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So I have a question: what is it our Congress doesn’t get? How many years has the United States healthcare industry been trying to implement the ICD‐10 coding system for the simple reason that ICD‐9 is outdated?

After all, we already are well on our way in the implementation phases of converting to ICD‐10 by Oct. 1, 2014, which is not that far away. The resources we have poured into improving our health data system updates is mind-boggling! However, there still continue to be naysayers within Congress who continue to push back.

I was invited to appear with a group of ophthalmologists a few weeks ago to talk about documentation improvement in preparation for ICD‐10. We talked about the benefits of electronic medical record templates used to assist with documentation and improving reported medical condition codes today as well as following implementation of the new coding system. Yet I quickly was told that “ICD-10 was not going to happen,” and why. They heard directly from several of our U.S. senators not to worry about “this costly coding system.” They suggested I do a quick Google search for new bills in Congress. Talk about being a deer in the headlights: I was caught totally unaware of any legislation that had been introduced to stop the implementation of ICD‐10. I wanted to run to a computer right away.

And here’s what I found:

What: There are two bills on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, titled: H.R.1701: Cutting Costly Codes Act of 2013 (introduced April 24) and S.972 (introduced May 16), respectfully. There has not been any documented action on the bills ever since H.R. 1701 was referred to the House Subcommittee on Health and the Senate bill was referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

Why: “To prohibit the Secretary of Health and Human Services replacing ICD‐9 with ICD‐10 in implementing the HIPAA code set standards.”

Who is supporting this move? From the House of Representatives there are 16 representatives (from Alabama, Florida, Tennessee and Texas), and from the Senate there are four (from Arkansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Wyoming).

Watch: U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., has an amendment to the Farm Bill S. 954 to block the implementation of ICD‐10. It will be interesting to watch this particular bill, which is expected to be voted on by the Senate sometime this week. At the time of this writing I could not find any reference to the prohibition of ICD‐10 in the most current version to date, which started out with more than 1,000 pages. However, the aforementioned amendment was noted to be “in committee” as of May 16. It may well die in committee due to lack of merit; however, it is nonetheless interesting to witness how our government works on matters of such importance.

Action? Is it disbelief, or surprise, we will see on the faces of those who refuse to accept change? Is the sky falling? No, but I would bet that ICD‐10 is still coming – and moving forward, Oct. 1, 2014 will be coming up on us very fast. Don’t waste time! It continues to be a strong recommendation to stay the course and continue to be proactive regarding the implementation of ICD‐10.

About the Author

Gretchen Dixon, MBA, RN, is a consultant at Hayes Management Consulting. She is a Certified Healthcare Compliance Officer, Certified Coding Specialist and internal auditor with more than 20 years of experience in the healthcare industry with an emphasis on clinical documentation improvement, compliance, revenue cycle and coding.

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