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2023 Changes to Colorectal Screening Tests
Published on 


 | Coding 
 | Billing 

Did You Know?

The Code of Federal Regulations defines colorectal cancer screening tests as being any of the following procedures furnished to an individual for the purpose of early detection of colorectal cancer:

  • Screening fecal-occult blood tests.
  • Screening flexible sigmoidoscopies.
  • Screening colonoscopies, including anesthesia furnished in conjunction with the service.
  • Screening barium enemas.
  • Other tests or procedures established by a national coverage determination, and modifications to tests under this paragraph, with such frequency and payment limits as CMS determines appropriate, in consultation with appropriate organizations.

Why It Matters?

Effective January 1, 2023: If you code outpatient colonoscopy procedures, be aware of new Medicare guidelines where a positive stool-based colorectal cancer-screening test can, in some cases, constitute a screening colonoscopy.

The excerpt below is from the Code of Federal Regulations and can be seen in section K at this link: eCFR :: 42 CFR 410.37 -- Colorectal cancer screening tests: Conditions for and limitations on coverage.

“A complete colorectal cancer screening. Effective January 1, 2023, colorectal cancer screening tests include a follow-on screening colonoscopy after a Medicare covered non-invasive stool-based colorectal cancer screening test returns a positive result.”

Also refer to Coding Clinic for HCPCS 4th quarter 2022, page 17 for additional information.

What Can I Do?

Share this information with your outpatient coding professionals. For non-Medicare payers, it may be necessary to contact them directly for guidance.

Jeffery Gordon

Fiscal Year 2022 Fourth Quarter PEPPER Release
Published on 



The fourth quarter FY 2022 Short-Term Acute Care Program for Evaluating Payment Patterns Electronic Report (PEPPER) was released last week. At the same time, the 36th Edition of the related PEPPER User’s Guide is now posted on the PEPPER Resources website.

About the PEPPER

As part of a hospital’s Compliance Program, regular chart audits should be completed to confirm guidance with Medicare coverage, coding, and billing requirements. The PEPPER is a free resource that provides a compare of a hospital to its state, MAC region, and the nation for specific Target Areas. This comparison enables a hospital to identify whether it is an outlier as compared to other short-term acute care hospitals.

In general, there are two types of Target Areas, targets related to DRG coding and admission necessity focused target areas. The “PEPPER does not identify the presence of payment errors, but it can be used as a guide for auditing and monitoring efforts. A hospital can use PEPPER to compare its claims data over time to identify areas of potential concern:

  • Significant changes in billing practices
  • Possible over- or under – coding, and
  • Changes in lengths of stay.”

When CMS approves a Target Area it is because it has been identified as prone to improper Medicare payments. Historically, target areas have been the focus of past Office of Inspector (OIG) or Recovery Auditor audits.

35th Edition PEPPER User’s Guide, What’s New?

Three target areas have been removed from the report including Excisional Debridement, Emergency Department Evaluation and Management Visits, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

In keeping with the trend that MMP has noticed where services are moving away from the inpatient hospital setting, the existing Spinal Fusion target area has been modified to now include hospital outpatient spinal fusion claims.

The last change is to the existing Percutaneous Cardiovascular Procedures target area. This has been modified to remove reference to the following two outpatient codes in the denominator:

  • Current Procedural Terminology® (CPT®) code 92942, and
  • Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) code C9606.

Moving Forward

Also included in the PEPPER User’s Guide are suggested interventions for when a hospital is a high or low outlier for each of the review targets.

DRG Coding Focused Target Area Example: Unrelated OR Procedure

  • Suggested Interventions for High Outliers: “This could indicate that there are coding or billing errors related to over-coding of DRGs 981, 982, 987, 988, or 989. A sample of medical records for these DRGs should be reviewed to determine whether the principal diagnosis and principal procedure are correct.
  • Suggested Intervention for Low Outlier: “This could indicate that the principal diagnosis is being billed with the related procedures No intervention is necessary.”

Admission Necessity Focused Target Area Example: Spinal Fusion

  • Suggested Interventions for High Outlier: “This could indicate that unnecessary spinal fusion procedures may have been performed. A sample of medical records for spinal fusion cases, including both the inpatient and outpatient setting, should be reviewed to validate the medical necessity of the procedure. Medical record documentation of 1) previous non-surgical treatment, 2) physical examination clearly documenting the progression of neurological deficits, extremity strength, activity modification, and pain levels, 3) diagnostic test results and interpretation, and 4) adequate history of the presenting illness, may help substantiate the necessity of the procedure.”
  • Suggested interventions for Low Outlier: “Not applicable, as this is an admission-necessity focused target area.”

Of note, more than half of the target areas in the 36th Edition User’s Guide are admission-necessity focused. Moving forward, I encourage you to review your hospital’s latest PEPPER and take advantage of suggested interventions available in the User’s Guide, paying close attention to documentation that may help substantiate the inpatient admission.


PEPPER Resources:

Beth Cobb

March 2023 PAR PRO Tip: Facet Joint Interventions to Require Prior Authorization July 1, 2023
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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, we spotlight review activities. This month, we bring you highlights from the MACs as they prepare for and provide education related to facet joint interventions being added to Prior Authorization for Certain Hospital Outpatient (OPD) Services CMS initiative.

Prior Authorization for Certain Hospital Outpatient Department Services

CMS implemented this initiative through the Calendar Year 2020 Outpatient Prospective Payment System/Ambulatory Surgical Center (OPPS/ASC) Final Rule (CMS-1717-FC). Effective for claims on or after July 1, 2023, CMS has added facet joint interventions to the list of services requiring prior authorization. This service category includes facet joint interventions, medial branch blocks, and facet joint nerve destruction. A list of the specific CPT codes is in Table 103 of the CY 2023 OPPS/ASC Final Rule (CMS-1772-FC). Following is current guidance available on MAC websites:

J15: CGS Administrators LLC 

 “CGS will accept prior authorization requests for these services beginning on June 18, 2023…Information specific to facet joints will be added as it becomes available.” 

JN: First Coast Service Options Inc.

On March 14th, First Coast added information regarding facet joint interventions to their Prior Authorization for certain hospital OPD services webpage ( At the same time, they published a separate article titled Be sure you are billing correctly for Prior authorization (PA) for face jont interventions ( 

JE/JF: Noridian Healthcare Solutions, LLC

“Introductory letters will be mailed during the month of May 2023, to providers currently billing for facet joint interventions in hospital OPDs.” 

J6/JK: National Government Services Inc.

“On 6/15/2023, National Government Services will begin accepting prior authorization requests for facet joint services.” 

JH/JL: Novitas Solutions Inc.

As of March 14th, information about facet joint interventions as part of the prior authorization initiative has not been added to the Novitas website. Novitas does have a very informative webpage dedicated to this program ( I encourage you to check this webpage often for updates. 

JJ/JM: Palmetto GBA, LLC

“On June 15, 2023, Palmetto GBA will begin accepting prior authorization requests for facet joint services (” 

Also, Palmetto GBA is hosting a webinar on April 13, 2023. During this webinar they will discuss the OPD process, the new CPT codes that are being added for Facet Joint Interventions and required documentation. If you are interested in attending this webinar, the webinar announcement includes a link to sign up ( 

J5/J8: Wisconsin Physicians Service Government Health Administrators

The topic for WPS’s monthly medical review errors webinar on March 21st is Facet Joint documentation. During this webinar, WPS will focus on the documentation requirements for facet joint interventions, to aid in avoiding future denials. 

Moving Forward

Visit your MACs website frequently to:

Identify when they will begin to accept prior authorization requests and for any updates or planned educational sessions, 

 Identify applicable Medicare Coverage Documents (Local Coverage Determinations (LCDs) and Local Billing and Coding Articles (LCAs)), and

Ensure 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.

Beth Cobb

Peripheral Nerve Block for Pain Management after Total Knee Arthroplasty
Published on 


 | Coding 

Did You Know?

A peripheral nerve block (PNB) may be reported for postoperative pain management following a Total Knee Arthroplasty (TKA), if not captured by the hospital’s Chargemaster.

Why It Matters?

Various studies have shown that PNBs following a TKA can deliver safe and effective pain relief. This type of pain relief can improve postoperative pain, patient satisfaction, and decrease the need for opioid use. Coding PNBs do not affect the DRG; however, reporting a procedure code for PNB will give a more accurate clinical picture of what was required to take care of that TKA patient.

Also, an ICD-9 Coding Clinic noted that coding a procedure for management of postoperative pain was permissible.

What Can I Do?

  1. Review documentation from the Anesthesiologist that indicates the surgeon requested a PNB for postoperative pain management. This documentation is typically found on a Pre-Anesthesia Evaluation sheet. Types of PNB: Femoral, Obturator, Sciatic, Lumbar Plexus, and Adductor Canal Nerve.
  2. Contact the business office to see if this procedure was captured in the Chargemaster.
  3. Verify if there is a hospital policy for coding secondary procedures that do not affect the DRG.
  4. Educate coding staff.


Coding Clinic, 2nd Quarter 2000, page 14

Review on Nerve Blocks Utilized for Perioperative Total Knee Arthroplasty Analgesia | Published in Orthopedic Reviews (

Anita Meyers

Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
Published on 


 | Coding 

Did You Know?

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s indicated in their May 18, 2021 Final Recommendation statement for colorectal cancer screening that:

  • It is estimated that 10.5% of new colorectal cancer cases occur in persons younger than 50 years,
  • Incidence of colorectal cancer (specifically adenocarcinoma) in adults aged 40 to 49 years has increased by almost 15% from 2000-2002 to 2014-2016,
  • In 2016, 25.6% of eligible adults in the US had never been screened for colorectal cancer, and
  • In 2018, 31.2% were not up to date with screening.

Based on these recommendations, this time last year I wrote that 45 was the new 50 for colorectal cancer screening.

Why it Matters?

Effective January 1, 2023, the recommended minimum age for certain colorectal screening tests has decreased from 50 to 45 years of age and older.

MLN Matters article MM13017, Removal of a National Coverage Determination and & Expansion of Coverage of Colorectal (CRC) Screening includes:

  • A list of the specific screening tests where the minimum age has decreased from 50 to 45 years and older, and  
  • An expanded definition of CRC screening tests and new billing instructions for colonoscopies under certain scenarios.

Also, National Coverage Determination (NCD 210.3) Colorectal Cancer Screening Tests has been revised to reflect the decrease in minimum age for each of the covered indications listed in this policy.

2023 Colorectal Cancer Screening Claims Being Held: Palmetto GBA, the Medicare Administrative Contractor for Jurisdictions J and M posted the following open claims issue regarding colorectal cancer screening claims:

“CMS has instructed Medicare Administrative Contractors to hold colorectal cancer screening claims with HCPCS codes G0104, G0105, G0106, G0120, G0121, G0327, G0328, 81528 and CPT® code 82270 until April 4, 2023. Claims for dates of service on or after January 1, 2023, will be held to allow the CMS system maintained to make updates to the claim processing system to accommodate 2023 colorectal cancer screening coverage changes.”

What Can You Do?

As a healthcare provider, be aware of the changes in Medicare’s colorectal screening coverage. The following changes have been made to the MLN Educational Tool Medicare Preventive Services

  • Information has been added about reduced coinsurance (starting January 1, 2023) when a screening colorectal cancer procedure becomes diagnostic or therapeutic,
  • The reduced minimum age for colorectal cancer screening tests from 50 to 45, and
  • If a non-invasive stool-based test returns a positive test, colorectal cancer screening tests now include a follow-up screening colonoscopy.  

As a healthcare consumer, I encourage everyone to talk with your doctor about your risk(s) for colorectal cancer and the need for screening tests.


U.S. Preventive Services Task Force May 18, 2021 Final Recommendation Statement for colorectal cancer screening:

MLN MM13017:

MLN Educational tool Medicare Preventive Services:

NCD 210.3 Colorectal Cancer Screening Tests:

Palmetto GBA Claims Payment Issue: 2023 Colorectal Cancer Screening Claims Being Held:

Beth Cobb

February 2023 Medicare Transmittals, MLN Articles and Coverage Updates
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 | Billing 
 | Coding 

Medicare Transmittals & MLN Articles

January 24, 2023: MLN MM12865: Provider Enrollment: Regulatory Changes Make sure your staff knows about recent enrollment changes, including Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) screening and fingerprinting requirements, screening of certain changes of ownership, and screening for “bump-ups.”


January 27, 2023: MLN MM13063: Rural Health Clinic & Federally Qualified Health Center Medicare Benefit Policy Manual Update This article highlights key 2022 and 2023 updates for Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) and Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) for example, effective January 1, 2023, RHCs and FQHCs are paid for chronic pain management (CPM) services when a minimum of 30 minutes of qualifying non-face-to-face CPM services are provided during a calendar month.


February 2, 2023: MLN MM13017: Removal of a National Coverage Determination & Expansion of Coverage of Colorectal Cancer Screening This article details removal of NCD 160.22 Ambulatory Electroencephalographic (EEG) Monitoring, the minimum age for certain colorectal screening tests (CRC) decreasing from 50 to 45, and expansion of the definition of CRC screening tests and new billing instructions for colonoscopies under certain scenarios.


February 2, 2023: MLN MM13052: New Payment Adjustments for Domestic N95 Respirators Under the OPPS & IPPS, CMS is providing payment adjustments to hospitals for National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) approved surgical N95 respirators cost differential. To be reimbursable by Medicare, NIOSH-approved surgical N95 respirators must be wholly made in the United States. Action needed related to this MLN article is to make sure your reimbursement staff know about the cost reporting period changes and documentation requirements starting January 1, 2023.


February 2, 2023: MLN MM13082: Clinical Laboratory Fee Schedule & Laboratory Services Subject to Reasonable Charge Payment: Quarterly Update The next CLSF data reporting period for Clinical Diagnostic Laboratory Tests (CDLTs) is delayed until January 1- March 31, 2024. This article also provides information about the general specimen collection fee increase and new and discontinued HCPCS codes.


MLN MM12103: Extension of Changes to the Low-Volume Hospital Payment Adjustment & the Medicare Dependent Hospital Program Affected Providers includes Low-volume hospitals and Medicare-dependent hospitals (MDHs). This article includes information and criteria and payment adjustments for FY 2023 and the extension of the MDH program through September 30, 2023. 

Revised Transmittals & MLN Articles


December 14, 2022 – Revised January 23, 2023: MLN MM13031: Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System: January 2023 Update This article was revised due to a revision to Change Request (CR) 13031 updating tables 5 and 6 and added table 20 to update the pass-through status of 5 devices to extend pass-through status for a 1-year period starting on January 1, 2023.


Coverage Updates

February 6, 2023: MLN MM13070: ICD-10 & Other Coding Revisions to National Coverage Determinations: July 2023 Update NCDs with changes effective July 1, 2023 includes: NCD 20.4 – Implantable Cardiac Defibrillators (ICDs), NCD 20.7 – Percutaneous Transluminal Angioplasty (PTA), NCD 20.20 External Counterpulsation Therapy, NCD 150.3 – Bone Density Studies, NDC 150.10 – Lumbar Artificial Disc Replacement (LADR), NCD 210.1 – Prostate Cancer Screening, and NCD 220.13 – Percutaneous Image-Guided Breast Biopsy.


February 23, 2023: Transmittal 11875 (Change Request 13073): NCD 50.3 – Cochlear Implantation Manual Update The purposed of this CR is to update manuals with the revised eligibility criteria for the cochlear implantation NCD that is expanding beneficiary coverage for treatment of bilateral pre- or post-linguistic, sensorineural, moderate-to-profound hearing loss in individuals who demonstrate limited benefit from amplification.



Beth Cobb

February 2023 COVID-19, MOON, IM/DND, REH, and Therapy Cap Updates
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COVID-19 Updates

January 24, 2023 CDC Call: Updates to COVID-19 Testing and Treatment for the Current SARS-CoV-2 Variants: This CDC call included an overview of COVID-19 epidemiology and the current variant landscape, addressed current CDC testing guidance and the National Institutes of Health and Infectious Disease Society of America COVID-19 treatment guidelines, and discussed risk assessment and considerations for treatment options. You can access a recording of this session and slides on the CDC website.


February 9, 2023: Letter to U.S. Governors from HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra: HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra published a letter to Governors (, informing them “that effective February 11, 2023, I am renewing for 90 days the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE)…the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is planning for this to be the final renewal and for the COVID-19 PHE to end on May 11, 2023. Rather than 60 days’ notice, I am providing 90 days’ notice before the COVID-19 PHE ends to give you and your communities ample time to transition.” HHS also published the Fact Sheet: COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Transition Roadmap (


February 23, 2023: PHE 1135 Waivers: Updated Guidance for Providers: CMS published an MLN Connects (, letting providers know the COVID-19 PHE Provider-specific fact sheets have been updated and in the coming weeks they will be hosting stakeholder calls and office hours to provide additional information.


February 27, 2023: What Do I Need to Know? CMS Waivers, Flexibilities, and the Transition Forward from the COVID-19 PHE: CMS released a new overview fact sheet providing clarity on several topics including: COVID-19 vaccines, testing and treatments, telehealth services, and healthcare access (

Other Updates

January 23, 2023: The MOON and IM/DND Receive OMB Approval: A January 23, 2023, update on the Beneficiary Notices Initiative webpage ( alerted providers that the Medicare Outpatient Observation Notice (MOON), Important Message from Medicare (IM), and Detailed Notice of Discharge (DND) have received OMB approval and the updated versions are now available. The new versions must be used no later than April 27, 2023.


January 26, 2023: Guidance for Newest Medicare Provider Type – Rural Emergency Hospitals (REH): This memorandum ( provides guidance regarding the REH enrollment and conversion process for eligible facilities, FAQs, and a newly developed State Operations Manual Appendix (Appendix O) with survey procedures and Conditions of Participation (CoP) regulatory text. CMS notes the interpretive guidance is pending and will be provided in a future release. You can learn more about REHs in an October 2022 MLN Fact Sheet (


CY 2023 Therapy Services Threshold Amounts: The February 2, 2023 edition of MLN Connects included the CY 2023 per-beneficiary threshold amounts for therapy services. Claims must include the KX modifier to confirm services were medically necessary and justified by appropriate documentation. Threshold Amounts for CY 2023 are:

  • $2,230 for Physical Therapy (PT) and Speech-Language Therapy (SLT) combined, and
  • $2,230 for Occupational Therapy (OT) services.

To learn more about therapy services, visit the CMS Therapy Services webpage (

Beth Cobb

February 2023 PAR Physician Part B Pro Tip: Transthoracic Echocardiography
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 | Billing 
 | Coding 

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.


February 22nd is National Heart Valve Disease (HVD) Awareness Day. One way to diagnose HVD is to perform an echocardiogram. You can read more about causes, risk factors, symptoms, and treatment of HVD  in a related article in this week’s newsletter. This article highlights one MAC’s Targeted Probe and Educate (TPE) review results for Transthoracic Echocardiography (CPT® code 93306).  


Palmetto GBA Jurisdiction J Part B TPE Review Results for Transthoracic Echocardiography July through September 2022

Palmetto GBA recently published their review results for CPT® code 93306: Echocardiography, Transthoracic, Real-Time with Image Documentation, for July through September 2022 claims. Jurisdiction J includes Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee.


Review Results by the Numbers

  • Thirty-seven providers received additional documentation requests (ADRs) for claims for this review.
  • Palmetto GBA reviewed 1,480 claims.
  • The state specific claim denial rate was 35% in Tennessee, 46% in Alabama and 50% in Georgia.
  • Overall, 45% of the claims were denied.
  • The total dollar denied amount was $101,664.11.
  • Twenty-five providers were found to be “non-compliant” and will progress to a second TPE review of records.


    National Volume and Payment for CPT® 93306 July – September 2022 Claims

    In Palmetto GBA’s article Medicare Coverage of Echocardiography, they “identified CPT 93306 as an area of vulnerability” and noted “this code is a major risk.” As this is a TPE review target, is seems Palmetto GBA continues to identify CPT® 93306 as “an area of vulnerability” and “major risk.”


    Since the RTMD database now covers all 50 states and D.C. and inpatient discharges, outpatient hospital services and CMS 1500 Professional Services, I wanted to quantify this “major risk” at the national level.


    RTMD July-September 2022 Part B Professional Claims by Site of Service

    • Non-Hospital: 710,467 claims volume and $107,785,891 payment
    • 21-Inpatient Hospital: 569,770 claims volume and $30,110,417 payment
    • 22-Outpatient Hospital: 556,523 claims volume and $29,110,491 payment
    • 19-Off Campus-Outpatient Hospital: claims 85,517 volume and $4,624,688 payment
    • 23-Emergency Room Hospital: 12,983 claims volume and $674,203 payment


    The Total Volume was 1,935,260 and the Total Payment was $172,305,690. For this three-month time, a 45% claims denial rate equates to 870,867 non-paid claims with a loss in revenue of just over $77.5 million.


    Reasons for Claim Denial

  • 26% of the denials were due to Palmetto GBA not receiving the documentation requested or the documentation was incomplete, and they were unable to make a reasonable and necessary determination.
  • 24% of denials were due to the documentation that was submitted not supporting medical necessity of the services billed based on Palmetto GBA’s applicable Local Coverage Determination (LCD L37379).
  • 19% of the denials were due to documentation containing an incorrect, incomplete, or illegible patient identification or date of service.
  • 18% of the denials were due to a claim billed in error by the Provider.
  • Finally, 11% of the denials were due to documentation not being signed by the rendering Provider.


    Specific to documentation not supporting medical necessity, Palmetto GBA noted in the article mentioned above, that “Echocardiography performed for screening purposes is not covered. Screening includes testing performed on patients who present with risk factors (including the risk factor such as having a positive family history, e.g., familial history of Marfan’s disease). Screening service for high-risk patients is considered good medical practice but is not covered by Medicare. When a screening test is performed, use the appropriate screening ICD-10 code to indicate the test is being done for screening purposes. When the result of the test is abnormal, subsequent diagnostic services may be billed with the test-result diagnosis; however, the initial screening test must be listed as screening, even though the result of the screening test may be a covered condition. Symptoms or an existing condition must be present in the medical record to meet medical necessity.”


    Moving Forward

    For Providers in Palmetto GBA’s Jurisdiction J or M, Take the time to read LCD L37379 and related Local Coverage Article (LCA) A56625 to identify covered indications and diagnoses for this procedure. Palmetto GBA has also made available an on-demand webinar Medicare Coverage of Echocardiography CPT® Code 93306, noting it should be of interest to the Part B Providers staff, managers, supervisors, medical record departments or third parties that respond on behalf to medical records requests from Palmetto GBA or any other CMS review contractor.


    For Providers in other MAC jurisdictions, search the Medicare Coverage Database to identify any applicable LCDs or LCA in place for CPT® 93306.



  • Palmetto GBA February 2, 2023 TPE Review Results for Transthoracic Echocardiography:
  • Palmetto GBA Article Medicare Coverage of Echocardiography:,flow%2C%20valves%2C%20and%20chambers
  • Palmetto GBA Medicare Coverage of Echocardiography OnDemand Webinar:

Beth Cobb

February 22nd is National Heart Valve Awareness Day
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February 22nd each year is National Heart Valve Disease Awareness Day. This day was started by the Alliance for Aging Research with a “goal…to increase recognition of the specific risks and symptoms of heart valve disease, improve detection and treatment, and ultimately save lives.” 

Did You Know?

According to the Alliance for Aging Research:

  • >As many as 11.6 million Americans are estimated to have heart valve disease (HVD),
  • >Annually, around 25,000 people die from the disease, and
  • Three out of four Americans know little to nothing about heart valve disease.

    Causes of Heart Valvular Disease

  • Rheumatic disease: An untreated infection from bacteria causing strep throat can cause scarring of the heart valve and it is the most common cause of valve disease worldwide. This is less common in the U.S. where strep infections are treated early with antibiotics.
  • Endocarditis: When a severe infection in the blood causes an infection of the inner lining of the heart, the infection can settle on the heart valves and damage the leaflets. IV drug use can also lead to endocarditis and ultimately heart valve disease.
  • Other types of heart disease i.e., heart failure, atherosclerosis, thoracic aortic aneurysm, high blood pressure or heart attack.


    Risk Factors

  • Older age can be a risk factor.
  • A family history of coronary artery disease can raise your risk of developing HVD.
  • Lifestyle habits that may put you at risk include a lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating patterns, smoking, and obesity.
  • Other conditions that can raise your risk include high blood pressure, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders such as lupus.
  • Radiation treatment for cancer can result in thickening or narrowing of heart valves.
  • Sex, at all ages men are more likely than women to have certain heart valve conditions, such as aortic stenosis.


    Symptoms in Adults

    It is important to recognize that symptoms that occur in older patients may happen slowly, may be mistakenly thought to be normal signs of aging, or a patient may have no symptoms at all. When a patient does have symptoms, it can include:


  • Fatigue, which is often the first symptom.
  • Shortness of breath, especially on exertion
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness, fainting when standing up, or a short-term loss of consciousness.
  • Fever, which may signal an infection that can lead to endocarditis.
  • Rapid weight gain, and
  • Irregular heartbeat.


    How Heart Valve Disease is Diagnosed

  • Your doctor may hear a heart murmur during a physical examination and depending on the location, how it sounds and its rhythm, your doctor may be able to identify the valve and type of problem it is (regurgitation or stenosis).
  • The above symptoms are like other conditions and your doctor can order an echocardiogram to diagnose a heart valve problem.
  • How Heart Valve Disease is Treated

    Medicine may treat symptoms and/or prevent the condition from worsening. Surgery or a minimally invasive structural heart procedure may ultimately be required to repair or fully replace a faulty heart valve.


    Why it Matters?

    Untreated HVD can lead to serious and even life-threatening complications for example:

  • Arrhythmias,
  • Blood clots,
  • Blood stream infections,
  • Expanding, bulging, or tearing of the aorta,
  • Heart failure,
  • Pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lungs),
  • Stroke, or
  • Cardiac Arrest.


What Can You Do?

Talk to your doctor about your risk during your routine examination and make healthy lifestyle changes (i.e., choose heart-healthy foods, maintain a healthy weight, manage stress, get regular physical activity, and if you smoke, quit).




Beth Cobb

National Medicare Claims Review Contractor Year One Review Results
Published on 


 | Billing 
 | Coding 

We are fast approaching the ten-year anniversary of the Two-Midnight Rule that went into effect on October 1, 2013. Following the start date of this rule, CMS provided sub-regulatory guidance. Specific to claims reviews, CMS directed Medicare review contractors to apply the Two-Midnight presumption that “directs medical reviewers to select Part A claims for review under a presumption that the occurrence of 2 midnights after formal inpatient hospital admission pursuant to a physician order indicates an appropriate inpatient status for a reasonable and necessary Part A claim.”

Initially, Medicare Administrative Review Contractors (MACs) were tasked with auditing short stay claims. Next, this task was turned over to the two Beneficiary and Family Centered Care Quality Improvement Organizations (BFCC-QIOs) KEPRO and Livanta. In 2019, reviews were halted as CMS began the process of selecting one contractor to perform Short Stay Reviews (SSRs) and Higher Weighted DRG (HWDRG) reviews nationally.

In April 2021, Livanta announced they had been awarded the contract to be the National Medicare Claim Review Contractor. Livanta notes on their website that “claim review services represent an important activity of advancing Medicare’s triple aim of better health, better care, and lower costs.”

In October 2021, Livanta began requesting records monthly and they have recently posted their First Year Review Findings for SSRs and HWDRG reviews.

First Year Review Findings for Short Stay Reviews

Livanta notes in this report that SSRs focus on appropriate application of the Two-Midnight Rule, they are not incentivized to find errors, providers may provide supplementation documentation for initially denied claims, and a hospital may request education sessions at any point in the review process.

Livanta developed a review strategy, approved by CMS, to score each eligible paid claim to account for the influences of volume, cost, and clinical risk of improper payment. This score also scores a claim by length of stay (LOS) with a 0-day LOS scoring higher than a 1-day LOS.


Year 1 Report Highlights

  • Livanta reviewed 18,672 short stay claims,
  • 2,663 (14%) reviews were denied,
  • The 0-Day LOS error rate was eighteen percent,
  • The 1-Day LOS error rate was thirteen percent,
  • The highest volume of claims denied were circulatory system claims, and
  • The principal diagnosis with the highest number of denials was I480 (Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation).

    Higher Weighted DRG Reviews

    A HWDRG review occurs when a claim is resubmitted by a hospital with a higher weighted DRG as a correction to an original claim. The focus of this type of review is “on medical necessity of the inpatient admission and DRG validation.” Further, “this review activity helps ensure that the patient’s diagnostic, procedural, and discharge information is coded and reported properly on the hospital’s claim and matches documentation in the record.” Similar to SSRs, each claim is scored to account for the influences of volume, cost, and clinical risk.

    Year 1 Report Highlights

  • Livanta completed 54,251 reviews.
  • A Livanta physician identified 4,804 clinical coding errors due to lack of evidence to support the diagnosis code.
  • >There were 6,480 technical coding errors that involved inappropriate application of ICD-10-CM/PCS coding guidelines.

Top Three Reasons for a Denial

  1. The principal diagnosis was not supported by the medical record and coding guidelines.
  2. Submission of a major complication or comorbidity (MCC) or CC not supported by documentation in the medical record. Common diagnoses cited in the report were sepsis, encephalopathy, and malnutrition.
  3. Inappropriate query submissions and unsupported responses.

Moving Forward

Share this information with your Coding and Clinical Documentation Integrity professionals. I also encourage you to review information available to Providers on Livanta’s website and sign up for their monthly newsletter, The Livanta Claims Review Advisor.


Beth Cobb

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