What is the CO 97 Denial Code? 


The CO 97 Denial Code plays a crucial role in medical billing, signaling that a service or procedure isn’t eligible for separate payment. Essentially, the benefit for a given service or procedure is already included in the payment for another previously adjudicated procedure or service. 

In practical terms, if two procedures are performed on a patient on the same day and one procedure inherently encompasses the other, only the primary procedure is billed. The subsidiary one does not warrant a separate charge. Understanding the CO 97 Denial Code ensures accurate billing, reducing complexities and saving resources. For healthcare leaders, whether overseeing multiple clinics or a focused specialist team, gaining clarity on Co 97 is fundamental for efficient billing practices. 

Common reasons for receiving the CO 97

Navigating the complexities of medical billing requires an understanding of when and why certain codes are triggered. The CO 97 Denial Code, which denotes that a service or procedure isn't eligible for separate payment, is triggered for various reasons: 

  • Bundled Procedures: Often, certain procedures are bundled into others due to their inherent nature. For example, a blood specimen collection might be included in the patient's main encounter, deeming it unnecessary to bill separately. 
  • E&M Services During Global Periods: E&M services performed within the post-operative period related to a surgery aren't separately billable. This global period varies depending on the intensity of the surgery – 10 days for minor and 90 days for major procedures. 
  • Included Services: Some services, like the special transfer or handling of a specimen to a lab, are considered part of existing fee schedules. They are inherently included in the primary service fee, preventing them from being billed again. 
  • 24-hour Operating Practices: If your practice operates round the clock, billing for extended hours or after-hour codes often isn’t separately payable. 
  • Inclusivity with Another Procedure Code: If a procedure code is found to be inclusive with another code performed by the same provider on the same day, it triggers the CO 97 Denial Code. 

Understanding these common reasons provides a foundation for healthcare organizations, especially small to medium clinics and doctor groups, to refine their billing practices, thereby reducing claim denials and optimizing revenue flow.


Common Reasons for CO 97 Denial 

To enhance the efficiency of the medical billing process and reduce instances of the Co 97 Denial Code, healthcare professionals should consider the following proactive strategies: 

  • Thorough Code Review: Before submission, meticulously review the procedure codes to identify any that may be mutually exclusive or bundled. Awareness of potentially inclusive codes can help in preventing Co 97 denials. 
  • Employ Coding Specialists: Ensure you have a proficient coding team that stays updated with the latest guidelines and can efficiently use modifiers where applicable. Their expertise can guide the billing process away from common pitfalls. 
  • Regular Billing Audits: Implement routine billing audits to identify and rectify potential errors, ensuring claims are up to industry standards. This helps in catching any discrepancies that might lead to a Co 97 denial. 
  • Continuous Training: Ensure that your billing and coding teams receive ongoing training. Regular workshops or training sessions about changes in billing regulations, coding updates, or insurance guidelines can drastically reduce errors. 
  • Invest in Robust Billing Software: Modern billing software can preemptively catch errors by running denial checks before claim submissions. Opt for platforms that offer real-time feedback on claim errors, allowing for immediate corrections. 
  • Clear Communication with Insurance Companies: Build good relationships with insurance companies. Regular dialogues can ensure you're updated on any changes to billing criteria and can help in understanding their specific prerequisites. 
  • Detailed Patient Intake Process: Ensure that your patient intake process captures detailed and accurate information. Having a structured system in place, with periodic updates to patient information, will make the billing process more streamlined. 
  • Stay Updated on Global Periods: Given the significance of E&M services post-surgery, always stay updated on the length of global periods to avoid billing services that fall within them. 

By integrating these strategies, healthcare professionals, especially those within small to medium clinics and doctor groups, can minimize the risk of encountering the CO 97 Denial Code, thus ensuring smooth revenue cycles. 

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