End confusion about modifier -57 (and get paid for initial evaluations)

Recently I completed an audit for a general surgery practice. Included in the audit were two services for an initial hospital visit on the day of an emergency surgery. Both of these were reported with modifier -25 on the evaluation and management (E/M) service and both were denied by the payer. The practice did not appeal the denials.

Experienced coders are shaking their heads as they read this. They know that the (E/M) service should have been reported with modifier-57 not modifier -25. Why? Modifier-25 is used on an E/M services on the same day as a minor surgical procedure to indicate that the E/M service was separate and distinct from the minor procedure. A minor procedure is defined by Medicare––and this is accepted by all commercial payers—as a procedure with 0 or 10 global days. The global days are found in the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule and available in many coding programs. A major procedure is a procedure with 90 global days. An initial evaluation prior to a major surgical procedure is always payable. When this initial evaluation results in the decision for surgery on that calendar day on the next calendar day, append modifier -57 to the E/M service.

Key points to remember:

  • Use modifier -25 on an E/M service provided on the same day as a minor procedure. Remember, the NCCI edits require that the E/M is separate and distinct, that the physician or NPP needed to evaluate a condition prior to the decision to perform the procedure. Payment for the decision to perform the procedure is included in the payment for the procedure. For example, if an evaluation for bleeding and anemia results in the decision for an endoscopy. Report both the E/M and the endoscopy.
  • Append modifier -57 to any E/M service on the day of or the day before a major surgical procedure when the E/M service results in the decision to go to surgery.
  • Appeal denials up to the Medical Director of the plan. A surgeon should always be paid for the E/M prior to an urgent/emergency surgery.
  • Do not append modifier -57 on the E/M for the decision for surgery if the surgery is scheduled later than the day after the E/M service.




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