EXPERT ANALYSIS FROM SGS 2015

ORLANDO (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS)At least some coding edits introduced by the National Correct Coding Initiative that eliminated billing for additional gynecological surgeries performed at the time of vaginal hysterectomy have been effectively challenged by a group of professional organizations led by the American Urogynecologic Society.

In an update at the annual scientific meeting of the Society of Gynecologic Surgeons (SGS), which was among the organizations contributing to the effort, surgeons were told that some of the National Correct Coding Initiative ( NCCI ) bundling of procedures introduced on Oct. 1, 2014, will be modified to allow separate billing beginning April 1, 2015, including retroactively billing for procedures performed before the modification.

“The NCCI enacted wide sweeping pair edits that limited the types of additional procedures that could be billed at the time of vaginal hysterectomy. For the reconstructive vaginal surgeon, this eliminated the ability to bill for additional procedures, such as combined colporrhaphy and apical vaginal suspensions,” reported Dr. Marc Toglia , who served as vice chair of the Committee for Coding and Health Policy for American Urogynecologic Society ( AUGS ) that led the challenge.

The bundled procedures proposed by the NCCI are part of a larger effort to avoid paying surgeons twice for surgeries that are commonly performed together without significantly increasing operating time, according to Dr. Toglia. He reported that these particular coding edits were enacted by the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services despite strong opposition from AUGS, SGS, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and others.

“While pair edits are not uncommon – for example, you cannot bill separately for cystoscopy at the time that a pubovaginal sling is performed for urinary incontinence – AUGS felt that NCCI was incorrectly combining procedures performed for different indications and requiring substantially more work than the base procedure,” Dr. Toglia explained. “The NCCI seemed focused on the fact that procedures commonly performed at the same time of vaginal hysterectomy were routinely part of this procedure.”

The NCCI revisited the Oct. 1, 2014, coding edits in the face of the continued opposition led by AUGS. As a result, modifiers can be used to allow billing for some procedures, such as colporrhaphy, done at the same time as vaginal hysterectomy or to bill for complex procedures that required substantial additional work. However, not all the coding edits have yet to be successfully challenged. A set of six bundling codes planned for implementation on April 1 have so far only been postponed until July 1.

Referring to the modifiers, Dr. Toglia, who is chief of female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery for the Main Line Health System in Philadelphia, explained that “the edits were not changed. Rather, there is now a work-around.”

Practical information about how to properly employ the coding modifications can be obtained at the AUGS website . The website also has more information about initiatives to challenge other coding modifications that have been proposed and are now being challenged by AUGS.

The efforts by Dr. Toglia were strongly endorsed by Dr. Andrew J. Walter, who was installed as the new president of SGS immediately after the coding initiatives were described. In an interview, Dr. Walter, who is in private practice in Roseville, Calif., suggested that it is not just a question of protecting income but avoiding disincentives. He believes surgeons should not be discouraged from combining procedures when the goal is to improve outcome and patient well being.

“SGS, AUGS, and other professional societies need to work together to ensure that reimbursement is fair and serves the interest of excellent medical care,” Dr. Walter said.

Dr. Toglia and Dr. Walter reported no relevant financial disclosures.

obnews@frontlinemedcom.com

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