College of American Pathologists

  New screening codes for Pap smears


Reprinted from February 1999 CAP TODAY

Carl Graziano

The Health Care Financing Administration, responding to a new CPT coding system for Pap smears, has told its payment contractors that seven alphanumeric codes should be used to report services covered under the Medicare Pap smear screening benefit.

In a recent program memorandum to carriers, HCFA said use of the HCFA Common Procedure Coding System, or HCPCS codes (table I) is important in being able to track screening and diagnostic Pap smears and stay within statutory limits on how often Medicare can cover the screening benefit period.

HCPCS codes are companions to the CPT codes, which HCFA says should be used when a Pap smear is provided as a diagnostic service, that is, in response to signs or symptoms of disease. Use of the HCPCS and CPT coding scheme began Jan. 1.

In the memorandum, HCFA describes when to use both the alphanumeric codes and their CPT companions (table II ).

In the same notice, HCFA eliminated for use as cytotechnologist screening codes two previously used alphanumeric codes, G0124 and P3001. They are now to be used to report physician Pap smear interpretation services. Providers and others also should note the deleted redundant codes and their crosswalk to the 1999 codes (table III).

HCFA also established HCPCS codes for reporting the physician interpretation of a Pap smear that should be used when the Pap smear originated as a screening service. The alphanumeric codes are companions to the CPT codes used for diagnostic Pap smear interpretations. Three alpha codes for physician Pap smear interpretations of screening Pap smears are as follow:

Screening G0124: Screening cytopathology, cervical or vaginal (any reporting system), collected in preservative fluid, automated thin layer preparation, requiring interpretation by physician;

Screening G0141: Screening cytopathology smears, cervical or vaginal, performed by automated system, with manual rescreening, requiring interpretation by physician; and

Screening Papanicolaou P3001: Screening Papanicolaou smear, cervical or vaginal, up to three smears, requiring interpretation by physician.

HCFA deleted two previously used alphanumeric codes for physician interpretation, G0124-26 and P3001-26.

The appropriate Medicare code for Pap smear interpretation is determined by the reason for performing the test (screening or diagnostic), the methods of specimen preparation and evaluation (screening), and reporting system used, HCFA said (table IV).

For a copy of the HCFA memorandum, visit the College’s Web site ( under “Government Documents” in the site’s “Advocacy” section.