No ICD-10 Delay Included in Latest Congressional Spending Bill | | EHR and Health IT Consulting |
Lawmakers have not included an ICD-10 delay in the 2015 Congressional spending omnibus.

Rumors of another ICD-10 delay appear to be greatly exaggerated – this time, at least.  Despite calls from the Medical Society of New York to include an additional two-year delay of ICD-10 in the $1 trillion omnibus spending bill that funds most Congressional activities through the majority of 2015, the legislation did not include an additional push-back of the health information management schema before lawmakers agreed on the final form of the bill.

While the legislation is certainly not the only opportunity for Congress to scupper the new code set, it does give providers some confidence going into the holidays that ICD-10 will continue as planned on October 1, 2015.  Uncertainty about the actual implementation date has left many healthcare organizations wondering about the point of spending time, effort, and money on upgrade systems and processes to be compliant with ICD-10 requirements.  Advocates of postponing ICD-10, or scrapping it all together, have tried to feed on these worries to build momentum for their cause.

“The onerous penalties tied to these mandates add to the hysteria that is running through physicians’ offices and is generating many early retirements,” states the Medical Society of New York in a letter addressed to Rep. John Boehner in November. “If every entity in the complex medical payment pyramid does not function perfectly on October 1, 2015 then physicians’ income goes to zero which is a steep price to pay for a new imperfect coding system.”

The American Medical Association, another staunch advocate of abandoning the ICD-10 mandate, has also raised arguments about the cost of implementation and the burden on physicians to comply with the new codes in addition to several other major healthcare reform initiatives.  Boasting that the AMA has held off ICD-10 for more than ten years, Dr. Robert Wah recently made a speech decrying ICD-10’s less common codes and urging providers to join his organization in opposition to the code set.

However, after the most recent delay from 2014 to 2015 shocked ICD-10 proponents and threw the industry into turmoil, many organizations just want to get it over with.  In another letter to Rep. Boehner, this time from a coalition of hospital and health systems, ICD-10 advocates note that repeated delays have been highly disruptive, costly, and frustrating for the healthcare community.

“The delay added billions of dollars in extra costs,” state the American Hospital Association, Premier Healthcare Alliance, and a number of health systems.  “Many of our members had to quickly reconfigure systems and processes that were prepared to use ICD-10 back to ICD-9.  A further delay would only add additional costs as existing investments would be further wasted and future costs would grow.

Wrangling over the true financial impact of implementation has added to the confusion among healthcare providers, who have been chronically lagging behind recommended timelines and guidelines for testing, education, and upgrades.  “The lack of progress by providers, in particular smaller ones, remains a cause for concern as we move toward the compliance deadline,” said Jim Daley, WEDI chairman and ICD-10 Workgroup co-chair in a September letter to HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell. “Delaying compliance efforts reduces the time available for adequate testing, increasing the chances of unanticipated impacts to production. We urge the industry to accelerate implementation efforts in order to avoid disruption on Oct. 1, 2015.”

Lawmakers have until Thursday to vote through the omnibus spending bill if they are to avoid another paralyzing governmental shutdown.  While the most recent ICD-10 delay was slipped into the SGR reform bill without much notice, it does not appear that the divisive code set will make a cameo in this latest bipartisan agreement.