New Rules Issued for Modifiers 59, XE, XS, XP, and XU

New Rules Issued for Modifiers 59, XE, XS, XP, and XU

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a policy change modification to the claims processing logic for Modifier 59 Distinct procedural service (and the optional XE, XS, XP, and XU) on February 15, 2019.
These modifiers are only processed when applied to the Column 2 code in a bundled pair, per Correct Coding Initiative (CCI) when the modifier indicator is 1. This means that if modifier 59 is put on the Column 1 code, the unbundling meant to take place by using modifier 59 (or XE, XS, XP, or XU) does not happen.
Click here for case studies on how to use the X[EPSU] modifiers correctly.

Modifiers Change Coming

Effective July 1, 2019, CMS carriers will process modifier 59 when it is used on either the column 1 procedure or the column 2 procedure. The CCI bundling edit will be bypassed when modifier 59, XE, XS, XP, or XU is used on column 1 and column 2 codes.

Why Does this Change Make a Difference?

There are modifier 59 edit bypasses that are being ignored currently when they are placed on the column 1 code. This requires a corrected claim to be resubmitted for reprocessing, which causes additional cost to both the provider and the carrier.
Why is modifier 59 being put on column 1 codes in an effort to get an edit bypassed? This usually happens when the column 1 code carries less relative value units (RVUs) than the column 2 code. As a result, the column 2 code appears before the column 1 code on the claim, since CPT® codes are placed in RVU order to minimize the effects of multiple procedure discounts taken by the payer. Placing modifier 59, XE, XS, XP, or XU on the first of the two codes that are bundled on the claims appears awkward and, as a result, the biller tends to put these modifiers on the bundled CPT® code appearing lower in the claim.
The policy change will allow this more billing-friendly approach to the application of modifier 59, XE, XS, XP, or XU.

Mark Your Calendar

Keep in mind that this change is not taking place until July 1, 2019. Also, the policy change does not affect your Medicare Managed Care payers, Medicaid, or your commercial payers. Survey all of these payers to find out if they have any limitations when applying modifier 59 where it comes to the Column 1 and Column 2 codes. While performing your survey, you might also want to ask your payers if they recognize modifiers XE, XS, XP, and XU. Recently some non-Medicare payers, such as Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, have indicated that they recognize these modifiers.
Source: CMS Transmittal 2259

Barbara Cobuzzi

About Has 99 Posts

Barbara J. Cobuzzi, MBA, CPC, CENTC, COC, CPC-P, CPC-I, CPCO, AAPC Fellow, is an independent consultant, CRN Healthcare Solution, Tinton Falls, N.J. She is consulting editor for Otolaryngology Coding Alert and has spoken, taught, and consulted widely on coding, reimbursement, compliance, and healthcare-related topics nationally. Barbara also provides litigation support as an expert witness for providers and payers. Cobuzzi is a member of the Monmouth, N.J., AAPC local chapter.

11 Responses to “New Rules Issued for Modifiers 59, XE, XS, XP, and XU”

  1. Jamie Claypool says:

    I always enjoy your articles and speaking engagements. Thanks for sharing this one.

  2. Tina M Landew says:

    Good Morning Barbara,
    I really appreciate your sharing this information.
    Thank you…

  3. Aidi Kemper, CPC says:

    Thanks for the info.

  4. Raquel Borja says:

    Barbara, Am I understanding this correctly? with the new change we append modifier 59 to the lesser RVU (column 1) code and X_ modifier to the bundled code (column 2 code)?

  5. HOLLY CASSANO says:

    Great Info Barbara! I have been waiting for an update on these for a long time from CMS –

  6. Cherie says:

    I have some doctors who are concerned that the modifier 590 is being applied to the lesser RVU code. Are there any other references out there that clarify this even more?

  7. Cherie says:

    I have some doctors who are concerned that the modifier 59 is being applied to the lesser RVU code. Are there any other references out there that clarify this even more?

  8. Deb Sterner says:

    Barb: Thanks so much for sharing this valuable information. As stated, the information you share through articles and speaking engagements is always thought-provoking and very informative.

  9. Barbara Cobuzzi says:

    The Transmittal that is referred to in this Blog can be downloaded to from
    It will verify in writing what is described in the Blog. I hope it helps you with your doctors.

  10. Martha says:

    Modifier 59 is no longer required on the column-two code (additional code), it can be added to either code? Meaning primary or secondary codes?
    “Medical will allow modifiers 59, XE, XS, XP, XU on column one and column two codes to bypass the edit”
    However, my concern is that if you put modifier 59 on the higher valued CPT code, carriers could pay that at the reduced rate in error.

  11. Arijit Mukherjee says:

    When an anesthesia service has been performed together by an MD and CRNA (for example anesthesia procedure for Total Shoulder Arthroplasty). Along with that a brachial plexus postoperative pain block is also performed. MD remains the same but the CRNA performing the block is a different CRNA. Do we need to add modifier XU or XP in this scenario if the insurance is Medicare?
    Please clarify.