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COVID-19: Tracking the extra supplies, staff time needed to keep outpatient offices safe

Insight Article - September 27, 2020

Coding & Documentation

MGMA Staff Members
The increased costs for healthcare providers amid the COVID-19 pandemic is too long to list here, whether it’s personal protective equipment (PPE), cleaning supplies or new technology for virtual care delivery.

Especially with PPE, those costs have continued to rise in many areas as the pandemic has progressed: An MGMA Stat poll found that 98% of healthcare leaders report the total cost of obtaining PPE has increased this year.

One way to measure the extent of these added costs for practices is the recently announced billing code 99072, which is intended to cover “additional supplies and clinical staff time to perform safety protocols” in response to the pandemic, according to the American Medical Association (AMA).

The code went into effect Sept. 8 and will remain through the duration of the public health emergency (PHE).

While there is no current reimbursement value set, the code will help “collect data on costs for sustaining safe conditions” in outpatient office settings. Documentation should include explanation for why added supplies or clinical staff time was needed, according to the AMA.

As reported by Medscape, the code differs from CPT® code 99070, which has been used for reporting supplies and materials specifically used by or for patients in office visits.

Practices may face difficulty initially getting the code to go through clearinghouses, as some payers may not have the code loaded in their platforms, which may result in the code being rejected for an initial period. This new code is just one of many changes that outpatient practices will need to account for now and leading up to Jan. 1, 2021, when new guidelines and code descriptor changes for E/M services will be enacted, particularly for office or other outpatient E/M codes (99202-99215).

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