ICD-10 Delayed Again?

Having already been delayed two years in a row, is the third time a charm for the ICD-10‘s debut? As of now, the answer appears to be yes. Over four months before implementation there have not been any strong indications otherwise. On the contrary, more and more agencies and organizations are conducting coding trials, stress tests, and using other strategies to prepare for the transition.

By this time last year the senate bill that delayed the ICD-10’s implementation had already been passed. By contrast, right now the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is counting down the weeks on its website – T-minus 141 days, five hours, 37 minutes, and 25 seconds at the time of this writing. With last year’s delay having cost companies millions of dollars in needless training and preparations, it would seem like Congress was actually trying to seek even lower approval ratings if it were to delay yet another year this late in the game.

In fact, the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health in the House of Representatives recently held a hearing on the coming implementation of the ICD-10. Panelists were invited from a range of professional organizations including vendors, practitioners, and advocacy associations. At the end of the hearing all panelists except one voted to indicate they believed the health and medical services industries were prepared for the ICD-10.

However proponents of delay are still around, with some of the main opposition parties being the American Medical Association (AMA), representing physicians and medical student from across the nation, as well as the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA). Other vocal opponents include the Texas Medical Association, the largest state medical society of its kind in the nation, which was advocating for a two-year delay in 2014. These groups are still warning of the costs, inconveniences, and other pitfalls of the implementation.

But even so, with 141 days to go and the apparent full support by CMS, what could delay the ICD-10 any longer?

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Potential Implementation Sabotage

The answer is, Congress. A bill passed last year is what delayed the implementation, and this could be what delays it again – however increasingly unlikely this may seem with each passing day. Even with positive feedback from Subcommittee on Health the goings on in the nation’s capital can be rough, especially as of late.

The Executive Editor for HIMSS Media Tom Sullivan recently pointed out in an article for Healthcare IT News that there is a precedent for last-minute legislative changes in both the House and Senate, exactly the cause of last year’s delay. All it would take is a lone senator or representative slipping in a provision regarding the ICD-10 into an otherwise innocent piece of legislation and that would be that – for a second year in a row.

Even though at this point it is hardly likely that such a move would go unnoticed or un-debated, these days all it takes to shut down the government is a small group of senators. We will only know about the ICD-10 for certain on October 1st.