8-Minute Rule for Medicare Billing

Christian Worstell
In this article...
  • Medicare uses the 8-minute rule to determine how to bill and reimburse doctors and providers for their health care services. Learn more about Medicare billing and how it can impact you.
Woman meets with her doctor

The Medicare 8 minute rule affects how much healthcare providers can bill for certain services. Unfortunately, there are many common mistakes about this rule that can lead to incorrect billing and overpayment.

In this guide, we'll cover everything from an overview of the 8 minute rule to tips on avoiding costly errors when dealing with this policy.

What is the 8 Minute Rule?

The 8 minute rule is a Medicare policy that affects how providers are reimbursed for certain services.

The 8 minute rule was established to guarantee that patients acquire the care they require, while also making certain that providers are rewarded properly. The 8 minute rule states that any service provided in eight minutes or less can be billed as one unit of time.

This means if a patient receives an assessment lasting seven minutes and fifty-nine seconds, it will be billed as one unit of time rather than two units of time.

The 8 minute regulation pertains to all Medicare-participant doctors' facilities, such as:

  • Exam and management (E&M) visits
  • Preventive checkups
  • Physical therapy (PT) treatments
  • Lab tests
  • Other outpatient care

In addition to the 8 minute rule, there are rules about when a provider can bill for multiple units of time within a single visit.

For example, if a patient has an E&M visit with three separate procedures performed during the same encounter — each lasting more than eight minutes — the provider may bill for each procedure separately instead of just billing once for the entire visit.

Medicare-participating physicians are subject to the 8 minute rule, but non-Medicare providers such as chiropractors or acupuncturists who do not participate in Medicare reimbursement programs may be exempt from this policy. It's wise to consult with your insurer prior to making any appointments, as certain private insurers may have their own modifications of the 8 minute rule that could vary from what is specified above.

Overall, understanding the 8 minute rule can help both patients and healthcare providers get appropriate reimbursement for medical services without overbilling for care rendered. 

How Does the 8 Minute Rule Affect Medicare Beneficiaries?

Here are some common mistakes and tips for understanding the Medicare 8 minute rule.

Common Mistakes

Many Medicare beneficiaries are unaware of the 8 minute rule and how it affects their coverage. The 8 minute rule is a regulation set forth by Medicare that states any service provided to a patient must be at least 8 minutes in length in order for it to be covered. If a service provided to a patient is not at least 8 minutes long, Medicare will not provide coverage for it.

  • One mistake people make is thinking that the 8 minute rule applies to all medical services provided by their doctor or other healthcare provider. This isn't true – only certain services fall under this policy, such as physical therapy and speech therapy sessions, occupational therapy visits, and certain tests like EEGs and EKGs.

  • Another mistake people make is assuming that they'll be charged extra for any service lasting more than eight minutes. This isn't necessarily true either. There are exceptions depending on the type of service being provided.

    For example, if your doctor provides an additional service during a visit (such as drawing blood) then they may not be able to bill you separately for it since it was part of the same appointment.

Discuss with your doctor or healthcare provider the services that are subject to the 8 minute rule and any exceptions which may apply in certain circumstances. This can also help you identify billing errors before payment. Make sure to review all bills carefully before paying them so you can identify any errors or discrepancies quickly and easily.

Tips for Understanding the 8 Minute Rule

It is essential to comprehend the rule prior to obtaining treatment, so you can be aware of what will occur and avoid being charged too much. Here are some tips for understanding the 8 minute rule.

Research Provider Policies

Every provider has their own policies regarding the 8 minute rule. Make sure you research your provider’s policy before receiving any treatment or services, as it could affect how much you're charged.

Ask Questions

Don't be afraid to ask questions about how your provider applies the 8 minute rule in their practice. Knowing ahead of time will help prevent any confusion when it comes time for billing and payments.

Total Timed Minutes

The total timed minutes refer to all of the time-based CPT codes combined together, including direct timed codes (15 minutes) and mixed remainder units (8 minutes). This number should not exceed 22 minutes per day measured by Medicare rules; otherwise, they essentially drop off from reimbursement eligibility criteria.

If fewer than 22 total timed minutes remain after combining all applicable CPT codes into one visit, then those leftover minutes cannot be billed out separately unless certain conditions as outlined by CMS guidelines are met.

In other words, if you receive a service such as physical therapy that takes 30 minutes but only 15 remain on your timer, then billing for two separate visits totaling 30 mins each would result in double-billing errors due to exceeding the maximum allowed amount under Medicare regulations.

The chart below shows the number of units that correspond to each appointment length. 

Appointment length Number of billable units

8 to 22 minutes

1 unit

23 to 37 minutes

2 units

38 to 52 minutes

3 units

53 to 67 minutes

4 units

68 to 82 minutes

5 units

83 to 97 minutes

6 units

98 to 112minutes

7 units

113 to 127 minutes

8 units



Realizing the implications of the 8 minute rule for beneficiaries and recognizing common errors can help maximize Medicare benefits. With some research and knowledge, understanding this complex regulation should be easier than ever before.

Discover the 8 minute rule and learn how it can help you plan for a secure financial future as you age. Get informed on government benefits programs that may be available to support your lifestyle goals today.

Christian Worstell
About the Author

Christian Worstell is a senior Medicare and health insurance writer with HelpAdivsor.com. He is also a licensed health insurance agent. Christian is well-known in the insurance industry for the thousands of educational articles he’s written, helping Americans better understand their health insurance and Medicare coverage.

Christian’s work as a Medicare expert has appeared in several top-tier and trade news outlets including Forbes, MarketWatch, WebMD and Yahoo! Finance.

While at HelpAdvisor, Christian has written hundreds of articles that teach Medicare beneficiaries the best practices for navigating Medicare. His articles are read by thousands of older Americans each month. By better understanding their health care coverage, readers may hopefully learn how to limit their out-of-pocket Medicare spending and access quality medical care.

Christian’s passion for his role stems from his desire to make a difference in the senior community. He strongly believes that the more beneficiaries know about their Medicare coverage, the better their overall health and wellness is as a result.

A current resident of Raleigh, Christian is a graduate of Shippensburg University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. You can find Christian’s most recent articles in our blog.

If you’re a member of the media looking to connect with Christian, please don’t hesitate to email our public relations team at Mike@MyHelpAdvisor.com.

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