After decades of monitoring the annual Medicare therapy caps and temporary exceptions fiascos, I got an early morning call from a Washington DC friend contact that Congress had finally “repealed” the cap on therapy services.

It was well into the early morning hours when the Senate finally voted 71-28 to pass a budget bill known as the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 .

I knew word would spread fast and my phone would soon start ringing so I quickly reviewed the bill’s language and found we still had a cap at $2010 but it had been changed back to a “soft” cap and the exception process missing from the previous legislation in January, had now been provided.

Section 50202 – Repeal of Medicare Payment Cap for Therapy Services; Limitation to Ensure Appropriate Therapy – The new law requires for services after December 31, 2017:
* Medicare claims are no longer subject to the therapy caps (one for occupational therapy services and another for physical therapy and speech-language pathology combined);
* Claims for therapy services above $2010, the same amount as the previous therapy caps, must include the KX modifier indicating that such services are medically necessary as justified by appropriate medical record documentation; and
* Claims for therapy services above $3,000 of incurred expenses may be subject to targeted medical review.

So, the threat of a hard cap is gone and Medicare beneficiaries can still obtain necessary therapy services beyond the $2,010 limit as long as you affix the KX modifier to the claim.

Discipline Modifiers:
CMS also implemented a requirement for billing therapy services by ANY PROVIDER. (MM101076) effective 1/1/2018 set an additional billing requirement for any “always therapy” service provided by any provider specialty type. The instruction informed all providers that each code designated as “always therapy” must always be submitted with one of the therapy discipline modifiers GN, GO or GP in addition to any other relevant payment modifier like the KX modifier.

Based on this policy change, even a chiropractor providing an always therapy service must append the appropriate therapy modifier (normally GP) for the service being billed IN ADDITION TO modifier GY to indicate the service is non-covered by Medicare for their provider type.

Many Chiropractic offices are having claims “rejected” by CMS rather than being “denied and forwarded” to the secondary insurance just because they did not append the default GP discipline modifier to the therapy line items.

A rejected claim does NOT PROCESS through the system at all and therefore does not generate a valid denial for purposes of collection from the patient or their secondary coverage carrier. Offices that are not following the new reporting requirements have found themselves in a revolving door of re-submissions.

If, on any claim from any provider, one of the therapy modifiers, GN, GO or GP, is not appended then the claim will reject and not process through the Medicare processing system for denial.

You will need to refile the claim with the appropriate modifiers for it to process for denial.

The last battle: To offset future costs associated with eliminating the hard cap, Congress also enacted a payment differential for PTAs and COTAs like that used for Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners, which means therapist assistants will be reimbursed 85% of the amount PTs and OTs receive for the same services.

This reduction is set to go into effect on January 1, 2022 and will have more impact on “facilities and rehab agencies” than the Part “B” office setting where direct supervision of an enrolled PT or OT is required.

Baring any legislative actions to the contrary, we should be firmly set on the issues of caps and exceptions until the end of 2027.