Is ‘Safe Harbor’ Needed After ICD-10 Implementation Deadline? | EHR and Health IT Consulting | Scoop.it

As the ICD-10 implementation deadline drew closer, more lawmakers began attempting to develop a different type of transition period in which healthcare providers would not be penalized for reporting inaccurate ICD-10 codes. For example, HR 2247, the ICD-TEN Act, would create a “safe harbor” for providers in which they wouldn’t be denied reimbursement “due solely to the use of an unspecified or inaccurate sub-code.” 


The Coalition for ICD-10 states that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has often accepted less specific codes under ICD-9 and, when the ICD-10 implementation deadline hits, the new reporting requirements will have no difference in level of specificity.


“CMS has reiterated numerous times that their acceptance of unspecified codes will not change as a result of the ICD-10 transition,” the Coalition for ICD-10 explains. “Furthermore, it would be inappropriate and a violation of coding rules to require a level of specificity that is not documented in the medical record. Indeed, CMS has made it abundantly clear that it would be inappropriate to select a specific code that is not supported by the medical record documentation or to conduct medically unnecessary diagnostic testing in order to determine a more specific code.”


Essentially, the ICD-TEN Act was proposed due to physician fears that there may be a significant increase in the number of claim denials once the ICD-10 implementation deadline takes effect.

However, the latest CMS end-to-end testing results show that there is only a 2 percent denial rate of claims due to ICD-10 errors. This shows that the physician fears may be unfounded.


According to the Coalition for ICD-10, a “safe harbor” transition period is not necessary and the current status of the ICD-10 implementation deadline should take effect on October 1 as is.


Additionally, CMS released its acknowledgement testing results taking place between June 1 and June 5. CMS accepted a total of 90 percent of claims submitted across the nation during this time period.

While a 10 percent denial rate is significant, CMS holds that the majority of claim rejections were due to submission errors within the testing environment that won’t affect the processing of claims when real claims are submitted after the ICD-10 implementation deadline.


It is time for providers to be ready for the ICD-10 implementation deadline or else risk having their claims rejected once October 1 hits. Any provider who submits ICD-9 codes after the deadline risks having the claims returned to their facility, returned as unprocessable, or rejected, according to apamphlet from CMS.


“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 and Medicaid Services to ensure that the deadline can successfully be met by stakeholders,” House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) stated at the end of 2014. ““This is an important milestone in the future of health care technologies, and it is essential that we understand the state of preparedness at CMS.”