Coding by Duration

Recently a clinician told us that providers had been audited for the use of 90837. The CPT codes have a duration associated with them and if the notes and the duration meet the criteria there is no reason for insurance companies to audit or for you to be afraid of utilizing that code. Most sessions go longer than 45 minutes, which is the CPT definition of 90834, and although in the crosswalks provided, back in 2013 they said that 90806 translated to 90834 they were incorrect.  The 90808 was supposed to translate to 90837 however, the 90808-code definition was 75 minutes or longer which does not equate.

The APA put out a guideline some time back regarding the durations for 90832, 90834 and 90837. Here is the guideline as proposed by the APA:

16-37 minutes use 90832

38-52 minutes use 90834

53 or more use 90837

In addition there are at least two insurance companies that we know of that do not allow the 90837 unless an authorization is obtained.  They are Optima/Sentara out of Virginia and Optum/United Behavioral.   After some research we noted that Optima had a published  allowable for 90837 which makes one wonder if this rule has been relaxed.    (The original rule was regarding the 90808 code for Optima/Sentara. )

For a fact the Blues in most all states allow the 90837 as does Medicare no questions asked.  Most of the insurances we have dealt with through the years do allow this code and there is no specific criteria or red flags.  This makes us wonder if those folks that were being audited also had some other item in their billing that set off red flags with the insurance industry.

Word of caution for all providers you should always ensure that the documentation matches what was billed.  So whether using an Electronic Health Record or some sort of manual system this is as important as the records maintained for the IRS. Keeping these records in synch provides the best method for keeping your practice ethical and out of arms way for those auditors.

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