The Definitive Guide to CPT Code 90791 – Psychiatric Diagnostic Evaluation

Learn everything about CPT Code 90791, billing for psychiatric diagnostic evaluation, also known as a mental health intake session in common parlance.  We teach you about authorization requirements, pay rate increases, frequency of billing, CPT Code 90791 documentation requirements and coding requirements, and more.

Procedure code 90791, along with 90834 and 90837, is one of the most frequently billed CPT codes for licensed  behavioral health providers. 90791 is used for psychiatric diagnostic evaluation and is defined as:

An integrated biopsychosocial assessment, including history, mental status, and recommendations. 

90791 is typically billed for the initial intake appointment a client will have. Subsequent sessions will be billed with 90834 and 90837, depending on the appointment duration. It can be billed by Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW), Licensed Professional Counselors (LPC), Licensed Mental Counselors (LMHC), Licensed Marriage Family Therapists (LMFT), clinical psychologists, and psychiatrists.

90791 CPT Code

Does 90791 Require Authorization?

90791 is considered a routine outpatient appointment, so typically no authorization is required. But like any procedure code, exceptions do exist depending on the plan and insurance company. Some insurance companies like United Health Care (UHC) will grant one authorization for 90791 and a separate one for 90834 or 90837 EAP sessions. If authorization is required, when you call and get authorization, make sure that 90791 is covered under it!

To find out if authorization is required, you’ll need to perform an eligibility and benefits verification on the client’s insurance plan.  We provide this service for free as part of our mental health billing service, by the way.

Does CPT Code 90791 Pay More than a Normal Session?

Yes! 90791 almost always pays more per session than 90834 or 90837. The exact payment depends on the credentialing of the provider rendering services and the insurance plan. In our experience, 90791 is typically allowed at +35-75% of the 90834 reimbursement rate and +10-50% of the 90837 reimbursement rate.

How Frequently Can 90791 Be Billed for a Client?

This depends on the insurance and the plan and if you’re not sure, call the insurance. Typically Medicare and Medicaid plans allow 90791 once per client per provider per year. Other plans will allow as frequently as once per 6 months.  We can call on your behalf to find out.

90791 vs. 90792

90792 is a very similar code to 90791. Like 90791, it is defined as a psychiatric diagnostic evaluation. The only distinction is that 90792 includes medical services done by a physician. This means that only medically licensed professionals, such as a psychiatrist, can bill 90792.

CPT Code 90791 Coding Requirements

The following services are required, according to Medicare, to complete an initial mental health evaluation for a new client seeking mental health services:

  • Elicitation of a complete medical and psychiatric history
  • Mental status examination
  • Evaluation of the patient’s ability and capacity to respond to treatment
  • Initial plan of treatment
  • Reported once per day
  • Not reported say day as E/M service performed by the same provider
  • Covered at the outset


CPT Code 90791 Documentation Requirements

Documentation should include:

  • Recording the time
  • Modality of treatment
  • Suggested frequency of treatment
  • Clinical notes that summarize:
    • Diagnosis
    • Symptoms
    • Functional status
    • Focused mental status examination
    • Treatment plan, prognosis, and progress

Documentation for CPT Code 90791 for an diagnostic evaluation must reflect a face to face meeting and this code requires a face to face meeting based on Medicare’s requirements.  (Source).


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