WASHINGTON, DC — Billing codes that can be used for personal training will be available for use beginning next month, but the Health and Human Services Secretary still needs to approve them.

Alternative Link, the company that developed ABC codes, created them to document services provided by a variety of alternative health care practices so that billing for these services would be more accurate. Prior to the ABC code development, health care practitioners used current procedural terminology (CPT) codes development by the American Medical Association. Doctors use the CPT codes for medical record keeping and billing. However, CPT codes do not always adequately describe treatment provided by alternative healthcare providers, said Heidi Rothenberg, market development director for Alternative Link.

The ABC codes will be included in the ABC Coding Manual for Integrative Healthcare for 2006, which will be published in January by Alternative Link.

Inclusion in the manual means that the codes are available for personal trainers to use to document their care and bill with, but insurance companies do not have to accept the codes at this point, said Rothenberg. Personal trainers who have an agreement with an insurance company need to speak with the company to negotiate the use of the ABC codes. The codes allow trainers to more adequately describe the services they provide and decrease the amount of writing required.

Health and Human Services (HHS) granted an optional status to the ABC codes meaning that they can legally be used by personal trainers and insurance companies. However, once approval is received, the codes will become a standard, meaning insurance companies will have to acknowledge the codes and decide whether or not they will accept them.

Final approval by HHS could take quite some time. HHS asked for a significant percentage of the 10,000 entities that registered to use ABC codes to comment on them, but HHS hasn't responded to Alternative Link's request to clarify what number constitutes a significant percentage, said Melinna Giannini, president of Alternative Link. HHS also wants more empirical data to show the cost effectiveness of the codes. Codes that can be used for personal training sessions are mostly for evaluation and training rehab. The deadline for requests for additional codes is June 30, 2006. To make a request, get a list of all the codes or to order a manual, visit www.ABCcodes.com.