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The analysis of any legal or medical billing is dependent on numerous specific facts — including the factual situations present related to the patients, the practice, the professionals and the medical services and advice. Additionally, laws and regulations and insurance and payer policies are subject to change. The information that has been accurate previously can be particularly dependent on changes in time or circumstances. The information contained in this web site is intended as general information only. It is not intended to serve as medical, health, legal or financial advice or as a substitute for professional advice of a medical coding professional, healthcare consultant, physician or medical professional, legal counsel, accountant or financial advisor. If you have a question about a specific matter, you should contact a professional advisor directly. CPT copyright American Medical Association. All rights reserved. CPT is a registered trademark of the American Medical Association.

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ABN Preparation Requirements

Language Choice

The ABN is available in English and Spanish under a dedicated link on the web page given above. Notifiers should choose the appropriate version of the ABN based on the language the beneficiary best understands. Insertions must be in English when the English language ABN is used. Similarly, when a Spanish language ABN is used, the notifier should make insertions on the notice in Spanish, if applicable. In addition, verbal assistance in other languages may be provided to assist beneficiaries in understanding the document. However, the printed document is limited to the OMB-approved English and Spanish versions. Notifiers should document any types of translation assistance that are used in the “Additional Information” section of the notice.

Effective Versions

ABNs are effective as of the OMB approval date given at the bottom of each notice. The routine approval is for 3-year use. Notifiers are expected to exclusively use the current version of the ABN. Providers/suppliers must be attentive to the OMB approval date on the notice and seek instruction from the CMS website http://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Medicare-General-Information/BNI/index.html on obtaining current versions of notices. CMS will allow a transition period for providers and suppliers to switch from using expiring notices to newly approved notices. The date of mandatory use of newly approved notices will be announced on the CMS website with the notice’s release.

General Notice Preparation Requirements

The following are the general instructions that notifiers must follow in preparing an ABN for mandatory use:

Number of Copies: A minimum of two copies, including the original, must be made so the beneficiary and notifier each have one. The notifier should retain the original whenever possible.

Reproduction: Notifiers may reproduce the ABN by using self-carbonizing paper, photocopying, digitized technology, or another appropriate method. All reproductions must conform to applicable form and manual instructions.

Length and Size of Page: The ABN form must not exceed one page in length; however, attachments are permitted for listing additional items and services. If attachments are used, they must allow for clear matching of the items or services in question with the reason and cost estimate information. The ABN is designed as a lettersized form. If necessary, it may be expanded to a legal-sized page.

Contrast of Paper and Print: A visually high-contrast combination of dark ink on a pale background must be used. Do not use reversed print (i.e. white print on black paper), or block-shaded (highlighted) text.

Font: To the extent practicable, the fonts as they appear in the ABN downloaded from the CMS web site should be used. Any changes in the font type must be based solely on limitations of the notifier’s software and/or hardware. In such cases, notifiers should use alternative fonts that are easily readable, such as Arial, Arial Narrow, Times New Roman, and Courier. Font style and formatting must be maintained regardless of font type used.

Any other changes to the font, such as italics, embossing, bold, etc., should not be used since they can make the ABN more difficult to read. The font size generally should be 12 point. Titles should be 14-16 point, but insertions in blanks of the ABN can be as small as 10 point if needed. Information inserted by notifiers in the blank spaces on the ABN may be typed or legibly hand-written.

Customization: Notifiers are permitted to do some customization of ABNs, such as pre-printing information in certain blanks to promote efficiency and to ensure clarity for beneficiaries. Notifiers may develop multiple versions of the ABN specialized to common treatment scenarios, using the required language and general formatting of the ABN. Blanks (G)-(I) must be completed by the beneficiary or his/her representative when the ABN is issued and may never be pre-filled. Lettering of the blanks (A-J) should be removed prior to issuance of an ABN.

If pre-printed information is used to describe items/services and/or common reasons for noncoverage, the notifier must clearly indicate on the ABN which portions of the preprinted information are applicable to the beneficiary. For example, pre-printed items or services that are inapplicable may be crossed out, or applicable items/services may be checked off.

Providers who pre-print a menu of items or services may wish to list a cost estimate alongside each item or service. For example, notifiers may merge the items/service section (Blank D) with the estimated cost section (Blank F) as long as the beneficiary can clearly identify the services and related costs that may not be covered by Medicare.

Modification: The ABN may not be modified except as specifically allowed by these instructions.

Notifiers must exercise caution before adding any customizations beyond these guidelines, since changing ABNs too much could result in invalid notice and provider liability for noncovered charges. Validity judgments are generally made by Medicare contractors, usually when reviewing ABN-related claims; however, any complaints received may be investigated by contractors and/or CMS central or regional offices

Retention Requirements

The ABN must be prepared with an original and at least one copy. The beneficiary is given his/her copy of the signed and dated ABN immediately, and the notifier should retain the original ABN in the beneficiary’s record. In certain situations, such as delivery by fax, the notifier may not have access to the original document upon signing. Retention of a copy of the signed document would be acceptable in specific cases such as this.

In a case where the notifier that gives an ABN is not the entity that ultimately bills Medicare for the item or service (e.g. when a physician issues an ABN, draws a test specimen, and sends it to a laboratory for testing), the notifier must give a copy of the signed ABN to the billing entity. The copy provided must be legible and may be a carbon, fax, electronically scanned, or photo reproduction copy.

Applicable retention periods for the ABN are discussed in Chapter 1 of this manual, ยง110. In general, it is 5 years from discharge/completion of delivery of care when there are no other applicable requirements under State law. Retention is required in all cases, including those cases in which the beneficiary declined the care, refused to choose an option, or refused to sign the notice. Electronic retention of the signed paper document is acceptable. Notifiers may scan the signed paper or “wet” version of the ABN for electronic medical record retention and if desired, give the paper copy to the beneficiary.

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