Go back some years to previous editions of CPT and you'll find that the original description of 99291 was for the "first hour" ... then they started in with the at "last 15 minutes" criteria and began to really muddy the waters. Every time they try to clarify they just cause more confusion.
In fact, CPT is full of inconsistencies and conflicting information because it has never been written (or edited) by an English major! (Check out all the references to age for the new pediatric critical care codes and you'll see what I mean.)
If you look at the guidelines and explanation for prolonged service codes, which have a similar time-frame requirement, you'll see an explanation (page 26 of 2009 CPT Professional Edition) that includes a phrase "30 minutes beyond the first hour" ... and you'll see a table that is virtually identical to the one for critical care (but with the prolonged service codes).
If AAPC is changing the exam that is a poor reflection on AAPC.
F Tessa Bartels, CPC, CEMC
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