The CMS defines Primary Care Exception as ‘An exception within an approved GME Program that applies to limited situations where the resident is the primary caregiver and the faculty physician sees the patient only in a consultative role (that is, those residency programs with requirements that are incompatible with a physical presence requirement). In such programs, it’s beneficial for the resident to see patients without supervision to learn medical decision making.’
In the primary care setting, it’s possible to report low to mid-range E/M services performed by a resident without direct teaching physician supervision. However, this doesn’t mean that the teaching physician is uninvolved. Since the service is reported under the teaching physician’s name, he still has to ensure the services rendered are appropriate and medically necessary. However, when done correctly, this exception to the teaching rule could translate to more patients treated than in a typical residency program and also a better learning experience for those residents. There isn’t an application process or preapproval in order to start operating under the primary care exception. However, a primary care center must attest in writing that all of the following conditions are met.
· The services were furnished in a primary care center located in the outpatient department of a hospital or another ambulatory care entity in which the time spent by residents in patient care activities is included in determining direct Graduate Medical Education (DGME) payments to a teaching hospital. Typically, the residency programs that are likely to qualify for this exception are a family practice, general internal medicine, geriatric medicine, pediatrics and obstetrics/gynecology. Certain GME programs in psychiatry may qualify in cases where the program furnishes comprehensive care to the chronically mentally ill psychiatric patient (e.g., antibiotics are prescribed along with psychotropic medication management).
· The primary care center is considered the patient’s primary location for healthcare services.
· Residents providing billable patient care without direct supervision must have completed at least 6 months of an approved residency program.
· The teaching physician (under whom the billing is reported) cannot supervise more than 4 residents at a time and must direct the care from such proximity as to constitute immediate availability.
· Have no other responsibilities, including the supervision of other personnel, at the time services are furnished by residents.
· Have primary medical responsibility for patients cared for by residents? Ensure that the care furnished is reasonable and necessary.
· Review the care furnished by residents during, or immediately after, each visit. This must include a review of the patient’s medical history and diagnosis, the resident’s findings on physical examination, and the treatment plan (for example, record of tests and therapies).
· Document the extent of your participation in the review and direction of the services furnished to each patient.
As a result, the highest level of service a resident can bill for outpatient E/M services is a 3 (99201-99203 and 99211-99213). Additionally, in recent years, CMS added the Initial Preventive Physical Examination, or IPPE (G0402), and both initial (G0438) and subsequent Annual Wellness Visits, or AWV (G0439), services to the list of allowed codes under PCE. Documentation for the IPPE and AWV services are very different from a “sick” visit billed with new or established patient visit codes, so be sure your providers know the requirements of both.
· This is a Medicare concept, though some payers will follow Medicare’s lead. It’s important to exercise prudence by discovering which of your payers will allow this exception.
· Residents with less than 6 months in an approved GME program are not eligible. Teaching physicians would have to be physically present for the key or critical portions of the services (see the CMS Claims Processing Manual, Chapter 12, Section 100 for detailed teaching physician guidelines).
The teaching physician must document the extent of his or her participation in the review and direction of the services furnished to each patient. Documentation to support the services of the teaching physician may be dictated and typed, hand-written, or computer-generated.
Modifier GE This service has been performed by a resident without the presence of a teaching physician under the primary care exception must be appended to services billed under the primary care exception. By contrast, when a resident is involved with care but that care does not meet the primary care exception, the teaching physician appends modifier GC This service has been performed in part by a resident under the direction of a teaching physician to the procedure codes.
Primary Exception Rule is an exception within an approved GME Program that applies to some situations where a resident can act as the primary caregiver. While there isn’t an application process, the primary care center must attest in writing that all of a number of conditions are met. Residents will usually perform services in the medical decision making low-risk categories like a stable chronic illness. It’s crucial to remember that the service is reported under the teaching physician’s name, so he/she still has to ensure that the services rendered were appropriate and medically necessary. The benefit to this exception is that the rule could translate to more patients treated than in a typical residency program and it’s also a better learning experience for those residents regarding medical decision making.