CPT code expected soon to report and bill for coronavirus tests

The American Medical Association (AMA) is moving forward to approve a new Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) code for reporting novel coronavirus tests.

Approval of a new CPT code that will allow physicians to bill for coronavirus will be considered this week at a special meeting of the committee that makes revisions to the code, the AMA said today.

The AMA said it hoped to fast track establishment of a new code to empower surveillance and laboratory testing in response to the spread of the coronavirus, officially named COVID-19, which is rapidly spreading in the U.S. There are now over 761 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S. as of Tuesday morning, according to Johns Hopkins University's real-time dashboard.  

If approved, the new CPT code will support the response to the urgent public health need for streamlined reporting of novel coronavirus testing offered by hospitals, health systems, and laboratories in the U.S., said the AMA, which publishes the CPT codes that describe medical, surgical, and diagnostic services provided to patients and are used to bill outpatient and office procedures. 

RELATED: UPDATED Coronavirus tracker: UnitedHealthcare to waive cost-sharing for tests; Additional March conferences cancel

“Moving as quickly as possible to put in place a CPT code for a novel coronavirus test will bolster a data-driven response to the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States,” said AMA President Patrice A. Harris, M.D., in an announcement. “By streamlining the flow of information on novel coronavirus testing, a new CPT code facilitates the reporting, measuring, analyzing, researching and benchmarking that is necessary to help guide the nation’s response to the public health emergency.”

The CPT editorial panel, an independent body convened by the AMA with the sole authority to manage revisions to the CPT code set, will manage the expedited process and create a test description to accompany the code, as well as establishing an effective date of the new code. 

The AMA said it has worked closely throughout the past several weeks with leaders at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and experts in the healthcare community to ensure the new CPT code meets the emergent demands for accurate reporting of a diagnostic test to detect the novel coronavirus.

RELATED: CPT changes in 2020 include new codes to allow doctors to bill for digital health

The CDC's National Center for Health Statistics has already announced it will implement a new ICD-10 diagnosis code for the coronavirus effective with the next coding update on Oct. 1. A new ICD-10 emergency code—U07.1, 2019-nCoV acute respiratory disease—was established by the World Health Organization (WHO) in an emergency meeting in late January.

For physicians looking for information, the AMA has set up a resource center on the coronavirus, as well as a physicians guide. The AMA’s JAMA Network also has a comprehensive overview of the coronavirus—including epidemiology, infection control and prevention recommendations—on its learning website.