Clinical Review

The pelvic exam revisited

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The pelvic examination and insurance coverage

Melanie Witt, RN, MA

Coding and billing for the care provided at a well-woman visit can be uncomplicated if you know the right codes for the right program. The information presented here concerns straightforward preventive care and assumes that the patient also has not presented with a significant problem at the same visit.

First, a patient who is not Medicare-eligible might have insurance coverage for an annual preventive care examination every year. Normally, this service would be billed using the Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) preventive medicine codes, but some insurers require the use of special codes for an annual gynecologic exam. These special codes are:

  • S0610, Annual gynecological examination, new patient
  • S0612, Annual gynecological examination, established patient
  • S0613, Annual gynecological examination; clinical breast examination without pelvic evaluation.

Notably, Aetna, Cigna, and UnitedHealthcare require these codes to signify that a pelvic examination has been performed (except for code S0613), but many Blue Cross Blue Shield programs, for whom these codes were originally created, are now reverting to the CPT preventive medicine codes for all preventive care.

CPT outlines the requirements for use of the preventive medicine codes as: an initial or periodic comprehensive preventive medicine evaluation or reevaluation and management (E/M) service, which includes an age- and gender-appropriate history, examination, counseling/anticipatory guidance/risk factor reduction interventions, and the ordering of laboratory/diagnostic procedures. The codes are divided into new or established patient categories by age range as follows:

The Medicare E/M documentation guidelines do not apply to preventive services, and a head-to-toe examination also is not required. CPT recognizes the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) as an authoritative body to make recommendations for the expected preventive service for women, and if such a service is provided and documented, the preventive care codes are to be reported. The payers who use the S codes for a gynecologic exam will require that a pelvic examination has been performed, but such an examination would not be required when using the CPT codes or ACOG's guidelines if the physician and patient agreed that such an exam was not warranted every year. The other components of a preventive service applicable to the female patient's age, however, should be documented in order to report the CPT codes for preventive medicine services.

If a pelvic examination is not performed, say because the patient is young and not sexually active, but an examination of other areas is carried out, the diagnosis code would change from Z01.411, Encounter for gynecological examination (general) (routine) with abnormal findings, or Z01.419, Encounter for gynecological examination (general) (routine) without abnormal findings, to a general health exam: Z00.00, Encounter for general adult medical examination without abnormal findings, or Z00.01, Encounter for general adult medical examination with abnormal findings.

What about Medicare?

Medicare requirements are somewhat different. First, Medicare covers only a small portion of the preventive care service; that is, it covers a physical examination of the genital organs and breasts and the collection and conveyance of a Pap specimen to the laboratory every 2 years for a low-risk patient. Second, the codes required to get reimbursed for the examination are:

  • G0101, Cervical or vaginal cancer screening; pelvic and clinical breast examination
  • Q0091, Screening Papanicolaou smear; obtaining, preparing, and conveyance of cervical or vaginal smear to laboratory.

It is not necessary to perform both of these services every 2 years (for instance, the patient may not need a Pap smear every 2 years based on her age and history), but the benefit is available if the service is performed. If the woman is at high risk for developing cervical or vaginal cancer, Medicare will cover this portion of the encounter every year so long as the Medicare-defined criteria for high risk have been documented at the time of the exam.

Related article:
GYN coding changes to note for your maximized reimbursement


Ms. Witt is an independent coding and documentation consultant and former program manager, department of coding and nomenclature, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

The author reports no financial relationships relevant to this article.

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