New coding requirements related to Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) modifier -59 could impact your reimbursement.


Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

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                    “Medicare Learning Network® (MLN) Suite of Products & Resources for Compliance Officers”, Educational Tool, ICN 908525, Downloadable only
  MLN Matters® Number: MM8863 Related Change Request (CR) #: CR 8863
  Related CR Release Date: August 15, 2014 Effective Date: January 1, 2015
  Related CR Transmittal #: R1422OTN Implementation Date: January 5, 2015

MLN Matters® Number: MM8863 Related Change Request Number: 8863


Specific Modifiers for Distinct Procedural Services

Provider Types Affected

This MLN Matters® Article is intended for physicians, providers, and suppliers submitting claims to Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) and Durable Medical Equipment (DME) MACs for services provided to Medicare beneficiaries.


Provider Action Needed

STOP – Impact to You

New coding requirements related to Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) modifier -59 could impact your reimbursement.

CAUTION – What You Need to Know

Change Request (CR) 8863notifies MACs and providers that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is establishing four new HCPCS modifiers to define subsets of the -59 modifier, a modifier used to define a “Distinct Procedural Service.”

GO – What You Need to Do

Make sure your billing staffs are aware of the coding modifier changes.


The Medicare National Correct Coding Initiative (NCCI) has Procedure to Procedure (PTP) edits to prevent unbundling of services, and the consequent overpayment to physicians and outpatient facilities. The underlying principle is that the second code defines a subset of the work of the first code. Reporting the codes separately is inappropriate. Separate reporting would trigger a separate payment and would constitute double billing.

CR8863discusses changes to HCPCS modifier -59, a modifier which is used to define a “Distinct Procedural Service.” Modifier -59 indicates that a code represents a service that is separate and distinct from another service with which it would usually be considered to be bundled.

The -59 modifier is the most widely used HCPCS modifier. Modifier -59 can be broadly applied. Some providers incorrectly consider it to be the “modifier to use to bypass (NCCI).” This modifier is associated with considerable abuse and high levels of manual audit activity; leading to reviews, appeals and even civil fraud and abuse cases.

The primary issue associated with the -59 modifier is that it is defined for use in a wide variety of circumstances, such as to identify

  • Different encounters;
  • Different anatomic sites; and
  • Distinct services.

 The -59 modifier is

  • Infrequently (and usually correctly) used to identify a separate encounter;
  • Less commonly (and less correctly) used to define a separate anatomic site; and
  • More commonly (and frequently incorrectly) used to define a distinct service.

 The -59 modifier often overrides the edit in the exact circumstance for which CMS created it in the first place. CMS believes that more precise coding options coupled with increased education and selective editing is needed to reduce the errors associated with this overpayment.

CR8863 provides that CMS is establishing the following four new HCPCS modifiers (referred to collectively as -X{EPSU} modifiers) to define specific subsets of the -59 modifier:

       XE Separate Encounter, A Service That Is Distinct Because It Occurred During A Separate Encounter,

 XS Separate Structure, A Service That Is Distinct Because It Was Performed On A Separate Organ/Structure,

XP Separate Practitioner, A Service That Is Distinct Because It Was Performed By A Different Practitioner, and

XU Unusual Non-Overlapping Service, The Use Of A Service That Is Distinct Because It Does Not Overlap Usual Components Of The Main Service.

CMS will continue to recognize the -59 modifier, but notes that Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) instructions state that the -59 modifier should not be used when a more descriptive modifier is available. While CMS will continue to recognize the -59 modifier in many instances, it may selectively require a more specific – X{EPSU} modifier for billing certain codes at high risk for incorrect billing. For example, a particular NCCI PTP code pair may be identified as payable only with the -XE separate encounter modifier but not the -59 or other -X{EPSU} modifiers. The -X{EPSU} modifiers are more selective versions of the -59 modifier so it would be incorrect to include both modifiers on the same line.

The combination of alternative specific modifiers with a general less specific modifier creates additional discrimination in both reporting and editing. As a default, at this time CMS will initially accept either a -59 modifier or a more selective – X{EPSU} modifier as correct coding, although the rapid migration of providers to the more selective modifiers is encouraged.

However, please note that these modifiers are valid even before national edits are in place. MACs are not prohibited from requiring the use of selective modifiers in lieu of the general -59 modifier, when necessitated by local program integrity and compliance needs.

Additional Information –

The official instruction, CR 8863 issued to your MAC regarding this change is available at the CMS website.

 If you have any questions, please contact your MAC at their toll-free number. That number is available at – How Does It Work.

Disclaimer This article was prepared as a service to the public and is not intended to grant rights or impose obligations. This article may contain references or links to statutes, regulations, or other policy materials. The information provided is only intended to be a general summary. It is not intended to take the place of either the written law or regulations. We encourage readers to review the specific statutes, regulations and other interpretive materials for a full and accurate statement of their contents. CPT only copyright 2013 American Medical Associati