Mastering CO-226 and MA81 Denials in Medical Billing

Maximizing Appeal Success: Decoding CO-226 and MA81 Denial Codes


In the complex landscape of medical billing, providers often encounter challenges leading to claim denials. Two notorious denial codes, CO-226 and MA81, frequently disrupt the reimbursement process. Understanding the intricacies of these codes and mastering the appeal process is crucial for healthcare practitioners aiming to navigate the complexities of Medicare requirements successfully.

CO-226: Unraveling the Insufficient Information Conundrum

Denial Reason Breakdown

CO-226 indicates a deficiency in the information provided by the billing or rendering provider. The CERT review contractor identifies errors in practitioners' medical records, emphasizing compliance with Medicare requirements.

Resolution Strategies

To rectify CO-226 denials, providers must initiate claim adjustments promptly. Palmetto GBA, the adjudicator, is tasked with recouping any overpayments stemming from these errors. Practitioners disputing these denials should pursue a redetermination (appeal) by submitting a written request to Palmetto GBA within 120 days of the remittance advice notice.

MA81: Confronting the Signature Challenge

Deciphering Denial Reasons

MA81 signifies a missing, incomplete, or invalid provider or supplier signature. This denial code underscores the importance of adhering to stringent signature requirements in practitioners' medical records, including X-ray reports and orders.

Strategic Resolutions

Addressing MA81 denials necessitates a proactive approach. Claim adjustments must be initiated promptly, and any overpayments must be recouped. The avenue for disputing these denials lies in the redetermination process, with practitioners urged to submit a written appeal to Palmetto GBA within the stipulated 120-day timeframe.

Absence of Valid Orders/Requisitions/Documentation of ‘Intent’

Understanding CO-226 in Specific Contexts

CO-226 reappears in denial scenarios related to orders, requisitions, and documentation of 'intent.' The CERT review contractor scrutinizes cases where evidence of 'intent' or proper documentation is absent, aligning with Medicare requirements.

Tactical Resolutions

Providers facing CO-226 denials in the context of orders or requisitions must act swiftly. Claim adjustments are imperative, and overpayments must be repaid. The redetermination process serves as the primary recourse, requiring practitioners to submit a written appeal to Palmetto GBA within the 120-day timeframe.

N455 and N456: Navigating Missing Physician Orders

N455: The Challenge of Missing Orders

N455 denotes the absence of a physician order, contributing to CO-226 denials. Providers must address this deficiency promptly to navigate the appeal process successfully.

N456: Confronting Incomplete/Invalid Orders

N456 highlights cases where physician orders are incomplete or invalid, leading to CO-226 denials. Providers must meticulously address these issues to secure successful appeal outcomes.


In the intricate dance of medical billing, mastery of the appeal process for CO-226 and MA81 denials is paramount. Providers armed with a comprehensive understanding of these denial codes and strategic appeal approaches will not only enhance reimbursement success but also fortify their position in compliance with Medicare requirements.