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Medicare Insights: What is the 8-minute Rule?

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Wondering about how Medicare reimburses healthcare providers and patients for their therapy sessions? The answer involves the somewhat enigmatic ‘8-minute rule –– also known as the Medicare 8 minute rule or the med b 8 minute rule. 

It applies to billing for outpatient therapy services under Medicare Part B.

For providers, the 8 min rule determines how many billable units you can charge Medicare for timed therapy codes based on the total treatment time. For Medicare beneficiaries, it affects the cost of your copays and deductibles for your therapy visits.

This guide unpacks the Medicare 8 min rule for both service providers curious about billing and Medicare beneficiaries seeking clarity about their coverage. 

8-Minute Rule Basics

The 8-minute rule dictates how Medicare reimburses providers for time-based, or ‘constant attendance’ therapy services. These services involve direct, hands-on care from a qualified therapist. 

The 8-minute rule states that a provider can bill one unit of a timed Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) code to Medicare Part B in scenarios where they provide therapy services for at least 8 minutes and up to 22 minutes. 

Two units are billed when services last from 23 minutes up to 37 minutes, three units for 38 to 52 minutes, and so on in 15-minute increments.

This 8 minute rule therapy applies to many common timed therapy codes used for disciplines like physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology––if provided in outpatient settings for Medicare Part B beneficiaries. 

It also allows for combined billing for time spent on different services within one session. For example, 4 minutes of manual therapy and 4 minutes of therapeutic exercises in the same session will cumulatively count as 8 minutes of a single session.

This does not, however, allow you to combine time spent on different services in different sessions.

A quick breakdown of the key points:

  • Minimum Time for Billing: A therapist must provide at least eight minutes of one-on-one therapy to bill Medicare for a single unit of service under a time-based CPT code.
  • Billing in 15-Minute Increments: Medicare billing for time-based therapy occurs in 15-minute increments.
  • Rounding Up: The total direct therapy time for a session is rounded up to the nearest 15-minute interval based on 8-minute increments.

For example, if a therapist spends 22 minutes with a patient on manual therapy, this rounds down to one billable unit (15 minutes). If the session lasts only 7 minutes, it isn’t billed as it doesn’t reach the 8-minute minimum.

Understanding the 8-minute rule helps service providers ensure accurate billing for therapy services. For patients, it clarifies how Medicare structures therapy sessions.

Why Does the 8 Minute Rule Matter?

Proper understanding and application of the 8-minute rule is crucial for several reasons:

For Providers:

  • Compliance: Following the 8-minute rule helps avoid overpayments or underpayments that could prompt audits and penalties.
  • Reimbursement: Correct coding based on timed increments ensures providers receive appropriate payment for the services rendered.

For Medicare Beneficiaries:

  • Out-of-Pocket Costs: The 8-minute rule affects your units’ billing in your copays and out-of-pocket costs for therapy visits.
  • Therapy Caps: Accurate 8-minute rule billing is vital for tracking your applied therapy expenses toward annual Medicare therapy caps.
  • Coverage Transparency: Understanding this billing method helps verify you’re paying the appropriate amount for the duration of therapy services received.

Use CoverRight to Find the Right Medicare Provider! 

Finding the right policies, counting up all the minutes, and making sure you get the treatment you deserve at the best possible cost can be quite the challenge.

CoverRight is your personal concierge for Medicare! We simplify all the complex processes involved by providing expert guidance, resources, and personalized support. We want you to make informed decisions about your healthcare needs. 

Visit us today to find the Medicare plan that’s just right for you

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1. Does the frequency of my visits or the type of service affect 8-minute rule billing?

No, the 8-minute rule billing method applies the same way regardless of whether you have therapy once per week or daily, and whether you’re receiving physical therapy, occupational therapy, or speech therapy. 

Q2. Does this rule differ between Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage, and Medicare Supplement plans?

The 8-minute rule billing requirements are set by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for traditional Medicare Part B coverage, which covers outpatient medical services. 

Private insurers who offer Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans may have different billing rules for therapy services. Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plans don’t directly affect the cost of therapy services under Medicare Part B but might help cover some out-of-pocket costs associated with the 8-minute rule, depending on your specific plan.

It’s important to check with your specific Medicare plan provider for details. 

Q3. How is 8-minute rule billing different from SPM billing?

The 8-minute rule is specific to Original Medicare Part B for time-based therapy services. Conversely, various payers including some private insurance companies use SPM for billing therapy services.

In SPM, providers bill a single unit of the appropriate CPT code for the whole service, regardless of time––as long as the service meets a ‘substantial portion’ of a specific block of treatment time. 

SPM doesn’t have a predefined billing increment.

Q4. What documentation do you require to ensure accurate billing under the 8-minute rule?

Therapists must maintain detailed documentation of each therapy session, including the start and end times, the specific services provided, and the total duration of direct, hands-on therapy. This documentation is crucial for accurate billing under the 8-minute rule and ensuring Medicare reimbursement.

Q5. Is the 8-minute rule used for therapy provided in all settings?

No, this timed code billing method covered by the 8-minute rule applies specifically to outpatient Medicare Part B therapy services. Separate rules govern timed code billing for therapy provided in facility settings like skilled nursing facilities.

Q6. Can I appeal a billing decision related to the 8-minute rule?

If you, as a patient, believe a billing error has occurred under the 8-minute rule, you have the right to appeal the decision. You can contact your Medicare provider or plan administrator to initiate the appeals process.

Connor Wilson

Connor is a Content Writer at CoverRight focused on editing and publishing Medicare and health insurance-related information. He also serves the team as a Business Operations Lead, working to expand the business and enhance its strategy. Prior to joining CoverRight, Connor was able to hone his knowledge of the financial services industry through his work in investment banking. Additionally, he is a self-published author of a mystery novel.

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