May 8, 2015

Bill to Halt ICD-10: The Train Has Left the Station

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Sure as shootin’, U.S. Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) couldn’t resist the temptation of coming back to the table for a second time with his latest distraction, H.R. 2126: a proposed bill “to prohibit the Secretary of Health and Human Services from replacing ICD-9 with ICD-10 in implementing the HIPAA code set standards.”

 

And not surprisingly, Poe, who appeared with Fox News’s John Stossel on April 23, 2013, to ridicule the new code set, was able to line up a coalition of congressional co-sponsors —all conservative white southerners, including Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), Rep. Morgan H. Griffith (R-Va.), Rep. Mike D. Rogers (R-Ala.), Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), and Rep. David P. Roe (R-Tenn.). Also not surprisingly, all voted to repeal what they call “Obamacare” – and with the exception of Griffith, they all represent states whose medical societies advocate against ICD-10. Two of the co-sponsors are former doctors. Rep. Price once worked in private practice as an orthopedic surgeon. And Congressman Roe earned a medical degree from the University of Tennessee in 1970, according to a statement on his website, which adds that he served two years in the U.S. Army’s Medical Corps.

For Poe to prevail, he’ll need more than a southern strategy. His bill has been referred to the House of Representatives’ Committee on Energy and Commerce. To its chairman, Rep. Fred Uptown, (R-Mich.) the arrival of Poe’s bill is likely to be most unwelcomed and certainly old, very old, news. Remember it was only four months ago, in February, when American Health Information Management Association’s (AHIMA’s) Sue Bowman testified before his committee on ICD-10. Moreover, in what some might consider the Magna Carta of ICD-10, Rep. Upton and House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) jointly issued a statement last December on the implementation of ICD-10, seeming to dispel all worries about any additional legislative delay to the new code set.

“As we look ahead to the implementation date of ICD-10 on October 1, 2015, we will continue our close communication with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to ensure that the deadline can successfully be met by stakeholders,” Upton and Sessions said in the statement. “This is an important milestone in the future of healthcare technologies, and it is essential that we understand the state of preparedness at CMS. Following the most recent delay of ICD-10, we heard from a number of interested parties concerned about falling behind or halting progress. We would like to acknowledge and thank these organizations and individuals for opening up this dialogue and expressing their thoughts and concerns regarding this issue. It is our priority to ensure that we continue to move forward in healthcare technology and do so in a way that addresses the concerns of all those affected and ensure that the system works.”

There it was, in writing. A statement from two powerful lawmakers saying that they weren’t going to tinker with ICD-10.

Yet Poe has persisted, in somewhat Don Quixote-esque fashion, to forestall what is now nearly inevitable.

“Although everyone seems to be in gear for implementation of ICD-10, there are always those that will perpetuate the inevitable, and U.S. Rep. Ted Poe … will hold up the ICD-9 flag until his last breath. Isn’t it fitting that he is from Texas,” wrote Denise Nash, MD, in an email to ICD10monitor. “It kind of brings up (images) of the Alamo.” 

Nash believes that Poe’s feelings on ICD-10 implementation are that the physician community will suffer tremendously, not only from a cost perspective but also from the burdensome nature of ICD-10 itself.

“To quote Rep. Poe from the press release, ‘the new ICD-10 codes will not make one patient healthier. What it will do is put an unnecessary strain on the medical community, who should be focused on treating patients, not implementing a whole new bureaucratic language,” wrote Nash, vice president of compliance and education for global giant MiraMed. “Instead of hiring one more doctor or nurse to help patients, medical practices are having to spend tens of thousands just to hire a specialist who understands the new codes. Big government must get out of the way and let doctors do what they were trained to do – help people.’”

With fewer than five months remaining before ICD-10 becomes effective, any delay is likely to do more harm than good to the healthcare industry, claimed former Cleveland Clinic executive Lyman Sornberger. Recalling the impact of an earlier delay, Sornberger said many of his colleagues working off of the earlier effective date were seriously alarmed by, among other things, the “enormous costs” for providers who expended finances and resources to meet the 2014 deadline.

“It (ICD-10) makes sense now with other industry strategies such as population health management, meaningful use, and value-based care,” Sornberger, now a private consultant, told ICD10monitor.com. “The patient care would be enhanced and these healthcare delivery models would be supported by ICD-10. Any further delay would be a tremendous blow financially to most providers, and quite frankly, … most not take any new date seriously.”

Simply put, the momentum has shifted and ICD-10 is finally a reality across the industry.

“The ICD-10 train has left the station,” said market analyst Emily Evans with Obsidian Research Group. “We are just five months from implementation and it is unlikely that medical providers that have expended millions of dollars in training and IT infrastructure (would) … support any more delay. I believe that CMS will go easy on providers that make mistakes and need more time to adapt to the new system so that hardship is minimized.”

 

 

Chuck Buck

Chuck Buck is the publisher of ICD10monitor and is the executive producer and program host of Talk Ten Tuesdays.

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