Updated on: September 23, 2013

President Obama Mum on Healthcare Reform

Original story posted on: January 24, 2012






By Chuck Buck and Janis K. Oppelt

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In describing his blueprint for America’s future by emphasizing domestic energy production, technology and manufacturing, President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address Tuesday night failed to mention one of his signature domestic achievements – healthcare reform – directly, instead referring to it as an example of ridding government of regulations that “don’t work.”

At nearly one hour into his address before Congress, the president received what appeared to be a bipartisan standing ovation when he said he believed in what Republican Abraham Lincoln believed in.

“I believe,” Obama said, “that government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more. That's why my education reform offers more competition and more control for schools and states. That's why we're getting rid of regulations that don't work. That's why our healthcare law relies on a reformed private market, not a government program.”

But after the applause and the rebuttal speeches have ended, and Congress returns to the business of the nation, the question remains: will legislators kill ICD-10, delay its implementation, or let it proceed as scheduled? These questions have been on the minds of many in the healthcare industry ever since the American Medical Association (AMA) announced that it would “work vigorously to stop the implementation” of the ICD-10 coding system.

“It’s anybody’s guess,” said Ian C. Bonnet, vice president of WellPoint, during an interview on the most recent Talk-Ten-Tuesday, ICD10monitor.com’s live weekly podcast. “Nonetheless, there is a lot of discussion in Congress about the status of the ICD-10 system, and congressional staff members are trying to get their heads wrapped around ICD-10, (asking) ‘what is it and what implications does it have on the healthcare industry?’”

This, in fact, is one of Bonnet’s biggest concerns. The level of understanding about why we need ICD-10 varies dramatically, and members are trying to make sense of whether they should support it or not. What some believe is that “it appears risky, complicated and expensive to implement, but few are focused on the positive influences to quality and care-management efforts” Bonnet said.

Even more frightening, according to Bonnet, is that he’s heard “some congressional staffers” say that killing it is an option. For better or worse, the healthcare industry may know the answer by the middle to end of February. By then federal legislation should be on the docket to fix the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula that has required the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to make deep cuts in Medicare physician fee schedule (MPFS) payments for the last 10 years.

“As unbelievable as it sounds, it would be easy to slip language into that bill to eliminate or delay ICD-10,” Bonnet said. Most in the industry would agree that this would be an enormous mistake for several reasons.

Among the most obvious reasons is that the transition to ICD-10 has created a micro-economy and “thousands of people in the industry are focused on renovating for I-10; it has spurred technological development,” Bonnet noted. “We’re in a challenged economy, and we’re crawling out of a recession slowly. We have this mega unfunded mandate with a growing level of momentum and commitment to change.”

Is Congress really willing to reverse course on ICD-10? Only time — and legislation — will tell.

About the authors

Janis K. Oppelt is the editor of Medical Learning Incorporated, a Panacea Healthcare Company. Chuck Buck is publisher of ICD10monitor.com.

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