What Is the Medicare 8-Minute Rule?

The Medicare 8-Minute Rule is a crucial aspect of billing and reimbursement in healthcare, specifically related to physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology services. This rule is central to how therapists can bill for their time and services when treating Medicare patients. In this article, we’ll explain the rule in detail, its significance, and how it works, and offer therapists tips on applying it correctly in practice.

Understanding the Medicare 8-Minute Rule

The Medicare 8-Minute Rule, also known as the “8-Minute Rule” or “Therapy 8-Minute Rule,” dictates how much time therapists must spend with a Medicare patient to bill for a full-service unit. According to Medicare guidelines, a therapy session lasting 8 minutes or more is considered an entire unit of therapy time. Sessions lasting under 8 minutes cannot be billed.

How the Medicare 8-Minute Rule Works

To understand how to bill correctly using the 8-Minute Rule, therapists need to know how to calculate time spent with the patient and how to convert that into billable units. The rule works as follows:

  • Minimum Time for Billing: A therapy session must last at least 8 minutes to qualify for a billable unit.
  • Calculating Units: Each additional unit requires an extra 15 minutes of service. For example, a session lasting between 8 and 22 minutes qualifies for one unit; a session lasting between 23 and 37 minutes qualifies for two units.
  • Incremental Billing: The 8-Minute Rule allows therapists to bill in increments of 15 minutes. So, a session lasting 38-52 minutes qualifies for three units, and so on.

Billing Example

To illustrate how this rule applies in practice, let’s look at an example:

  • Session Length: A therapist spends 34 minutes treating a Medicare patient.
  • Calculating Units: According to the 8-Minute Rule, the therapist can bill for two units of service (as the session is between 23 and 37 minutes).

Tips for Applying the Medicare 8-Minute Rule

Here are some tips for therapists when using the Medicare 8-Minute Rule:

  • Keep Accurate Records: Maintain detailed notes on the time spent with each patient to ensure accurate billing.
  • Understand Different CPT Codes: Certain types of therapy (e.g., physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology) may have different coding requirements. Familiarize yourself with the appropriate CPT codes for each service.
  • Double-Check Your Billing: Review your billing regularly to ensure compliance with Medicare’s requirements and avoid billing errors.


The Medicare 8-Minute Rule is essential to the billing process for therapists working with Medicare patients. By understanding the rule and how it works, therapists can ensure accurate billing and avoid undercharging or overcharging Medicare. Keeping precise records and staying informed about Medicare policies will help providers offer the best care while maintaining compliance. If you have any further questions or concerns about the rule, it’s always a good idea to seek advice from a healthcare billing specialist or legal expert.