This document defines skilled nursing and skilled rehabilitation services and addresses the medical necessity of these services when provided in the outpatient setting.
Skilled nursing and skilled rehabilitation services are those services, furnished pursuant to physician orders, that:
- Require the skills of qualified technical or professional health personnel such as registered nurses, licensed practical (vocational) nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech pathologists or audiologists; and
- Must be provided directly by or under the general supervision of these skilled nursing or skilled rehabilitation personnel to assure the safety of the individual and to achieve the medically desired result; and
- Are not custodial in nature (see definition of custodial care under "Discussion/General Information" section below).
Note: Please see the following related documents for additional information:
Outpatient Skilled Nursing and Skilled Rehabilitation Services
Outpatient skilled nursing services are considered medically necessary in the following circumstances:
- When the inherent complexity of a service required by an individual is such that it can be performed safely and effectively only by or under the general supervision of skilled nursing personnel; AND
- When the likelihood of change in an individual's condition requires skilled nursing personnel to observe and assess the individual in order to identify and evaluate the need for possible modification of treatment or initiation of additional medical procedures, until the treatment regimen is essentially stabilized; AND
- When they are not custodial in nature (see definition of custodial care under "Discussion/General Information" section below).
Outpatient skilled rehabilitation services are considered medically necessary when all of the following conditions are met:
- Individual has a new (acute) medical condition or acute exacerbation of a chronic medical condition that has resulted in a decrease in functional ability such that they cannot adequately recover without therapy; AND
- Individual's overall medical condition and medical needs can be addressed in the outpatient setting; AND
- Therapy must be reasonable and necessary for the individual's condition, including the amount, duration and frequency of services and must be directly and specifically related to an active written treatment plan developed by physician and therapist: AND
- Individual's mental and physical condition prior to the onset of the medical condition indicates there is a potential for improvement or the services must be necessary for the establishment of a safe and effective maintenance program: AND
- Individual must be medically stable enough to participate in the treatment plan; AND
- Individual is expected to show measurable functional improvement in a reasonable and generally predictable period of time; AND
- Individual requires the judgment, knowledge and skills of a qualified therapist; AND
- Therapy includes a discharge plan.
Examples of Skilled Services include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Intravenous, intramuscular, subcutaneous injections, hypodermoclysis and intravenous feedings (Note: Although giving an insulin injection is considered to be a skilled service, it is customary to teach individuals to self-administer such an injection. However, if self-injection cannot be learned, insulin injection is a skilled service);
- Initiation of nasogastric, gastrostomy and jejunostomy feedings and administration of continuous feeding when medically necessary per the clinical indications listed above (Note: It is recognized that, in some circumstances, lay family members and friends may be trained to safely and effectively provide chronic services such as stable bolus feeding by nasogastric, gastrostomy and jejunostomy feedings);
- Nasopharyngeal and tracheostomy aspiration (Note: It is recognized that, in some circumstances, lay family members and friends may be trained to safely and effectively provide chronic services such as uncomplicated pharyngeal suctioning or tracheal suctioning);
- Insertion, sterile irrigation and replacement of catheters: care of a suprapubic catheter and, in selected individuals, urethral catheter (Note: The presence of a urethral catheter, particularly one placed for convenience or the control of incontinence, does not justify a need for skilled nursing care. On the other hand, the insertion and maintenance of a urethral catheter as an adjunct to the active treatment of disease of the urinary tract may justify a need for skilled nursing care. In such instances, the need for a urethral catheter must be justified and documented in the individual's medical record [i.e., it must be established that it is reasonable and necessary for the treatment of the individual's condition]);
- Application of dressings involving prescription medications and aseptic techniques;
- Treatment of decubitus ulcers, severity rated at Grade 3 or worse or a widespread skin disorder;
- Heat treatments which have been specifically ordered by a physician as part of active treatment and which require observation by skilled nursing personnel to adequately evaluate the individual's progress;
- Rehabilitation nursing procedures, including the related teaching and adaptive aspects of nursing, that are part of active treatment and require the presence of skilled nursing personnel, e.g., the institution and supervision of bowel and bladder training programs;
- Ultrasound, shortwave and microwave diathermy treatments;
- Initial phases of a regimen involving administration of medical gases or use of nebulizers (e.g., bronchodilator therapy); and
- Care of a colostomy during the early postoperative period in the presence of associated complications. The need for skilled care during this period must be justified and documented in the individual's medical record.
- While an individual's particular medical condition is a valid factor in deciding if skilled services are needed, an individual's diagnosis or prognosis should never be the sole factor in deciding that a service is not skilled.
- Even where an individual's full or partial recovery is not possible, a skilled service still could be needed to prevent deterioration or to maintain current capabilities, e.g., an individual with cancer whose prognosis is terminal may require skilled services at various stages of his/her illness and nursing assessment and intervention to alleviate pain or prevent deterioration.
- A service that does not ordinarily require skilled care could be considered a skilled service in cases in which, because of special medical complications, skilled nursing or skilled rehabilitation personnel are required to perform or supervise it or to observe the individual. In these cases, the complications and special services involved must be documented by physicians' orders and nursing or therapy notes.
Not Medically Necessary:
Outpatient skilled nursing services are considered not medically necessary when the criteria above are not met.
Outpatient skilled rehabilitation services are considered not medically necessary when the criteria above are not met.
Coding edits for medical necessity review are not implemented for this guideline. Where a more specific policy or guideline exists, that document will take precedence and may include specific coding edits and/or instructions. Inclusion or exclusion of a procedure, diagnosis or device code(s) does not constitute or imply member coverage or provider reimbursement policy. Please refer to the member's contract benefits in effect at the time of service to determine coverage or non-coverage of these services as it applies to an individual member.
Skilled nursing and skilled rehabilitation services, furnished pursuant to physician orders, require the skills of qualified technical or professional health personnel such as registered nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech pathologists or audiologists. These services must be provided directly by or under the general supervision of these skilled nursing or skilled rehabilitation personnel to assure the safety of the individual and to achieve the medically desired result.
Definition of Custodial Care:
- Custodial care is that care which is primarily for the purpose of assisting the individual in the activities of daily living or in meeting personal rather than medical needs, which is not specific therapy for an illness or injury and is not skilled care.
- Custodial care serves to assist an individual in the activities of daily living, such as assistance in walking, getting in and out of bed, bathing, dressing, feeding, using the toilet, preparation of special diets, and supervision of medication that usually can be self-administered.
- Custodial care essentially is personal care that does not require the continuing attention or supervision of trained, licensed medical or paramedical personnel.
- Custodial care is maintenance care provided by family members, health aides or other unlicensed individuals after an acute medical event when an individual has reached the maximum level of physical or mental function.
- In determining whether an individual is receiving custodial care, the factors considered are the level of care and medical supervision required and furnished. The decision is not based on diagnosis, type of condition, degree of functional limitation or rehabilitation potential.
Peer Reviewed Publications:
- Cruise CM, Sasson N, Lee MH. Rehabilitation outcomes in the older adult. Clin Geriatr Med. 2006: 22(2):257-267.
- Ensberg M, Gerstenlauer C. Incremental geriatric assessment. Prim Care. 2005; 32(3):619-643.
Government Agency, Medical Society, and Other Authoritative Publications:
- Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Medicare Benefit Policy Manual. Chapter 8. Coverage of Extended Care (SNF) Services Under Hospital Insurance. Rev. 161, 10-26-12. Available at: http://www.cms.hhs.gov/manuals/Downloads/bp102c08.pdf. Accessed on December 27, 2013.
- Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Medicare Benefit Policy Manual. Chapter 16. General Exclusions from Coverage. Rev.122, 04-09-10. Available at: http://www.cms.hhs.gov/manuals/Downloads/bp102c16.pdf. Accessed on December 27, 2013.
- Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Benefit Policy Manual. Chapter 7: Home Health Services. Rev. 172, 10-18-13. Available at: http://www.cms.hhs.gov/manuals/Downloads/bp102c07.pdf. Accessed on December 27, 2013.
|Reviewed||02/13/2014||Medical Policy & Technology Assessment Committee (MPTAC) review. Reference section updated.|
|Reviewed||02/14/2013||MPTAC review. Reference section updated.|
|Reviewed||02/16/2012||MPTAC review. References updated.|
|Reviewed||02/17/2011||MPTAC review. Title of Clinical Indication section, Description, Discussion (including definition of custodial care), and Reference links updated. Clarifications made to examples of skilled services.|
|Reviewed||02/25/2010||MPTAC review. Reference links updated.|
|Reviewed||02/26/2009||MPTAC review. References and discussion updated. Case management section removed.|
|Revised||02/21/2008||MPTAC review. Added not medically necessary statements for outpatient skilled nursing services and outpatient skilled rehabilitation services. Minor clarification made to example of skilled services. Description, discussion and references updated. Coding updated to remove specific codes from this definition document.|
|Reviewed||03/08/2007||MPTAC review. References and coding updated.|
|Revised||03/23/2006||MPTAC review. Revision based on Pre-merger Anthem and Pre-merger WellPoint Harmonization. |
Last Review Date
| ||No Policy|
|MA-020||Skilled Nursing Facility Setting, Skilled and Custodial Services Defined|
|WellPoint Health Networks, Inc.|
|Clinical Guideline||Skilled Nursing and Skilled Rehabilitation Services|