Comprehensive and accurate coding is vital as behavioral and mental health claims are on the rise. We frequently find ourselves progressively adapting to learn nuances with each insurer differently to avoid claim delays or denials. Making improvements accordingly helps make the overall patient experience a lot smoother for the facility’s care team, the engagement with the insurer, and of course the patient’s family.
Nowadays, entities like behavioral health facilities are far more prone to denials and payer audits more than any other medical coverage a patient may have. This puts mental health services at risk as the insurers concentrate on the coding accuracy and things like the duration of services rendered.
The insurance carriers are all about its utilization. They perform plenty of data mining, so all mental health providers regardless what profession they are like psychotherapist, licensed clinical social worker, physician, licensed mental health counselor, or non-physician practitioner, all require that documentation be accurate to avoid delay or denial of claims.
What are CPT codes?
For those who are reading this and not familiar with how claims are paid, they all start with a medical code that can be billable to the insurance carriers.
CPT (Current Procedural Terminology) codes are extremely important and are used for payment for services, especially when it is to be reimbursed by the insurance companies. The American Medical Association developed the CPT codes and assigned from surgical to diagnostic codes for medical providers to use for their patients.
What type of documentation do insurance carriers want to see from providers to avoid any scrutiny?
- Patient’s diagnosis. This is critical as the insurance carriers use this information to determine if therapy is medically necessary and if the specific therapy type is warranted. For instance, insurers may question the validity of therapy sessions provided to a patient with a neurological or cognitive deficit or a chronic brain injury when a drug intervention may be more appropriate.
- Therapy type. Physicians likely provide supportive therapy while other mental health providers may provide an array of options, for example, cognitive behavioral therapy, psychoanalysis, or insight-oriented therapy. This is important when initially verifying coverage and benefits, and specifying therapy type, facility, etc… to ensure it will be a billable service provided.
- Therapy goals: What treatment plans are set in place for the patient, short and long term?
- Progress reports: Is the therapy being provided benefiting the patient?
- Duration of sessions: What is the therapy start and stop times, to the exact minute.
How to know what psychotherapy codes to use?
As of 2013, CPT codes distinguishes between physician and non-physician providers performing psychotherapy services. Physician and Non-physician providers doing psychotherapy services use CPT codes such as 90832, 90836, or 90837, but all are based on the duration of the session. Aside from coding these services accurately, they should always be accompanied with documentation supporting the time spent providing the psychotherapy service.
Coding tips when billing for mental health services.
- Clearly document the time spent and benefits of the psychotherapy. The carriers want to see that a physician billing for psychotherapy is actually doing a therapeutic intervention. Spending extra time talking with the patient does not translate to a billable psychotherapy service. Generally, insurance carriers are worried about over-use of psychotherapy services, particularly if it appears the patient gets no benefit or shows no progress. If in some cases the patient is resistant to psychotherapy interventions or is not taking sessions to heart, it’s not going to benefit them.
- Documentation justifies any sessions extending beyond 45 minutes. The carriers want to see and know why time extension was necessary. Without proper supporting documents, claims may receive lower reimbursement or even denial.
- Use group therapy (CPT code 90853), when appropriate. Group therapy is great for patients because they can meet and talk with others with similar problems and usually looked at as very beneficial. Carriers may also consider patients who go through bereavement counseling during a public tragedy or for a court-ordered group setting counseling session for whatever reason valid to use this code.
Documents that are compliant and accurate coding helps providers in avoiding delays and denials. Staying up to date with best practices seems to be a never-ending task, however, we are glad we could share some insight with you about the significance of correctly utilizing CPT codes when billing for mental health services.