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Transition to ICD-10 Delayed Again

The new coding system got caught up in political wrangling on Capitol Hill.

Published: April 1, 2014

Don't worry about transitioning to the new ICD-10 coding system, at least for another year. The U.S. Senate passed a bill on Monday that will delay the planned transition in October of this year until October 2015, at the earliest. President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill into law, say published reports.

Lawmakers slipped the ICD-10 language in the bill that's primarily aimed at creating a temporary delay to physician reimbursement cuts under Medicare's Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) payments. This is the second time implementation has been delayed: In September 2012, CMS pushed back the original compliance date of October 2013.

The American Academy of Professional Coders says the latest delay is frustrating for facilities that worked hard to meet this year's deadline, but gives unprepared facilities extra time to educate billing staff and adjust coding and billing procedures.

The American Medical Association, which has long opposed ICD-10 because the costs of implementing the new coding system would put undue burdens on physicians, says it will continue to lobby against its implementation altogether.

"As demands for quality healthcare data continue to increase, this delay will add an additional significant hurdle for the healthcare system," says Lynne Thomas Gordon, MBA, RHIA, CAE, FACHE, FAHIMA, the CEO of the American Health Information Management Association. "It is truly unfortunate that Congress chose to embed language about delaying ICD-10 into legislation intended to address the need for an SGR fix in their effort to temporarily address the long outstanding and critically important physician payment issues."

The ultimate ramifications of dialing back the ICD-10 transition will take time to sort out, according to AHIMA, which says CMS has estimated that pushing back the implementation for another year could add between $1 billion and $6.6 billion to the costs incurred from the previous delay. The healthcare industry could also suffer the opportunity costs of failing to transition to what AHIMA calls a "more effective" coding system.

Daniel Cook


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