CMS chief signals delay in ICD-10 transition

The AMA had warned that an October 2013 deadline for the new diagnosis code sets would pose too great a burden for physicians.

By Charles Fiegl — Posted Feb. 14, 2012

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The Obama administration is looking into ways to delay the health system's transition to the ICD-10 diagnosis code sets, a top federal health official told physicians during the American Medical Association's National Advocacy Conference in Washington on Feb. 14.

All physician offices and hospitals otherwise would be required to start using the new diagnosis codes when billing payers for services -- instead of the simpler ICD-9 code sets -- by Oct. 1, 2013. Doctors and practice administrators have requested relief from this federal mandate. Acting Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner said the Obama administration is taking another look at the policy and the deadline.

"I'm committed today to work with you to re-examine the pace at which we implement ICD-10," Tavenner said at the AMA event, drawing applause from the physicians in attendance.

"The AMA appreciates that Ms. Tavenner and the administration have heard our concerns and have recognized the significant challenges and burdens ICD-10 implementation will create on the practice of medicine, and that they are committed to reviewing the pace of implementation," AMA President-elect Jeremy A. Lazarus, MD, said in a statement. "The AMA welcomes the opportunity to discuss ICD-10 implementation, along with many overlapping regulatory requirements that are burdening physician practices."

In recent weeks, the AMA has stepped up its campaign to push Congress or the Dept. of Health and Human Services to halt the mandated rollout of ICD-10. Physicians already are struggling to comply with several federal initiatives, including adoption of electronic medical records and participation in quality improvement efforts, and the October 2013 deadline would come at a particularly inopportune time, the Association has said.

"I want you to know that we have heard you and understand your concerns about the burden facing all of you given the number of actions on your plate today," Tavenner said.

She added, however, that she believes there are numerous benefits to ICD-10, such as a better ability to prevent fraud and abuse, and the ability to exchange health data with the rest of the world. Health information technology advocates also have said the more robust codes under the upgraded system lead to better patient treatment and more efficient claims processing.

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