October 27, 2016
What is the reimbursement for an assistant surgeon using modifier 80? Is the payment different for the primary and the assistant?
Assistant surgeon is described as one surgeon, of the same or a different specialty, providing assistance during a surgical procedure or CPT code. Modifier 80 (modifier 82 for an assistant surgeon in an academic setting when a qualified resident is not available) is appended to any CPT code the assistant participates in. Medicare reimburses 16% of the allowable for the assistant surgeon (modifier 80 or 82), to the codes where an assistant payment is allowed, and multiple procedure/bilateral procedure reductions also apply. The primary surgeon’s fee is not affected. In an assistant surgeon scenario, the assistant need not and should not dictate a separate note. However, it is critical that the primary surgeon document in his/her note, specifically what the assistant did. Stating an assistant was needed because the case was complex is not sufficient. The primary surgeon must state what the assistant did, for example, assisting with the resection, anastomosis, etc. For private payers, coding guidelines and payment may vary.
*This response is based on the best information available as of 10/27/16.