Evaluation and Management Code Changes Coming in 2021 for 99202-99215

  

While it is only the second month of 2020, it is never too early to look to 2021, when the revised Evaluation and Management (E/M) office codes go into effect per the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) CY 2020 Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) Final Rule. CMS first proposed the updated Medicare E/M codes July 2018 in the CY 2019 PFS proposed rule to address the common perception that the E/M codes were outdated and to achieve administrative simplification. What is changing?

  • Deletion of code 99201
  • Revision of codes 99202-99215P
  • Components for code selection
  • E/M level of service for office or other outpatient services can be based on:
    • Medical Decision Making (MDM); or
    • Time: total time spent with the patient on the date of the encounter, including non-face-to-face services
  • Creation of a shorter 15-minute prolonged service code

Over the next few months ANA will take a deeper dive into these changes and will continue to share further guidance from CMS. These code changes are intended for increased simplicity and flexibility.  They eliminate the need for the clinician to redocument information, therefore reducing burden and “note bloat”. ANA encourages clinicians impacted to take the next eleven months to better understand how to use the updated codes.

With code 99201 deleted; the Office or other Outpatient Services: new patient code starts with 99202. The updated code states: Office or other outpatient visit for the evaluation and management of a new patient, which requires medically appropriate history and/or examination and straightforward medical decision making. The components of history and examination are removed from this updated code.

This continues for 99203, 99204, and 99205 but with the increase in MDM to low MDM, moderate MDM, and high MDM respectively. Codes 99211 through 99215 are for established patients following a similar pattern, except that 99211 will still be available in 2021 with an update of the time to spend performing or supervising the services.

The updated modifications to the criteria for MDM remove ambiguous terms and defines previously ambiguous concepts (such as acute or chronic illness with systemic systems). To qualify for a level of MDM, two of three elements for that level of decision making must be met or exceeded. Starting January 1, 2021, the new MDM table looks like:

Number and Complexity of Problems Addressed at the Encounter
Straightforward: self-limited
Low: Stable, uncomplicated, single problem
Moderate: multiple problems or significantly ill
High: very ill
Amount and/or Complexity of Data to be Reviewed and Analyzed Data is divided into three categories: (1) tests, documents, orders, or independent historian(s) – each unique test, order, or document is counted to meet a threshold number; (2) independent interpretation of tests not reported separately; (3) discussion of management or test interpretation with external physician/other Qualified Health Professional/appropriate source (not reported separately)
Risk of Complications and/or Morbidity or Mortality of Patient Management
Includes risks associated with social determinants of health
Straightforward: minimal risk from treatment – including no treatment – or testing. (effectively no risk)
Low: low risk/very low risk of anything bad, minimal consent/discussion Moderate: would typically review with patient/surrogate, obtain consent and monitor, or there are complex social factors in management (ex: prescription drug management, decision regarding minor surgery with identified patient or procedure risk factors, diagnosis or treatment significantly limited by social determinants of health)
High: need to discuss some pretty bad things that could happen for which physician or other qualified health care professional will watch and monitor (ex: drug therapy requiring intensive monitoring for toxicity, decision regarding emergency major surgery, decision regarding hospitalization)

ANA will continue to provide updates and content as clarifications become available. Currently, The American Medical Association has a module to continue in your education on the updated E/M Office Codes and remember that these codes do not go into effect until January 2021.

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Author: Brooke Trainum

Brooke Trainum is the Assistant Director, Policy and Regulatory Advocacy in ANA’s Department of Policy and Government Affairs where she works on emerging issues related to health systems, telehealth, and regulatory policy. In this capacity she collaborates with external and internal stakeholders to contribute to policy statements, regulatory comments, and legislative testimony. Passionate about improving health outcomes through policy and best practices, Brooke has worked in both the United States and Internationally in a variety of clinical, public health, and policy settings; collaboratively working to transform individual and community health. Brooke holds a juris doctor, with a certificate of International law, from the University of Denver, Sturm College of Law and a bachelors of science, in human nutrition, foods, and exercise, from Virginia Tech.

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