Processing Manual states, “As for all other E/M services except where specifically noted, the Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) may not pay two E/M office visits billed by a physician (or physician of the same specialty from the same group practice) for the same beneficiary on the same day unless the physician documents that the visits were for unrelated problems in the office, off campus-outpatient hospital, or on campus-outpatient hospital setting which could not be provided during the same encounter” (Pub. 100-04, Medicare Claims Processing Manual, Chapter 12, Section 30.6.7.B, available on the CMS website at https://www.cms.gov/​Regulations-and-Guidance/​Guidance/​Manuals/​Downloads/​clm104c12.pdf).

This instruction was intended to reflect the idea that multiple visits with the same practitioner, or by practitioners in the same or very similar specialties within a group practice, on the same day as another E/M service would not be medically necessary. However, stakeholders have provided a few examples where this policy does not make sense with respect to the current practice of medicine as the Medicare enrollment special