8 min read

Guide to the Medicare's 8-Minute Rule

The 8-Minute Rule is a concept that has been gaining traction in the US healthcare industry, but many people still have questions about its intricacies and how it impacts medical billing and coding. The 8-Minute Rule is more than just a number; it's a critical element in healthcare economics. It defines how healthcare professionals determine the time spent on specific patient services, particularly in outpatient therapy, such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology. This blog sheds light on the 8-Minute Rule.

8 Minute Rule
What is 8 Minute Rule

At its core, the 8-Minute Rule governs how rehabilitation therapists determine the number of units they can bill to Medicare, and often to other insurance providers following Medicare billing guidelines, for the outpatient therapy services they provide during a particular service date. This rule is particularly crucial for physical, occupational, and speech-language pathology, often involving timed interventions.

Here's the crux: To be eligible for reimbursement for a single unit of a time-based treatment code, a therapist must engage in direct, one-on-one therapy with a patient for at least eight minutes during a given session. It's a benchmark designed to ensure fair compensation for the therapist's time and expertise while preventing potential misuse or overbilling.

This means that therapists must meticulously document the time spent on each service and ensure that the cumulative time spent on time-based services falls within the 8 to 22-minute range to bill for one unit. This meticulousness is essential to ensure accurate billing, prevent errors, and maintain transparency in healthcare billing practices.

Some examples of time-based CPT codes that apply to the 8-Minute Rule include:

  • 97110 Therapeutic exercise
  • 97530 Therapeutic activities
  • 97140 Manual therapy
  • 97112 Neuromuscular re-education
  • 97116 Gait training
  • 97035 Ultrasound
  • 97033 Iontophoresis
  • 97032 Electrical stimulation (manual)

How to Calculate

Concerning time-based codes, each code typically corresponds to a 15-minute treatment interval. Let's dissect the calculation of billing units for these codes and unravel this process.

To invoice one unit of a timed CPT code, engaging in the related therapy modality for a minimum of 8 minutes is vital. Medicare calculates this by adding the total minutes of skilled, one-on-one therapy, often direct time, and dividing this sum by 15. If eight or more minutes remain after this division, you can bill for an additional unit. Nevertheless, if seven or fewer minutes are left, Medicare will not reimburse another complete unit, and you must disregard the remaining time.

When untimed codes enter the equation, things become more intricate. To ascertain your overall billing units, start by totaling your one-on-one time while excluding unattended time from the calculation. After arriving at this total, determine the maximum number of codes you can bill for.

By simplifying the complexities of billing units for timed codes and clarifying untimed codes, it seeks to provide greater transparency and precision in healthcare billing procedures. Remember that meticulousness plays a pivotal role in healthcare billing, and a sound grasp of these principles can significantly impact the process.

Here is the Time range and the billing units detail

Time Range (Minutes) Billing Units
8 - 22 1 unit
23 - 37 2 units
38 - 52 3 units
53 - 67 4 units
68 - 82 5 units
83 and beyond 6 units

You might be pondering the following steps if you find yourself with remaining minutes that arise from the amalgamation of different therapy services administered to a patient in a single session.

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Handling mixed remainders under the 8-Minute Rule

Handling mixed remainders is a nuanced aspect of the 8-Minute Rule that healthcare providers often encounter when billing for therapy services. Mixed remainders refer to leftover minutes that result from a combination of various therapy services provided to a patient during a single session. To ensure accurate billing in such scenarios, providers must follow specific guidelines:

Documentation and Calculation: First and foremost, providers must meticulously document the time spent on each therapy service. This documentation is crucial because it serves as the basis for determining whether mixed remainders can be billed.

Cumulative Time: The 8-Minute Rule allows for the cumulative time spent on time-based services to be considered when determining billing units. Providers add the minutes of skilled, one-on-one therapy services to assess the total time spent.

Individual Service Requirement: To bill for a specific service, it must meet the minimum requirement of at least eight minutes. If the leftover minutes come from a combination of services, you cannot bill for any of them unless one service totals at least eight minutes.

Billing the Highest Total: If the sum of the remainder from multiple services equals or exceeds eight minutes, providers can bill for the individual service with the highest total time, even if it is less than eight minutes on its own.

Importance of the 8-Minute Rule

At its essence, the 8-Minute Rule provides a standardized framework for determining the appropriate billing units for time-based services, particularly in outpatient therapy. It brings uniformity to the process, ensuring that healthcare providers across the spectrum adhere to consistent guidelines.

  1. Fair Compensation: One of the foremost reasons for the rule's importance is its role in ensuring that healthcare professionals are justly compensated for their time and expertise. Quantifying time spent on patient care prevents underbilling, ensuring that providers receive the compensation they deserve.
  2. Preventing Fraud and Overbilling: The 8-Minute Rule serves as a safeguard against potential billing fraud or overcharging. It encourages accurate time documentation and billing practices, mitigating the risk of financial improprieties.
  3. Transparency and Accountability: Transparent billing practices build trust among patients and payers. By requiring detailed time records, the rule fosters transparency, allowing patients to understand what they're being billed for and payers to verify the accuracy of claims.
  4. Standardization: In a field as complex as PT healthcare, standardized practices are invaluable. The 8-Minute Rule offers a consistent approach to billing for time-based services, reducing confusion and ensuring that healthcare providers are on the same page.

Well, you have learned how the 8 Minute rule works. Now let's see what happens if you get it wrong.

Billing incorrectly under the 8-Minute Rule

Billing errors under the 8-Minute Rule can have significant repercussions for healthcare providers and their reimbursement. It's crucial to understand the potential consequences and the importance of accurate billing:

Claim Denials: Inaccurate billing, such as failing to meet the minimum time requirements for a billing unit, can lead to claim denials by the insurance payer. When claims are denied, providers do not receive reimbursement for the services provided, which can directly impact revenue.

Delayed Reimbursement: Even if a claim is not outright denied, inaccuracies in billing can result in delayed reimbursement. Insurance companies may request additional documentation or clarification, prolonging the time it takes for providers to receive payment for their services.

Financial Loss: Billing errors can result in financial losses for healthcare providers. These losses can affect a provider's ability to cover expenses, pay staff, and maintain the operations of their practice.

Audits and Investigations: Insurance payers may conduct audits or investigations in cases of suspected billing irregularities. If a provider is found to have consistently billed incorrectly, it can lead to legal and financial consequences, including fines and penalties.

Legal Ramifications: In cases of deliberate or fraudulent billing practices, providers may face legal actions, including lawsuits and criminal charges. It's essential to adhere to billing guidelines and regulations to avoid such serious consequences.

To mitigate these risks, healthcare providers must prioritize accurate documentation and billing practices under the 8-Minute Rule. This includes maintaining detailed records of the time spent on each therapy service, adhering to billing guidelines, and staying informed about updates or changes to the rule. Additionally, ongoing training and education for billing and coding staff are critical to ensuring compliance and preventing billing errors that can have detrimental effects on healthcare practice.


The 8-Minute Rule serves as a vital tool in healthcare economics, balancing fair compensation, transparency, and accountability. By mastering its principles, healthcare providers can navigate the billing landscape with confidence, ensuring that both their services and their financial well-being are in good hands. So, as you step forward in your healthcare billing journey, may you do so with the wisdom of the 8-Minute Rule as your guide.

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