Health Information Management

Could ICD-10 really be delayed again?

APCs Insider, December 5, 2014

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Republican leadership met this week to discuss draft legislation that would keep the government, including the Department of Health and Human Services, funded into 2015, avoiding a repeat of last year's shutdown.
 
This should be good news for the healthcare industry, and the economy at large, but could factions of the government slip ICD-10 implementation delay language in time-sensitive legislation yet again?
 
The possibility seems more likely than ever in light of the recent campaign by physician groups in states such as New York, Texas, and Florida imploring members to contact House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, directly to ask for a two-year ICD-10 delay, pushing implementation to October 1, 2017. The groups want the delay clause put into funding bills that would need to be passed by December 11.
 
Of course, poking holes in the claims of the physician groups is almost too easy for anyone with a cursory understanding of how this kind of transition works. Simply put, ICD-10 will impact budgets and lead to productivity declines no matter when it's implemented; delaying that day only adds to training and technology costs and puts the U.S. further behind the rest of the world by using an outdated system. We've already seen the impact of a delay, too many times.
 
What makes this different than last time, when no one would publicly claim the credit for sneaking delay language into the Sustainable Growth Rate bill, is that some politicians seem to be working hand in hand with the physician groups to fight for a delay.
 
The Medical Society of the State of New York (MSSNY) links on its front page an admission that Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, made "substantial" changes and suggestions to their delay letter in order to increase its effectiveness.
 
While searching the Internet for their letter, I also found they uploaded notes from their most recent council meeting, which included an email chain involving Rep. Sessions, MSSNY leaders, and other physician group executives. In it, they said they plan to get at least 1,000 letters sent to Boehner.
Additionally, they uploaded their 2015 legislative agenda, which calls for the group to push for legislation to kill ICD-10 entirely.
 
This has to be disheartening for the many hospitals, coders, physicians, payers, and other industry stakeholders who were ready or on track for ICD-10 before the repeated delays, since all that time and money would be wasted without any of the benefit.
 
So what can you do to try and prevent another delay? It's clear that the physician groups are mobilizing thousands of members to lobby the government, so ICD-10 proponents should do the same. AHIMA has a website that allows stakeholders to send ICD-10 support letters directly to their legislators. You might also want to give Rep. Sessions a call at 202-225-2231 and let him know about how much you've already invested in ICD-10 and how another delay would negatively impact your ability to collect and analyze data that can help lead to better and more efficient patient care.



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