New Drug Abuse Codes Adopted


The American Medical Association says that new CPT codes it developed should make it easier for health plans to determine whether doctors have screened for drug abuse and provided brief intervention when patients visit doctors’ offices, emergency rooms, health fairs, or community clinics. The AMA hopes that this in turn will mean that insurers will pay physicians promptly for providing such services.

The new codes, 99408 and 99409, will streamline reporting and the payment procedure for doctors who perform alcohol or substance (other than tobacco) abuse screening and intervention, the AMA hopes.

The process will increase the likelihood that those with substance abuse disorders will receive an appropriate intervention.

The AMA developed the codes at the urging of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Bertha K. Madras, MD, deputy director of National Drug Control Policy, says, “These new codes will enable physicians to reach those in harm’s way — during a doctor’s visit — and provide them with appropriate medical services. Widespread screening and brief interventions can effectively reduce substance use disorders.”

Sample questions from the screening tool include:

  • Can you get through the week without using drugs?
  • Are you always able to stop using drugs when you want to?
  • Do you ever feel bad or guilty about your drug use?
  • Have you neglected your family because of your use of drugs?
  • Have you been in trouble at work because of your use of drugs?
  • Have you engaged in illegal activities in order to obtain drugs?

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