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November 2022 PAR PRO Tip: Facet Joint Injections to Require Prior Authorization July 1, 2023

Published on 

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

 | Coding 
 | Billing 

MMP’s Protection Assessment Report (P.A.R.) combines current Medicare Fee-for-Service review targets (i.e., MAC, RAC, OIG) with hospital specific paid claims data made possible through a collaboration with RealTime Medicare Data (RTMD). Monthly, our newsletter spotlights current review activities. This month we focus on the new service to be added to the Prior Authorization for Certain Hospital Outpatient (OPD) Services effective July 1, 2023.

Did You Know?

CMS implemented the Prior Authorization for Certain Hospital Outpatient Department (OPD) Services through the Calendar Year (CY) 2020 Outpatient Prospective Payment System/Ambulatory Surgical Center (OPPS/ASC) Final Rule (CMS-1717-FC).

Initially, effective July 1, 2020 blepharoplasty, botulinum toxin injections, panniculectomy, rhinoplasty and vein ablation required a prior authorization when performed in the hospital OPD. For claims on or after July 1, 2021, implanted spinal neurostimulators and cervical fusion with disc removal were added to the list.

New for 2023, CMS finalized the addition of facet joint interventions requiring prior authorization for claims on or after July 1, 2023. This service category includes facet joint injections, medial branch blocks, and facet joint nerve destruction. A list of the specific CPT codes that will require prior authorization are listed in Table 103 of the CY 2023 OPPS/ASC Final Rule (CMS-1772-FC).

Why it Matters?

Reviewing facet joint records has been a target by several different entities.

Medicare Administrative Contractors

Noridian Jurisdiction E (JE) Part B MAC has conducted a Targeted and Probe and Educate (TPE) review of CPT 64635 (Destruction by Neurolytic Agent, Paravertebral Facet Joint Nerve). Dates of service reviewed were January 2020 through March 2020. The claims error rate was 75% with the top denial reasons being:

  • Failure to return records,
  • Documentation does not support the medical necessity as listed in the Coverage Requirement, and
  • Duplicate billing.

Noridian indicated in their review results that “Local Coverage Determination L34993 provides an overview of the coverage requirements for these services. Documentation must support the history of pain which has not been responsive to conservative measures. Documentation must also support the conservative measures that have been tried and failed. The LCD also further clarifies that documentation must support a clinical assessment which supports that the pain is a result of the facet joint and that there is no other pathology that may be causing the pain.

Documentation must reflect the patient pre and post procedure pain rating, procedure report, and the injectate used is within the LCD requirements.”

Other Part B MACs that have reviewed or are currently reviewing facet joint injections include Novitas JH and JL and WPS J8.

Office of Inspector General (OIG)

CMS notes in the OPPS/ASC final rule that the OIG has published multiple reports indicating questionable billing practices, improper Medicare payments, and questionable utilization of facet joint interventions. Based on their findings, the OIG recommended that CMS and its contractors provide additional oversight on claims for facet joint injections to prevent additional improper payments.

Supplemental Medical Review Contractor

Just last month on October 10th, the Supplemental Medical Review Contractor (SMRC) posted their review findings of Project 01-304: facet joint injections. The October 2020 OIG report was referenced in the review results. Claims reviewed included hospital outpatient and critical access hospitals with dates of service in CY 2019. The claims error rate was 92% and common denial reasons included:

  • Documentation submitted was insufficient or incomplete,
  • Documentation submitted did not support medical necessity as listed in National and Local Coverage Determinations, and
  • No response to the documentation request by the provider.
What Can I Do?

You can begin to prepare for the July 1, 2023 addition of Facet joint procedures to the Prior Authorization for Certain Hospital OPD Services now by:

  • Identifying applicable Medicare Coverage Documents (Local Coverage Determinations (LCDs) and Local Billing and Coding Articles (LCAs)), and
  • Ensuring key stakeholders are aware of the need for prior authorization effective July 1, 2023 (i.e., Outpatient Department Nurse Manager, Scheduling, Physicians performing these procedures) and educate them on applicable documentation requirements found in the LCDs and LCAs.
Article Author:

This material was compiled to share information.  MMP, Inc. is not offering legal advice. Every reasonable effort has been taken to ensure the information is accurate and useful.